Why are Emojis so… sexist?

Published: March 19, 2016

“Mummy, I can’t find an emoji of a female architect or ski-instructor online,” said my confused daughter.

It was so true.

If I was a frustrated looking at images of a dainty ballerina, a salsa dancer or a bride emoji, representing the entire female populace of the world, you can just imagine the confusion it must have caused my poor daughter. In most of the applications, all the professional emojis depict men in different forms of employment; a detective, a cop and a paramedic!

For those who don’t already know, an emoji is a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion via electronic communication. Emojis have become an unofficial universal language in everyday communication. Our younger generation is superb at using them profusely.

The idea of incorporating emojis in a conversation is very creative and makes gives the exchange of dialogue an interesting twist. What is alarming, however, is if I decided to tell someone over a WhatsApp message, without typing it out, that I was a doctor. I would be forced to use a male emoji to have the recipient understand. There are a number of male emojis representative of various professions, but there are no female professional emojis… at all! Unless, of course, you count being a bride a profession., which I mean… technically…

Emojis depicting girls doing manicures or getting a haircut implicate girls as only having an interest in fashion or personal grooming. Such emojis subliminally define gender roles and undermine the potential of the female population.

The list of emojis available in any application makes me wonder if the makers of these digital images are ignorant of the fact that women are making it big in all walks of life.

Have they forgotten, or simply chosen to ignore, the fact that girls are involved in every profession, working hard and running business empires?

From being news reporters to leading missions into space, they are doing everything!

Have they forgotten Margaret Thatcher; the Iron Lady, Malala Yousafzai, Neerja Bhanot, Sarla Thakral, Mary Kom, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth, Sania Mirza, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, Helen Keller, Michelle Obama, Nergis Mavalvala, Boudicca, Mother Teresa, Maryam Nawaz, Serena Williams, Indira Gandhi, Wangari Maathai, Shirin Ebadi, Benazir Bhutto, Oprah Winfrey, Tegla Loroupe, JK Rowling, Reham Khan, Hina Rabbani Khar, Nellie Bly, Hillary Clinton, and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, to name a few.

Do they really not know of the women who left their mark in history?

Then why are emojis so sexist?

According to a latest study done by Procter & Gamble, more than 70% of girls use emojis several times a day as a form of self-expression. In that case, why are they not being properly represented?

There are no girl emojis representing professions like sports or media personnel. How will all the female astronauts, senators, soccer players and soon-to-be-elected female presidential nominee of a major political party be represented? An ‘Emoji Movement’ should be launched or maybe Hillary Clinton should make this one of her campaign slogans, too.

As a matter of fact, dancing men are also mysteriously absent, only female dancing emojis are available. In that respect, as a friend of mine pointed out that we should demand all emojis to be gender neutral, and I agree.

It wasn’t very long ago that a little girl wrote a letter to Lego complaining that all the girls did was sit at home and look pretty. She demand that girls be given a more adventurous role in the world of Lego. And it worked.

Perhaps the people who make emojis need to a whiff of that.

I do have to say, however, that I am very appreciative of their initiative to introduce different colours of skin tones in the emojis to eradicate racism. But it is high time that something should be done to get rid of the tired stereotype against females too. A major overhaul is needed to eliminate sexism in emojis and otherwise, once and for all!

Almas Akhtar

Almas Akhtar

The writer is a blogger, author, an ardent cricket fan, a movie buff, and an avid traveler. Her latest novella “The Fearful Lion” won an honourable mention at the 2018 New York Book Festival.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.