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Do Emojis Limit Girls to Stereotypes?


Like it or not, emojis have become an essential way of communicating—and not just for teens. (The most popular word of 2014 was the heart emoji. That's not even a word!) Our shift to talking with pictures has come with welcome updates, including the addition of new races and new foods (hello, taco). But when it comes to depicting women doing sports or in jobs, the options are non-existant—unless you count a male surfer with long blonde locks. Not to mention, the ones that do exist are pretty stereotypical: We've got princesses and girls getting their nails done or their hair cut.

Well, the latest Always #LikeAGirl video—part of the brand's overall mission to inspire confidence in girls as they enter puberty—addresses this issue head-on. Always teamed up with documetary filmmaker Lucy Walker to "ignite a conversation about how emojis portray girls and show them that they can do more than wear a tiara or dance in a red dress," the press release explains. According to Walker, who also studied socioliguistics, seemingly innocuous language choices can actually have a large impact on girls. This video brings to light how "the options available to them are subtly reinforcing the societal stereotypes and limitations they face every day," she says. (On another note, Should Facebook Ban the "Feeling Fat" Emoji?)

In the clip, real girls are asked if they felt accurately represented by the current emoji landscape (spoiler alert: no!) and the emojis they'd like to see added to the mix. They expressed wanting to see girls playing soccer, lifting weights, wrestling, and biking. And, not surprisingly, they'd also like to see female professionals depicted in the emoji world as cops, lawyers, detectives, and musicians. (Runner and Olympian Molly Huddle is on it too—the Olympian submitted an idea for a female runner emoji in the fall.)

To back up the video, Always also released new survey data reporting the following stats: 75 percent of 16- to 24-year-old girls would like to see female emojis portrayed more progressively; 54 percent of 18- to 24-year-old girls believe that the current female emojis are stereotypical; 76 percent believe they should not only be portrayed doing feminine activities such as getting their hair cut or manicures; and 67 percent of girls agree that the available female emojis imply that girls are limited in what they can do.

To hopefully break this cycle, Always is encouraging girls to share the female emojis they want added by using the #LikeAGirl. (Fingers crossed for a girl yogi!) With any luck, we'll start to see more of these long-awaited girl emojis soon to stop this subtle sexism in its tracks. And yes, up our emoji game while we're at it.


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