Emojis tend to be gender-coded with traditional signs of masculinity (beard, mustache, short hair) and femininity (nail polish, longer hair, skirt). Hunt finds this limiting, even disturbing: Why should a nurse be a woman and a police officer a man? Why are “frivolous” activities such as nail polish or dancing depicted as feminine, while “serious” activities such as construction are always depicted as masculine? Why are these images so clearly gendered?
Hunt decided to do something about this. They have been part of the Emoji Subcommittee, a group of designers and industry experts within the nonprofit Unicode Consortium that works with hardware and software companies to make emojis. readable and universal on all devices. So in 2016, Hunt sent suggestions to promote gender-inclusive emoji, which they define as “a form of cloning that uses visual cues common to all genders by excluding stereotypes that are clearly masculine or feminine.”
It was a revolution. For many people, emojis are cute, simple additions to text that aren’t humane and certainly aren’t political. Hunt concedes as much, diplomatically saying there is little skepticism from those running the committee. Several designers pointed to Google, which tried to be sexist and raced with yellow blobs on Gchat. To some extent, this works, but Hunt finds the accommodation a bit odd: Why can’t emojis express more nuances of the human experience without resorting to abstraction? ?
Hunt’s proposal found an audience in Jennifer Daniel, who currently leads the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee and is credited with redefining the linguistics of emoji by ushering in an era of religion. holistic and creative use of symbols as a means of expression.
Daniel told me that when she joined the subcommittee in 2018, “none of them” [the gender-inclusive emoji Hunt had proposed] has been properly supported. “She promotes the implementation of Hunt’s proposal, freeing guide to create a class of sexist emojis.
For Hunt, emojis are powerful means of expression, precisely because sometimes words let us down. They recall meeting their future husband, an Australian, while living in San Francisco: “When you get to know someone, you build a shared story together and develop your little language.” That language for Hunt and their mate included a heart emoji with sprinkles, which became the “symbol” of a budding relationship. “That emoji means a lot to me,” they said. “It still does.”