Tinder is teaming up with a couple of unlikely partners — Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Jennifer 8. Lee, the founder of emoji site Emojination — to call for new, more inclusive emoji. Specifically, ones representing interracial couples. The request comes in the form of a Change.org petition as well as a proposal to Unicode, the governing body in charge of approving new emoji.
You need only ask any redhead how they feel about emoji to know that there is often a long, slow struggle to make certain universal emoji a reality. Even the option to customise skin tones wasn't added until 2015. While Unicode has made strides towards introducing emoji that are more representative of the entire population — with icons showing same-sex couples and single parent families — any symbolisation of interracial partnerships is still absent.
In their proposal, Tinder, Ohanian, and Lee make a strong point:
"The lack of representation for diverse racial identities is a significant issue in an increasingly globalised society. With this problem gaining increased media attention, and since efforts have already been made to ensure the representation of non-heteronormative sexual identities, now seems an appropriate cultural moment to give people the opportunity to see themselves represented in the emoji world."
The proposal suggests 21 new character sequences that would include three skin tones: Light, medium, and dark. Of course, three does not encompass the far broader spectrum of skin tones, but the proposal says this would just be a starting point, with a larger goal to add more in the future.
"We’re so thrilled to help bring forward the opportunity for all couples to be able to express themselves in a fun, relevant way, and see themselves represented on their keyboards," Rosette Pambakian, Tinder's head of brand, told Refinery29 in an email. "People need a voice and that is what we are giving them by creating this petition."
Ohanian, who is married to Serena Williams and signed on to the petition after Tinder sent him the initial proposal, told Wired that the couple wants their children to grow up with emoji that reflect their parents. As The Verge explains, introducing emoji that require more complex sequencing across platforms could be part of the reason we haven't seen an increased level of diversity. When we use emoji to represent almost every part of our everyday lives, we should also be able to use them to represent ourselves — no matter how complicated that might be.
This piece has been updated to include comment from Tinder.