The latest Apple iOS software update added a host of new emojis, including gender-neutral emojis for human and fantasy characters. In addition to acknowledging that society is evolving, the new additions let Apple device owners express themselves in ways they couldn’t before.
Importantly, the gender-neutral emoji additions allow individuals who consider themselves nonbinary to represent themselves during conversation. For people who identify as genderfluid, intersexed, or transgendered, the emojis are also a breathe of fresh air.
Finally, the new emojis acknowledge that not all female or male-identifying people present in a predictable, traditional, or uniform way.
In 2008, Apple created its first set of emojis for iPhone Users. The first set consisted of only 90 emoji and all characters had a single skin tone – unsurprisingly, one that most closely resembled Caucasian people.
Gradually, changes began to occur in the world of social media and texting. In trying to keep up with the demand of iPhone users to have emojis that most closely represents themselves, Apple now has over 500 emojis in an attempt to be inclusive.
The latest emoji additions that were released as part of Apple’s October 2019 iOS update were new animals (such as a sloth, orangutan, otter and flamingo), more diverse foods (such as falafel, which has its origins from the Middle East), disability emojis, and a broader range of professions, among other additions.
However, among all the latest emojis released by Apple, the gender-neutral emoji was the most widely debated one on Twitter, creating a buzz of both controversy and humor in Twitter’s “Trending” Section.
For a laugh, see the tweet below:
The new gender neutral emoji is just nsync era Justin Timberlake. pic.twitter.com/qaHO37QDQV
— James Donald Forbes McCann (@jdfmccann) October 28, 2019
Why Gender Neutral Emojis?
To better understand what gender-neutral emojis mean to iPhone users and Apple itself, we have to understand what emojis mean in our conversation. The word “E-mo-ji” is a group of Japanese words which means picture, writing, and character respectively.
Emojis were developed as an alternative way to convey messages and even feelings. Personally, I would describe emojis as a digital image that can convey several emotions during a conversation. They are a fun way of communicating and are extremely easy to use.
Emojis are important in our era because they simplify communication, keep it fun and succinct, and allow us to express ourselves visually. A single emoji in a conversation can be worth a thousand words.
🩸 Drop of Blood Emoji
In addition to the gender-neutral emojis, another notable addition to the archive during the recent October 2019 iOS update was the drop of blood emoji.
Dubbed the #periodemoji, several groups advocated for this emoji saying that women deserve to have an emoji to use to denote their menstrual cycle. It has been widely praised by who believe that the emoji breaks down the “period stigma” females face.
Of course, other people have pointed out that it can also be used to signify a blood donation, bleeding, or injury, in addition to menstruation.
People with disabilities can now keep their conversation flowing too with any of the disability themed emoji that best represents them.
Examples of such emoji are the wheelchair, prosthetic leg, prosthetic arm, prosthetic leg, hearing aid, a guide dog, and a person with a cane, among other options.
Describing their plan to release disability emojis, Apple wrote: “Currently, emoji provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities. Diversifying the options available helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience for all.”
In another step forward, iPhone users can now personalize the holding hand emoji, combining different skin tone options and genders for it.
This can be done by holding down the hand holding emoji option and making the gender or skin tone selection for the person in the right and left.
This is significant, because this emoji now acknowledges both same-sex and interracial relationships.
How Will Gender Neutral Emojis Affect Apple?
With Apple taking a step to become more inclusive by adding a gender-neutral emojis to their library of emojis, let’s explore three ways it will affect the Apple brand and products:
1) Apple Becomes an Advocate of the LGBTQ+ Community
The addition of gender-neutral emojis by Apple to its emoji library makes the brand an advocate of the LGBTQ+ community.
The new emoji additions allow people from the community to identify or represent themselves easily using emojis.
It is a big step forward to have a major brand like Apple acknowledge non-mainstream identities.
2) Strategic and Competitive Advantage
The addition of the gender-neutral emoji is a smart marketing strategy by Apple to win the hearts of the LGBTQ+ community and position their competitors, such as Samsung, Google Pixel, Redmi, OnePlus, and others, on the defensive.
Because Apple is the first platform to introduce gender-neutral emojis, other smart phones are now being criticized as “behind the curve” and “noninclusive.”
3) Apple becomes a Brand that is More Consistent with Change
The world is changing, along with the beliefs of people. We now have a wide range of individuals who are gender fluid, gender nonconforming, or who simply reject the notion that men and women need present in predictable and uniform ways.
The introduction of a gender-neutral options for nearly all human and fantasy characters shows that Apple is embracing change and is committed to being socially progressive.
Among Apple’s newest gender-neutral emojis, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.