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What's Wrong With The New Breastfeeding Emoji?

15/11/2016 16:42 | Updated 16 November 2016

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Images: Unicode.org

Great news for women: at long last, emoji are catching up with our needs. A raft of 51 new symbols has been proposed for release in mid-2017 by the elusive Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. Finally, we could have the icons our texts have been been desperately lacking! Why, many's the time I've been eating a pretzel whilst sitting in a sauna next to a vampire and thinking "Damn! Why are there no emoji for this?"

Brava then, to Rachel Lee, Registered Nurse at UCH London, whose proposal for a much-requested breastfeeding emoji has finally made the shortlist for Unicode 10.0. The judging committee, co-chaired by Mark Davis (Google) and Peter Edberg (Apple), is predominantly made up of men. For who else would approve an emoji so far removed from what breastfeeding actually looks like?

Behold, a headless Simpsons character with lurid taste in shirts, grasping with one arm a faceless blue bundle. I assume this is meant to be the baby, yet atop its enormous bald head sits a long, brown ponytail. Most disturbing of all though, is the fact that the breastfeeding mother has no breasts.

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Image: Emojipedia

The emoji was designed by Joshua Jones, and one has to wonder at his thought process. Is he a blushing young lad, perhaps, who has yet to see a woman naked? Or was this a deliberate attempt to defeminise the design, so that no-one could possibly be offended by the sight of cartoon cleavage? After all, breastfeeding women are often told to cover up, not to do it in public; that no-one wants to see them flaunting their breasts while feeding a hungry infant and that really they should be doing it in the toilets and definitely not in cafes or restaurants or shops like, say, Mothercare.

Although a breastfeeding emoji is welcome, it doesn't go far enough. When are we getting the rest of the set? We still need the Breastfeeding While Eating Dinner and Dropping Some On Baby's Head emoji, the Breast Milk Leaking Through Your Shirt emoji and the Breastfeeding On The Loo emoji (yes, I have). Other handy emoji would be Cabbage Leaves In Bra For Mastitis, Expressing In The Toilets At Work and Yes, I Still Breastfeed My Toddler - So What? Meanwhile, men get to choose from eight different emoji for balls.

Don't get me wrong, I and millions of other women will be happy to have one breastfeeding emoji at least. Big thanks to Rachel Lee and Joshua Jones - the design may not be perfect but we owe them our gratitude for getting this far. According to the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, "The intended appearance is not necessarily that shown in the proposal documents". There will also likely be variations in skin tone. In other words, there's still time for those boobs to be tweaked.

In the meantime, designers have until October 1 2017 to submit proposals for the 2018 emoji release. So if there's a symbol you think the world has been waiting for, get designing. And for the record, I typed this entire piece left-handed on my iPhone while lying in bed breastfeeding my sleeping baby. Now, who's going to design an emoji for that? Joshua? ...Anyone? 😜

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