Proposing 'Professional Female' Emojis Isn't as Feminist as You Think

We love boss ladies and we love emojis, so theoretically, we should be 100 percent here for boss lady emojis. But a presentation to Unicode Consortium from a few Google developers proposing 13 new professional women emojis left us kind of like "meh" and kind of like "can we call it something else." Or, in other words, like this:  


In their proposal, Google pointed to the current Unicode emoji keyboard's gender disparity. Here's what they said:

For millions of people around the world, emoji are an important means of communication -- and a strong representation of culture. Yet the roles of people in the workplace cannot be communicated with emoji. This is especially true for women.

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That's true, but it's also not as dramatic as this makes it sound. There's a total of four emoji professionals on the whole keyboard: Not including Santa Claus or the princess, there's a police officer, construction worker, British royal guard, and detective. And the rest of the (as they put it) "beauty-centric" female emojis aren't really female at all -- the manicure and the high heel can apply to anyone. So can the hammer and the microscope. 

All the professionals are male, and yes, there should be options to choose gender in the same way you choose skin tone. And it sounds like this is really what Google wants -- their proposal includes a male counterpart to each professional. But pitching the emojis from this "lady boss" angle feels far more like pandering to our feminist interests than actually digging for a solution.

Plus, if you make a lady farmer, you're going to have to make a lady police officer. And Navy pilot. And artist. And athlete. And author. There's no way to fully cover the scope of human professionalism with 13 emojis, and once you start, you can't really stop until you get them all.

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The proposal also ignores gender fluid people in the implementation. Though they recognized "having an inclusive representation of all people in emoji, whether they identify with a specific gender of not" in the proposal, they also "suggest decoupling the gender-neutral representation of emoji from this proposal." So basically, they're like, "we see you, but we're going to keep ignoring you for a little while longer. Cool? Cool."

Whatever. It's hard to be really mad about this, because if they get their way, we might have more emojis by the end of the year, and more representation (and more emojis) can't really be a bad thing. But it still doesn't feel quite right, and we're not sure this looks like a solution just yet.


Images via Unicode Consortium

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