emoji might finally be breaking the gender binary

Emoji are still totally sexist — but a new Unicode update could bring them fully into 2016.

by Hannah Ongley
02 March 2016, 10:28pm

2015 was a landmark year for emoji diversity. We now have non-white emoji, homosexual couple emoji, and body-confident — or at least booty-confident — emoji. But they're still clearly a product of the patriarchy. While male emoji can be cops, health professionals, detectives, and even Buckingham Palace guardsmen, the "careers" of female emoji are limited to brides and princesses. Dream big, ladies!

The need for less stereotypical emoji is the fresh focus of the award-winning Always #LikeAGirl campaign. After first achieving viral status in 2014 for asking "What does it mean to do something 'like a girl?'" the campaign now has Unicode (emoji's strict parent) caught in its crosshairs. Agency Leo Burnett and documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker, joining forces to create the new ad spot, released a statement citing some pretty damning statistics, reports Co.Create: 54% of girls feel that female emoji are stereotypical, 75% would like to see female emoji portrayed more progressively, and 67% say that the available keyboard implies that girls are limited in what they're capable of. 

Meanwhile, Unicode may have just proposed its own solution. Along with redheaded emoji and a California flag, a new proposal is recommending that gender-fluid emoji finally be added to the family. Submitted by Unicode co-founder Mark Davis and Apple engineer Peter Edberg, this would allow not just for female cops and male brides but for fully gender-neutral characters. "Neutral doesn't mean the default (untagged) presentation" Davis and Edberg write, "which could be any of these three; it means a specifically gender-neutral presentation. These customizations are to mark appearance, and not gender identification." 

Amen to that. If we can have 12 different train emoji, we can surely have a gender-neutral princx. 


Text Hannah Ongley

gender binary