15-Year-Old Rayouf Alhumedhi Proposed A Headscarf Emoji, Because It's Long Past Time There Was One
Emoji are meant to represent the people using them in adorable, cartoonish form, but for a large part of the global population, an important image is missing: A woman wearing a headscarf. That's what led 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi to draft a headscarf emoji proposal for the Unicode Consortium, the group in charge of standardizing the emoji set across platforms (and consequently influencing the way we communicate — long live the burrito emoji). Although Alhumedhi is the lead author, the proposal is supported by several others, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Bustle has reached out to Alhumedhi for comment and will update when we hear back.
According to BuzzFeed, Alhumedhi noticed the headscarf emoji's absence after starting a group chat on WhatsApp; while her friends easily found emoji to use as makeshift avatars, there was no option for a woman wearing a headscarf. So, she wrote to the Unicode Consortium about creating a headscarf emoji. One of the emoji subcommittee members, Jennifer 8. Lee, reached out to help Alhumedhi write a detailed proposal draft, which you can read here. Through Lee, word of the proposal reached Ohanian, who set up a Reddit "Ask me anything" — more often known as an AMA — for Alhumedhi to answer questions about her proposal this past Tuesday.
During the AMA, Alhumedhi explained that she originally got the idea to write to the Unicode Consortium after reading about it on a Snapchat Story by Mashable. When asked why she felt the addition of a headscarf emoji was important, she said it comes down to representation in an increasingly common language (because like it or not, emoji are a language these days). "I would like to be represented and acknowledged," she wrote. "Because with the massive amount of women that wear the headscarf today, there should be at least one place on our keyboards reserved for them."
Many questioned her choice to wear a headscarf, claiming they could be used to oppress women. In response to one such question, she wrote, "When I wear the headscarf I actually feel liberated because I'm in control of what I want to cover. The headscarf allows for people to see past a women's beauty and see her for her knowledge."
The seven-page proposal is still a draft, but it covers a number of topics, such as the history of veiling, projected usage level, and design options. The proposed designs include a woman wearing a headscarf or a hijab, as well as several images depicting the scarves alone. According to the Washington Post, the idea is to create a new headscarf or hijab emoji, which can then be laid over one of the human emoji that already exist, so the option will be available for a variety of skin tones. The authors are aiming to submit a final version of the proposal in November.
As emoji have become an integral part of communication — a 2015 report found that they're used by 92 percent of people online — they have also expanded to reflect the diverse population that uses them. In early 2015, Apple released a slew of new emoji options; the most notable change was the ability to pick your own skin color. More recently, the iOS 10 update came with more than 100 new, diverse emojis, like female athletes and professionals, more family options, and (finally!) the rainbow flag.
And yet, as Alhumedhi points out, there's no sign of a woman in a headscarf. Fortunately, given the success of other efforts to diversify emojis, the proposal stands to be taken seriously at the very least. If you'd like to lend your support, Alhumedhi explained during her AMA that you can request the hijab emoji or sign a petition for its addition.