What is the emoji icon for sexism?

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Whilst texting back and forth with my friend Jerra the other day she pointed out that all of the iphone emoji icons were pretty sexist.

WHAT THE FLERK, elves that live in my iphone and make icon images!?!?!?!

Why are all the bros doing adventurous, fun, sporty things while the ladies are having facials? The men are policemen, bike riders, coming up with bright ideas, snowboarding and what are the women doing? Getting their hair cut, twin cat dancing(!?!), they are princesses and brides. No fair.

I know, I know, ladies be loving to get their nails did, but is this the message we want to be sending our impressionable young text crazy iphone users? How dare you? (Again I’m speaking to the elves that I can only assume are working in 24 hour shifts to make my phone work) Enough is enough.

You, dear reader, are probably thinking, “Oh, it’s only a phone icon. It doesn’t mean anything. Who is it hurting?” Well, stupid reader, it can hurt our young ladies who only see themselves represented pictorially in text messages as doing self absorbed beauty rituals or stereotypically female things. Frankly, I was surprised there were no icons of women doing dishes and changing diapers. Although there is a woman wearing a veil so clearly getting married is of the utmost importance in this icon universe.  When young women only see text message icons of themselves as trying to be beautiful and desired who knows what can happen. Low self-esteem, teen pregnancy, excessive facials? The possibilities are literally endless.

Who amongst us hasn’t at one time or another taken our social cues from a text message icon or emoticon? We need to do, nay, be better for our children and our children’s children. Let’s as a society think a little more when we decide to do something so potentially destructive. What do you think? Do I have a more than valid point or am I maybe slightly blowing this out of proportion?

About feminism or fairytale

Jess blogs in her spare time (because really, who blogs for their profession...No, seriously tell me how I can do this professionally). She holds a Master’s Degree that she has yet to utilize but is still paying off. On any given day she can be thinking about her career goals, Justin Timberlake, having kids, building a portfolio, Banana Republic’s latest sale, how many calories are in an egg McMuffin, why there hasn’t been a woman president in this country yet, her family, buying a house, moving to Italy for a year, why Michele Pfeiffer never ages, how Michele Pfeiffer never ages, the appeal of Don Draper and why she's never been able to pull off the color yellow. If you think about it, it’s a lot of stuff.
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One Response to What is the emoji icon for sexism?

  1. Periwinkle says:

    Emoji allows for easy communication. People who find themselves represented by emoji have an easier time communicating than those who don’t. So yes, this is a problem. But where did it come from?

    There’s plenty of blame to spread around. Emoji symbols were first created by Japanese mobile carriers; NTT DoCoMo, Softbank and KDDI each created their own. It’s hard to find a list of them all, but here’s a conversion table from Softbank to three others:
    http://broadband.mb.softbank.jp/service/3G/mail/pictogram/convert.pdf

    Most of the sex presentation problems you mention above are already present. Some other problems:
    1. Everyone has pink skin, including the faces from #348 to #375, except for #446 (a brown man with a turban). Women of color aren’t represented.
    2. Chinese people probably aren’t happy about #445, a man who is often represented with an extravagant moustache and slit eyes.
    3. #384 shows a blue person holding hands with a pink person. There are no symbols for non-heterosexual pairings.
    4. Some nations get flag symbols, but only the important ones.

    Then, in October 2010, Emoji were added to the Unicode standard. This means that code numbers have been set aside for many of those symbols. Here is the most comprehensive source I can find for the characters added. It’s from December 2009, so it may not exactly match the characters added to Unicode. However, as part of the ongoing work, it includes names and notes, providing insight into the process of adding them to Unicode.
    http://www.unicode.org/~scherer/emoji4unicode/20091221/full.html

    This is where we symbols became named as “Woman with bunny ears” (U+1F46F) and “Man with turban” (U+1F473). There is a generic “Western person” (U+1F471), who may be male or female, but in every implementation I’ve seen has blonde hair. The commentator gets rather snarky at “Dancer” (U+1F483), noting that it merges the Softbank “Flamenco” with the KDDI “Disco”. For ome reason there is a “Bikini” (U+1F459) even though there aren’t more generic forms of swimwear. And, I have verified from multiple sources that “Pile of poo” is the official name for U+1F4A9.

    Then Apple chose to implement Emoji, and to do so with huge color pictures. This meant that the Apple artists had to add some detail where none previously existed. What did they bring to the party?
    1 They at least left the moustache of “Man with gua pi mao” (U+1F472)
    2. Several of the women gain lipstick.
    3. “Information desk person” (U+1F481) is clearly intended to be a woman, with pink clothes and long hair. The other occupations (“Police officer” (U+1F46E), “Construction worker” (U+1F477) and “Guardsman” (U+1F482)) appear to be male, although they could claim to be androgynous. Hey, let’s combine the three occupations with the two ethnic stereotypes and start the Emoji Village People!
    4. Most people have brown eyes, but “Person with blond hair” (U+1F471), “Baby angel” (U+1F47C) and “Princess” (U+1F478) have blue eyes.
    5. Everyone has eyes except for “Dancer” (U+1F483). She looks quite creepy when displayed with other Emoji in a large font size.
    6. “Family” (U+1F46A) has an adult man, an adult woman and a boy child.
    7. “Two men holding hands” (U+1F46C) appear to be adults, but “Two women holding hands” (U+1F46D) are childlike and immature.

    So, whatever decisions were made by other people, the artists working for Apple did not stop to think. For comparison, here are icons for the original Macintosh designed by Susan Kare – who did put great care into each design.
    http://www.kare.com/portfolio/03_apple_macicons.html

    As a programmer, I get disturbed when standards like Unicode gain cultural baggage. Apart from the sex and race issues, they are full of animals, flags and clothes that are only important to a particular place and time. The Apple choice to implement them as bitmaps (instead of vectors) is also short-sighted. I fully expect to find Emoji breaking the text layout in my apps for at least a decade to come.

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