From crying with laughter to hands in the air, emoji are now firmly entrenched in our visual culture. According to Google, they are used by more than 90% of the world’s online population. There are symbols for everything from prawns to ten pin bowling. There is even an official Kim Kardashian ‘Kimoji’ keyboard and a beauty-themed one created by L’Oreal.
But among the vast selection of emoji on Android and iPhones, the range of female options remains limited. Men are depicted as builders, runners, spies and cyclists while women have to choose from dancers and brides or women getting their haircut.
In March this year, Always launched an ad calling out sexist emoji and their role in reinforcing gender stereotypes. The film has had over 18 million views and helped start an important conversation about the need for more representative graphics for girls and women.
After much debate around the subject online, Google proposed a new set of female emoji to the Unicode Technical Committee in May – including a mechanic, a chef, a scientist and a programmer – and yesterday, published a blog post announcing that Unicode had agreed to add 11 new professional emoji to its keyboard as well as female versions of 33 existing emoji.
Female scientists, coders, teachers, mechanics and farmers will now appear alongside women runners, cyclists, rowers, weightlifters, police officers and sleuths on all future versions of Android. And as Unicode emojis are compatible with Apple software, they could make their way on to iPhones.
Also this week, a group of Melbourne creatives living in New York launched She-Moji – a keyboard of 400 female emoji available through the App Store. There are women boxing, skateboarding and doing yoga, as well as women wearing burkas and women who are pregnant. There’s also a wide range of professions, including doctors, astronauts, nurses, teachers and women in graduation gowns and each emoji comes in a range of skin tones. A range of text callouts features phrases such as ‘Pay Day’, ‘Boss’ and ‘Squad Goals’.
Noemie Le Coz, an art director at RoAndCo Studio, who founded the project with Karina del Alwiz and Nirmala Shome, says the idea for the keyboard came out of a discussion about the lack of female emoji following Google’s proposal and Always’ ad. The group decided to use their design and advertising skills to create a more inclusive set showing a wider range of professions and activities.
“Given one of the project goals was to incite conversation around the need for a more inclusive emoji set, a section on professionals was crucial to show girl bosses of all types – nurses, lawyers, businesswomen, and more. We just don’t know many princesses or flamenco dancers!” explains Le Coz.
“We also wanted to create female counterparts to some of the male emoji in our native set who are doing activities like running, soccer and cycling. Soon our list started to expand to activities that aren’t even in the standard keyboard, activities that we ourselves, friends and family love to do – such as yoga, skateboarding, aerobics and jujitsu. The text callouts helped us keep the tone feeling very current and speak to a wide range of people from the Beyhive to gamer girls, Adventure Time fans and more.”
While dozens of alternative emoji keyboards already exist on the App Store, She-Moji is the only one we’ve seen provide such a comprehensive selection of female characters. The project is also supporting a good cause – She-Moji says it will donate 50% of the app’s profits to the Malala Fund, set up to provide free primary and secondary education to girls over the age of 12.
“We wanted She–Moji to be fun for users, but also wanted to have an impact in the real world. Through the foundation, Malala and her father strive to provide 12 years of free education for young girls around the world – a cause we are very proud to support,” adds Le Coz.
Now surely that deserves a
She-Moji costs $1.99 on the App Store.