Emojis play an important role in digital communication, allowing us to express our emotions and convey meaning through cute little symbols. However, our ability to communicate is limited by the pictures and symbols on offer, and so emojis can make a big difference! As the adage goes, you can’t be what you can’t see.
Emojis have faced much criticism in the past for a lack of diversity, which led to the introduction of emojis with different skin tones and genders, as well as same-sex and interracial couples, and emojis depicting persons with disabilities. In 2019, a period ‘blood droplet’ emoji became available following a campaign to combat period stigma.
Today, we are able to choose from over 3,000 emojis in Unicode Standard. It may seem as though there is already an emoji for everything: facial expressions, nature, food, sports, everyday objects, and other symbols. But the 2020 release of 117 new emojis is evidence that there is always room for more diversity and more creativity.
One very exciting aspect of this new release is the inclusion of a gender-neutral version of several emojis. New emojis include a woman feeding a baby, a man feeding a baby, and a person feeding a baby – representing various gender identities and expressions (a previous emoji release added a breastfeeding emoji for women, but the only alternative was a lone baby bottle). Increased representation of gender identities seems to have been a key focus of the new release which also includes the transgender flag and transgender symbol, as well as gender variations in bridal veils and tuxedos. There is even a new gender-neutral Mx. Claus to add to existing Mr and Mrs Claus.
There is a myth that technology is neutral but emojis show how it can subtly reinforce values that are baked into our culture. Happily, these new emojis are challenging the limited binary conception of gender that is prevalent today. The representation of diversity in skin tone and gender of the new emojis is an important step towards equality and visibility of often marginalized groups. Other exciting additions to emoji 13.0 include blueberries, bubble tea, a bison, and a boomerang. If you want to check out all the new emojis before they become available on our devices, see this released list.
Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash
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