This Girl Gang Is Taking On The Patriarchy One She-Moji At A Time
“Slay all day”
Karina de Alwis, Noemie Le Coz, and Nirmala Shome were having a casual night in when the topic of emoji came up—sexist emoji, to be specific. With the standard emoji keyboard limiting women to getting married or going to the salon, the self-professed “girl gang” knew they had to do something to make this popular mode of communication more accessible and inclusive.
That’s where She-Moji comes in. Designed to reflect modern women, She-Moji includes more than 400 original emoji featuring different professions, outfits, ethnicities, and activities—plus a slew of powerful phrases like “Slay All Day” and “Sorry Not Sorry.” On top of a kick-ass new keyboard fit for dynamic women everywhere, 50 percent of the profits will go to the Malala Fund, which works to ensure every girl has access to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. Clearly a win-win on all fronts.
GOOD spoke with Art Director and She-Moji cofounder Noemie Le Coz via email about the concept and long-term plans for the first inclusive emoji keyboard.
How long has your girl gang been together and what are some of the benefits of collaborating with your friends?
We’ve known each other for over 5 years—we met in Melbourne through work and mutual friends initially, then a group of us all moved to New York in early 2013 where, with no immediate family nearby, we became even closer. It’s been really fun working together. We’re all quite like-minded, which has made the decision-making process pretty streamlined, and being good mates who respect each other means we’ve been able to speak up and tell it how it is—even in times when we haven’t agreed as much. It was easy to align on what She-Moji would stand for and how we wanted it to look and feel. Logistically, being good friends also gave us lots of face-time, and meant that we could talk about it at weekend drinks, group dinners and even a recent camping trip, rather than having to set up Google hangouts or spend all of our time in Slack conversations.
What do you think it is about emojis that make them so addictive to use?
We love using emojis. We love how they can often express exactly how you feel better than words—like when your friend texts you that she just downed a whole pizza, all you need to send is a high five. There are a million subtle ways women encounter sexism on a daily basis, from finding changing tables only in women's restrooms to restrictive dress codes and the “pink tax.”
At what point are these things not design flaws, but perpetuators of sexist culture?
While some societal gender imbalance is silently accepted by us all, the lack of symmetry with emoji seems to spark some attention. Even before we launched She–Moji there were many publications who profiled the issue, including a group from Google who recently pushed to have more female emoji approved by Unicode for inclusion in the native emoji keyboards. With respect to emoji, it’s well-known that the current set subliminally reinforces gender biases against women, with limited female professions and activities. For the longest time we’ve tried to convince ourselves of the frivolity of emoji, and have worked around the limitations by using an image of two bunny girls while communicating with a girlfriend. Hopefully this conversation continues – amongst both men and women, and beyond the world of emoji—to help make a small move toward a more inclusive culture. She–Moji proves you can fight for an important cause while still having fun and a sense of humor.
What are some other ways women can have fun while still slamming the patriarchy?
She-Moji was always intended to be taken in a light-hearted way, and if we could facilitate a bigger conversation about equality, even better. We’re big fans of anything that involves girls having fun. Raise up your girlfriends, help each other out and embrace collaboration. Try out skateboarding or karate. Be the boss of your karaoke night. Recently we attended a Beyoncé dance class, which definitely reminded us how fun a dose of girl power can be.
[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]Raise up your girlfriends, help each other out and embrace collaboration.[/quote]
Why is it important to be inclusive with not only the images but the language as well?
We definitely wanted She-Moji to look cool, be fun, and also feel current—so we asked friends and family to find out what phrases they would use in texts now. These were also a great way to speak to a few different groups of people—from the Beyhive and Broad City fans to gamer girls and yogis.
How did you decide on the Malala Fund as a perfect fit for She-Moji? Did you always have a charitable aspect in mind for the project?
We did! From the night we thought of the idea, we knew we wanted She–Moji to be bigger than just another emoji keyboard. We wanted to donate to a women’s charity, to strengthen our message, benefit women—and literally put our money where our mouth is. We liked that She–Moji downloads could become a win-win for women on many levels. We settled on the Malala Fund for all that they, and she, stands for—providing free, quality, safe education for young girls around the world, and the empowerment associated with that. We like Malala’s message, philosophy and vision for the future, and know that our audience will too.