How a Flat-Shoe Emoji Became a Feminist Statement

When Florie Hutchinson submitted a proposal for a flat-shoe emoji in May, she thought of her three young daughters. Her goal was to ensure that when they search for a shoe emoji, a high heel won’t be the only women’s option available.

While a sneaker emoji — coded as unisex — already exists, Hutchinson believes that option is no substitute for a flat. The shoe emojis coded for women are five pairs of heels, including the classic red stiletto.

She noted that many women — herself included — wear flats throughout the day for comfort in the workplace.

“My intuition was that many women wear flats to work,” Hutchinson said. “The days of wearing flats to work and changing into heels at the office are over.”

Still, she said she never expected her emoji idea to take off the way it did, and she noted the fairness of the emoji review process, which takes proposals from people all over the world. For instance, a 15-year-old in Berlin was the mind behind the “hijab” emoji, which she proposed because she thought other Muslim women would want to use an emoji that looked like them.

“Literally anyone can submit a proposal,” Hutchinson said. “It’s the most universal example of people coming together to create a new language.”

Ballet Flat Emoji
This is what the ballet flat emoji would look like.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Aphee Messer

The widespread interest in Hutchinson’s shoe emoji coincided with revelations surrounding sexual harassment and assault of women in the workplace. Although the ballet flat emoji was proposed months before the Harvey Weinstein scandal (and the subsequent #MeToo movement), the coincidental timing of it makes it a marker of the times.

“When people use the flat shoe emoji 75 years from now, they’ll say, ‘This was what was going on in history [when it was created],'” Hutchinson said.

She noted that other proposed emojis also tell important stories, like a mosquito put forth by Johns Hopkins University that could be used by millions of people globally who are affected by mosquito viruses.

While the new emojis have already been voted in by the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, Hutchinson does not know yet if her flat shoe icon made the cut. But her proposal has become representative of women’s struggle for equality in the workplace — and Hutchinson said the emoji could be a revisionary step to an unintentionally sexist emoji codebook.

“This is a chance to fix the omission [of a flat women’s shoe],” Hutchinson said.

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How These Flats Are a Feminist Statement

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