Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“There is nothing to hint towards what’s in my pants”: Grace Dent on why we need ‘femojis’ to break period taboos

Femojis plus words_Line6.jpg

Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's regular column tackling issues on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st century context. This week, the journalist, broadcaster and self-confessed emoji addict, Grace Dent, discusses why we need to back Bodyform's new global campaign launched today for ‘femojis’ to be added to the official Unicode keyboard. These period-based emojis aim to blitz the taboo around all aspects of menstruation – something Dent argues is long overdue…

Grace Dent

Feminist Grace Dent says:

I love emojis. I am so completely, 100% ‘laughing cat with heart-shaped eyes’ about them. They’re just so beautifully handy.

Yes, I may make my living by writing, so you’d think finding the perfect, succinct word to nail how I feel would come easy. But, if you take a peek at the WhatsApp chats bubbling away on my phone or my Twitter timeline, you’ll find it reverberates with my glorious little emoji chums. It’s a sea of party poppers, windy gusts, glasses of red wine and of course, ripe purple aubergines which symbolise everything from a Tom Hardy photo session to the reaction I hope my new bra causes.

My favourite emoji, right now, is the ‘puzzled’ smiley man. He’s clutching his face with one hand pulling a look of utter bamboozlement. I say ‘his’ face because emojis, to me, seem rather masculine.

Even if I do use them all day long to chat with girl friends.

I tell them ‘I’m running late’ or ‘Leave me alone I’m busy!’ with the little sprinting man in blue jeans. If I’m staying in on a Friday night avoiding Prosecco and being sensible I use the man’s brown leather brogue emoji. If I need to say to friends ‘Can’t make it, I’ll be working’ then job-wise I have a male detective or postman to choose from. It’s not ideal.

Emoji’s two female professions appear to be ‘princess’ and ‘bride’. Sadly, I have long since accepted that Prince Harry will not be turning up with a ring begging me to give up the 9-5. I’m not really princess material anyway.

Emoji

Oh, I love you emoji but some useful ‘femojis’ wouldn’t go amiss. There is an emoji girl – a compliant-looking type wearing a soft pink jumper – but her main concerns seem to be needing a trim or a head massage.

When I want to symbolise myself – a real-life woman who rarely wears pink, or smiles coyly – I use the emoji of the man in a traditional Buckingham Palace-style bearskin. From a distance it looks like my beehive.

And although I am thrilled and grateful for emoji’s long, ripe, phallic aubergine, as of yet there is nothing to hint towards what’s in my pants. Or, more crucially, what’s inside around 50% of the world’s knickers too.

And yes, it’s not as if I frequently need to go around shouting loudly about my vagina or my latest period – which has inevitably just arrived on the London Underground 11 stops from the nearest Boots – but that’s the point of emojis isn’t it?

The femojis I need are not for shouting loudly. They would be wonderful for saying things quietly, in a tiny tap of a button, that we might not want to say out loud. I would love an emoji that hinted gently towards anything to do with periods.

It's insane that women can use one single emoji to say ‘Can I borrow your lipstick?’ or ‘Are you wearing heels tonight?’ but the question ‘Has anyone got a spare pad?’ is impossible.

Seriously, I have tried to buy tampons in Buenos Aires, Dubrovnik and Dusseldorf and – as my language skills let me down and my slightly X-rated gesturing got me nowhere – I’d have given anything for a universally recognised ‘help me out with a tampon’ femoji.

On a long trip around rural Northern Ireland, where chemists were thin on the ground, I once tried to hint to colleagues I needed to borrow a pad by using the ‘peach emoji’ (looks maybe slightly like a vagina) followed by an emergency symbol. It just looked as if I was flagging up a food intolerance. Far from ideal.

Bodyform Femojis
BodyForm Femojis

The six new 'Femojis' that Bodyform hopes Unicode will consider including following a Change.org petition

And if I’m asking for femojis as a big, brave, grown-up writer who is perfectly used to saying awkward things in public, then I am absolutely certain young women all over the planet would love a way to communicate about periods.

Menstruating shouldn’t be embarrassing. It really shouldn’t. It’s merely nature doing its thing. Not one of us would be here without it. But somehow, periods still make many of us tongue-tied. Telling your mother, your father, your school friends or even your teacher that you’re bleeding – particularly if you’re a shy person – can be one of the most excruciating things ever.

In the long term, young women who are unable to communicate what’s happening within their bodies suffer from real anxiety. It erodes their confidence. It stops them learning how their bodies work and allows others to make their decisions.

Worldwide, there is still so much taboo, mystery and plain old-fashioned nonsense surrounding women and the plain fact that we bleed. The only way we can consign this to history is by talking. And if we can’t quite face saying things out loud, I want a femoji for that.

To get the ball rolling, Bodyform has started a petition on Change.org, encouraging women to sign up to encourage Unicode to include six new femojis on the emoji keyboard, including icons depicting pads and periods as well as cramps, bloating, PMS and spots.

It goes live today, and you can sign it here: change.org/femojis-uk


Related

emojis 2.jpg

Pink sweaters, girls dancing in bunny ears: are emoji sexist?

rexfeatures_5600423lo.jpg

Ashley Graham's perfect response to body-shaming comments

ThinkstockPhotos-480082351.jpg

Lucy Mangan on why we need time off for periods

ONLINE_ARTICLE.jpg

This is what 30 looks like to women across the world

cinderella proposal.jpg

We don’t need permission: why it’s time to abolish leap year proposals

Hillary Clinton

A woman's place is in the White House: why we need a female president

306_tablet_commuter_makeup_inline_v1.jpg

Why is applying make-up on the train so divisive?

Comments

More

“Why are women such doormats when it comes to friendship?”

"We still have some crazy idea that society ‘rewards’ women who are nice to each other"

by The Stylist web team
01 Dec 2016

Why Trump’s win proves the feminist fight must go on

“Millions voted to show that that misogyny doesn’t matter”

by The Stylist web team
10 Nov 2016

An open letter to what should have been the first female US leader

Sarah Ditum imagines writing to the first female president of the United States.

by The Stylist web team
09 Nov 2016

“Be brave, be fearless”: a letter to my daughter on President Trump

“Dear girl, an accident of chromosomes has put you on the losing team”

by The Stylist web team
09 Nov 2016

Why feminism is the real winner in this extraordinary US election

On November 8th, here's why feminists should all be celebrating

by The Stylist web team
03 Nov 2016

How to be a nasty woman: Stylist's 9 step guide

A must-read for all women considering themselves 'good girls'

by Harriet Hall
21 Oct 2016

“Criminalising purchase would be a danger to sex workers”

...argues sex worker and activist, Molly Smith

by The Stylist web team
20 Oct 2016

“Unladylike” Gigi and why women always get blamed for acts of violence

The model was attacked by a stranger - so why are we blaming her?

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Sep 2016

“Why our stale working culture feeds a gaping gender pay gap"

No flexibility, no part-time: our model of work is still based on the assumption of the male breadwinner

24 Aug 2016

“Women winning medals? Let’s just focus on their looks!”

Why this drip-feed of sexist Olympics coverage has got to stop

16 Aug 2016