Who cares about female emojis?

11 May

My colleague Caroline Preece has written an op-ed about Google’s “feminist” emojis over on IT Pro today – I thoroughly recommend you check it out but, in short, her argument is that while it is nice for emojis to reflect reality, there’s more important problems for women in traditionally male-dominated workplaces than whether or not there is a gender-appropriate emoji to reflect them in their job.

In many ways, I’m on her side – in fact, there was so much eye-rolling when I first heard about the story this morning I’m surprised they stayed in their sockets.

But reading over her story this afternoon made me think of something that came up when doing my dissertation*, of all things, about gender representation in children’s literature.

While literature does reflect reality, it also offers us a chance to explore potential new realities – new “normals” – in which women can run a business or invent new technologies, where men can be house husbands and boys can dream of being ballet dancers. In short, realities in which gender stereotyping, as least in the context of work, employment and aspirations, no longer exist.

It has quieted my cynicism a bit. I’m still not sure how often these emojis will be used if they are accepted by the Unicode Consortium, and it does still seem like a bit of a women in tech fluffball – all PR, little substance. It also seems a bit of a stretch to describe emojis as literature. But they do reflect our everyday lives and emotions – that is their whole intention – so in the end, I guess, why not have them reflect a potential new normal as well?

(*check out my LinkedIn education profile for details of what I was actually researching and writing about)


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