Google Releases New Gender-Neutral Emojis

Mary Kate Machi, Staff Writer

Coming later this year, Google will be adding a new gender-neutral variant to many of its popular emojis.

By showing a gender-neutral default person, Google will prevent the enforcement of gender stereotypes by having the default be either male or female when it comes to certain professions (like having the default construction worker emoji be male).

Currently, the vast majority of emojis include both a male and female variant, which Google realized could cause confusion across different emoji-using platforms and sometimes enforce gender stereotypes.

For example, when someone sends a person facepalming emoji from an iOS to an Android device, that emoji changes from the iOS default of being a woman to the Android device default of being a man, which can clearly cause confusion across platforms.

Giving an option of a gender-neutral emoji, however, allows for people who do not identify as either of the binary genders to still have the ability to express themselves online and through text.

“It is so important that technology is showing gender diversity to normalize all of these genders that are being discriminated against. Imagine if your gender was never shown in media, but then suddenly it was. Do you understand how happy that would make you?” said Jeanette D’Addabbo (‘22).

Google will implement this change by offering a third gender option for popular emojis such as merpeople, zombies, police, etc. This option will be presented as the default, and include a medium-length hair style, typically orange clothing, and no gender-specifying characteristics.

“Gender is not a haircut, but at emoji size that seems to be a primary signifier to communicate what may be an impossible task as it relates to this construct. Gender lives dynamically on a spectrum and there is no single visual design ‘solution’” said Google Emoji Boss Jennifer Daniel.

While there isn’t one clear-cut solution when it comes to these emojis, what Google is doing is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to inclusive and accessible technology.

As of right now, there are some gender neutral emojis for gender queer people to use, but not as many as there should be. The regular yellow circle people kind of emojis are gender neutral, but then there aren’t any options for the profession emojis. Technology has given gender neutral options, but not enough to normalize it,” said D’Addabbo.

Clearly, there is no one solution to a gender-neutral emoji. However, this is a start that will hopefully start a change to all emojis across all platforms, making them more accessible to everyone.