Google Launches 'Gender Neutral' EMOJI Set Following Backlash
Tech giant introduces 'merperson' phone icons in response to complaints
In a bid to appease complaints that phone icons are "not inclusive," Google has introduced a new set of "gender neutral" EMOJIs that represent images of people that don't appear to be male or female, according to reports.
EMOJIs are an evolution of the classic smiley face - :-) - and are typically used for fun in text messages, but the addition of clothing, hairstyles, and facial features to the icons over time has somehow made the little pictures controversial and "offensive."
After complaints that EMOJIs only depict male and female characters, tech giant Google has responded by launching new "non-binary" icons.
The features and haircuts of the new EMOJI characters have been carefully designed to ensure they are viewed as neither male nor female.
The gender-neutral faces have been created after accusations of sexism because emojis have usually appeared to be male since they were invented in Japan in 1997.
Google was widely criticized last year after removing an egg from a salad EMOJI to make the image more "inclusive" to vegans.
According to the Daily Mail, among the 53 new icons are several in occupations or situations that are traditionally the reserve of men, such as construction workers and wrestlers.
Others would ordinarily be expected to be female, but instead of a mermaid, for example, the emoji is of a "merperson."
Most of the new emojis have mid-length hair that could conventionally be sported by people of either sex.
The new range goes far beyond the original smiley face, and now includes "genie," "zombie," "person in steamy room" and "people with bunny ears."
Google designer Jennifer Daniel told US business magazine Fast Company: "Gender is complicated.
"It is an impossible task to communicate gender in a single image. It’s a construct."
Criticizing previous gendered icons such as the age-old symbol for a men’s toilet, Miss Daniel added: "That person could be a man, woman, anyone.
"But they had to add a little detail, that dress, and suddenly that person symbol doesn’t mean person anymore; it means man.
"And that culture means a man-centered culture."
But Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said Google’s launch was just the latest example of the politically correct campaign against men.
He added: "Delegitimating maleness is now a central feature of woke corporate culture.
"According to this ethos, you can never be too gender-neutral."
Social media users also criticized the gender-neutral icons, with one tweeting: "Unbelievable. Google’s lost their mind."
The new emojis will be available on all Android Q mobile phones later this year.
It comes after Microsoft announced last week that it will launch new software which will change words to be "gender-inclusive" in its latest version of Microsoft Word.
The programme will encourage users to avoid sexism, for example by offering to change "policeman" to "police officer."
Miss Daniel sparked controversy last year after announcing the company had removed the egg from its salad symbol emoji in a bid to be more inclusive towards vegans.
She wrote on Twitter: "There’s big talk about inclusion and diversity at Google so if you need any evidence of Google making this a priority, may I direct your attention to the salad emoji – we’ve removed the egg… making this a more inclusive vegan salad."
Google was also embroiled in controversy in 2017 after it fired a software engineer who wrote a memo accusing the internet giant of Left-wing bias.
Harvard graduate James Damore also blamed "biological causes" for the shortage of women in senior technology jobs and leadership positions.
In a ten-page document, Mr. Damore blasted Google for trying to boost race and gender diversity, saying it should place more value on "ideological" differences.
"We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs," Mr. Damore said.