Widgets Magazine


Emoji iOS6: Somewhat gay and very white

If you have an iPhone and Emoji, go to the keyboard and look at the boy holding hands with the other boy, then take a look at the girl holding hands with other girl. Have your eyeballs fallen out? That’s almost how excited I was when I followed the steps listed above. If you don’t have an iPhone, Emoji, or the new iOS6, maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, and that is perfectly acceptable (after all, those are many qualifications). The Emoji keyboard is essentially a colorful set of tiny, texting-sized pictures. The point is this: whereas you could only send pictorial representations of male/female couples in the last version, the new iteration of this magical keyboard includes a male/male and female/female couple, and I think that’s exciting.

But then I looked closer, and I started thinking beyond my initial excitement, and I got pretty bummed out pretty fast. Perhaps there are a few imperfections with these tiny gay couples- but then, you can only do so much with an icon smaller than the tip of a pinky finger, and at least they are finally there. But there is a glaring issue that needs attention. All the couples, of the same gender or otherwise, are white. The rest of the faces next to them: white. The hands directing you every which way: white. The lady making all the airplane stewardess-like motions: white. The cute family with a kid: white. Essentially every person on the keyboard is white.

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What is essentially a set of advanced emoticons may not communicate the peak of our cultural understanding, but it certainly shows what creators deem popular or visible in our society, and that very alarmingly lacks people of color. It is perhaps more alarming that the only faces of a notably different appearance are in some type of tokenized “others” section- there is a man with a conical Asian hat and a man wearing a turban thrown in with a policeman and a guy with a hardhat. Must nonwhite people exist in some peripheral headwear category? I’m very confused.

On the one hand, I appreciate that now I can send an accurate representation of my relationship to people (whew, time saver for the repeated process of coming out- I can just send a text), but it’s another example of the fact that one form of cultural progress does not imply others- that specifically “gay rights” can mean progress for a pretty homogenous group if not done thoughtfully and inclusively. It is progress that an iPhone feature now represents what has already existed for a long time (i.e. ladies dating ladies and guys dating guys), but then, where are the pictures of nonwhite people in relationships and families? I hope the next update of this keyboard shows a truer representation of the world around us.

Contact Annie at aegraham@stanford.edu

About Annie Graham

Annie Graham is a junior from Phoenix, Arizona majoring in English. She is a member of the women’s club soccer team, a founding member of Stanford Athletes and Allies Together, a farming SPOT leader, and she tries to call her grandparents often.
  • Chang

    As an Asian, this article is hilarious

  • anonymous

    Dumbest article ever! Sorry, try again.

  • whofan

    Really? This? Sigh. The Daily is really starting to fly a flag so far left of center that its alienating moderate members of the student body.

  • lpk

    Don’t let the haters bite–this article is great and I’m glad that you’re speaking out about it.

  • milo

    Jesus, that was stupid. This isn’t even blog-worthy.

  • anonymous

    i don’t understand why this is an important topic. very stupid idea. write about something that people actually care about

  • anonymous

    im a person of color and my hands are that color…

  • Cory

    Annie, your article is definitely appreciated by some of us. Ignore those that are content ingesting the hegemonic, heteronormativity that permeates our world.

  • Imani

    I’m assuming the negative comments below were all posted by the same dull-minded person because surely there wouldn’t be several idiots on this campus missing the point of your very insightful post. Thanks Annie for writing this! Anonymous users #1,2 and 3 can go read a book on identity politics 101.

  • Cody

    I think this might be a case of reading too much into things. It’s really akin to criticizing a show like Friends for not having a non-white character; it’s not a slight via omission. Are there supposed to be separate pages for every skin tone? Clearly that’s not what you’d propose as a solution but it’s the direction your logic points in.

  • Alex

    this feels at least a little pretentious…

  • Imani

    I’m actually confused. How does noting racial inequity alienate “moderates”?

  • Annie Graham

    I was wondering the same. Out of genuine curiosity, how would you define my post’s topic as alienating? Which elements specifically?

  • Char

    I found your article because I was wondering why all the emoji pics are white. It’s just bizarre, esp for a worldly company like apple. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a narrow decision.

  • Char

    Why? Will you explain?

  • A. Marie

    I agree with you Annie. It may not be a pressing topic but it is a little mind boggling to me. And the idiots who commented negatively below probably are ignorant white people ( not criticizing all white people, i love them) and don’t understand what it’s like to be surrounded by white faces and you’re a whole 12 shades darker.