The emoji lexicon is one that continues to grow month after month, year after year. Once little more than a collection of smiley faces and a few symbols, now the emojipedia is set to grow bigger and more inclusive, and the emoji-powers-that-be at Unicode seem to have their finger on the pulse of the world’s zeitgeist with the latest additions.
Many symbols of social progress were approved to be added to the official line up during the 149th meeting of Unicode Consortium, the international group that regulates emojis. The consortium signed off on 56 new symbols as part of an effort to make emojis more representative of a wide and diverse base.
The list will take the total number of the cartoon images, which are increasingly being used to replace words in text messages, to 1,724. In the digital times, the adding of new emoji has kind of become like adding a new word to our language. The new adding of “words” are based on proposals submitted to the consortium over the past year and one big standout emoji was “Woman Breastfeeding Baby.”
Also included in the new list, Unicode 10, are emojis featuring a woman wearing a hijab and a person practicing yoga.
The mix will be added to the collection in 2017. The inclusion of breastfeeding emoji was welcomed on Twitter as a triumph of normalizing breastfeeding. Considering the problems Facebook users have experienced when it comes to posting pictures of breastfeeding, it is good to see the emoji being received in the wider world.
Rachel W. Lee, a registered nurse and medial equipment trainer at University of College of London Hospital, submitted the breastfeeding emoji for approval.
“The lack of a breastfeeding emoji represents a gap in the Unicode Standard given the prevalence of breastfeeding in cultures around the world, and through history,” she wrote. Her proposal for the breastfeeding emoji pointed out that “three million mothers participate in the activity of breastfeeding in the United States at any given time,” and that the baby bottle ranks in the top 50% of emojis used on emojitracker.com.
Earlier this year, Google revealed a series of new emojis in an effort to better represent gender equality. It’s a comfort that a breastfeeding emoji comes out at a time when the President-elect of the United States calls breastfeeding “disgusting.” “In dark times, we can always use more emoji,” the Ringer reported.
Among the Unicode Consortium members who get to vote on emoji standards are Apple, Google, Microsofr, Huawei, Facebook and Adobe. The Government of India is also a voting member.
Despite their approval, emoji take some time to roll out to smartphones. Android N was the first OS to support Unicode 9; all of the latest emoji from Unicode 9 was found in Android 7.0 this May. Those using iOS just saw Unicode 9 this month in the iOS 10.2 Public Beta. New emoji are typically released on phones with a new version of the phone’s operating system, often quite some time from when they’re initially approved. But as it says: baby steps!