Culture

Tinder Is Fighting the Good Fight for Emoji Racial Equality

They're Petitioning Unicode to Include Interracial Couples

By Cait Munro ·
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Say what you will about Tinder (we've certainly said plenty), but the dating app is throwing its weight behind a worthy cause: persuading Unicode to create emojis that represent interracial couples. As it currently stands, the only "couple" emojis (you know, the ones with two heads with a little heart in between them, or two people holding hands) on the standard keyboard feature characters of the same race, which in the year of our wokeness 2018 certainly feels both dated and tone-deaf. In collaboration with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Emojination founder Jennifer 8. Lee, Tinder launched the Interracial Couple Emoji Project today, which includes a Change.org petition and a social media campaign centered on the hashtag #RepresentLove. 

"The lack of representation for diverse racial identities is a significant issue in an increasingly globalised [sic] 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 an opportunity to see themselves represented in the emoji world," reads the petition to Unicode. "Moreover, recent years have seen a large spike in the number of interracial couples and marriages. This ought to be recognised [sic], especially given the current political environment." 

 The campaign comes in the wake of a global study on interracial dating and relationships conducted by Tinder, which concluded that 52% of respondents don't feel like interracial couples are properly represented in "today's tech language," which includes GIFs, emojis and memes. The study also notes that 72% of dating app users are "more open-minded about who they date when using dating sites/apps" than they are when approaching people IRL, which, if accurate, provides a pretty solid argument for the use of dating apps. 

The request to Unicode is fairly simple—three new skin tones for both versions of the pre-existing couple emojis, which means just 21 new emoji characters in all. However, according to Tinder, even this could take over two years to design, review, approve and roll out across platforms. Over the years, the emoji world has been subject to all kinds of criticism about what it does and does not offer—after all, it was only this year that we even got redheaded characters—but, according to Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge, speaking to Wired, interracial couples have long topped the site's annual lists of most requested emojis.

In the past, people have tried to varying degrees of success to petition Unicode for emoji keyboard additions, ranging from the largely inconsequential (squirrel, bean, bagel) to the more culturally relevant (a woman wearing a headscarf, a woman breastfeeding, a person with an Afro). In 2014, Taco Bell successfully petitioned for a taco emoji, which was introduced in mid-2015. While we're all about tacos, ensuring people of all races feel seen and included is probably more important than allowing us to communicate the full range of Seamless cravings in a single character, so hopefully Unicode can pull this one off in record time. 

Cait Munro is a freelance writer, editor, and digital content creator who obsesses about art, fashion, entertainment, and culture both pop and otherwise. Her work has appeared on Vice, New York Magazine, Artnet News, xoJane, BULLETT, and elsewhere.

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