Last week, texters around the world rejoiced with the news that 72 new emojis would soon be lighting up their phones. Users looking for a wider range of emotions than happy, tearful, and eggplant speculated for weeks on what the new characters might be. When the full list was released last week, they learned they would soon have symbols of a pregnant woman, a strip of bacon, and a cucumber at their finger tips. But how do they decide what the new emojis will be, and who exactly are "they?"
First off, choosing new emojis is a surprisingly bureaucratic process. The word emoji means character in Japanese. The symbols gained widespread popularity in Japan in the late 1990's and were introduced for smartphones in 2010. Unicode, a nonprofit organization that maintains software standards around the world, decides which emoji appear on your phone and makes sure the emoji you send is the same your friend will receive.
Phone vendors like Apple and Google then need to approve the emojis and decide whether to include them in their phone's keyboards and how to render them for their users. That's why a ghost emoji may look slightly different on different devices. In other words, while Unicode decides to include a pregnant woman emoji, Google and Apple decide just how large her belly will be on their platform.
All stages of this process have sparked controversy.
Sometimes, the emoji itself will generate debate. For example, Apple decided to veto a rifle emoji that Unicode was set to release this June, given the mass shooting epidemic in the United States; Two years ago, users criticized the lack of diversity among emojis. New skin colors for hand gestures have since been introduced, but the overabundance of white male emojis is still frustrating.
Another striking example of emoji inequality can be seen in the way the characters represent women. Life is pretty dull for women emojis. They can get pregnant, become a princess, get their nails done and dress up as a bunny.
An Always commercial video showing how stereotyped emojis limited women's ability to communicate went viral earlier this year. "There's more to a girl than just... a haircut," said one teenage girl in the video.
Unfortunately, it looks like the people over at Unicode (once again) didn't quite get that memo this time around. In the new group of emojis, the few women available are on their phone, giving a facepalm, and shrugging, doing a cartwheel, running and of course, pregnant. Spokespersons at Unicode did not immediately return a request for comment.
Still, despite the limitations, the 72 emojis have expanded the Emojiverse even more, And with a few long-awaited images too. That's something we can all heart-eyes-emoji, party-emoji. Right?