It’s undeniably silly, but the introduction of ginger emojis feels like a small triumph for gingers, says Stylist’s Digital Women’s Editor Moya Crockett.
This week, it was revealed that redheads are finally getting their own emoji. The Unicode Consortium – the group that oversees the introduction of new emojis – announced that 157 new cartoon characters are soon to be added to our smartphone alphabet, including a pirate flag, a par of flat-heeled shoes, and a lobster.
But for people with auburn, ginger and copper locks, there was only one new emoji that mattered.
The new emojis will be rolled out in June, following the 2015 launch of a change.org petition titled “Redheads should have emoji too”. The petition was fronted by Ginger Parrot, a website “for redheads and ginger lovers”.
“It’s been a slow process since 2015, but I can say that gingerkind is probably just as relieved as I am that we’ve reached this positive result,” Emma Kelly, the editor of Ginger Parrot, told The Telegraph. “Every other natural hair colour was represented while red hair was completely ignored. It didn’t give a positive message at all, leaving us out.”
She added: “Having redhead emojis on iPhones will mean that we can all feel included, which is what the intention of the diversified emojis should have been.”
The celebration over redhead emojis might seem trivial – and in the grand scheme of things, it is. But I understand the fuss, because I have skin (or hair) in the game. My light-brown-with-an-orange-filter hair isn’t a rich, dark red like Julianne Moore’s or glamorously carroty like Jessica Chastain’s. But it’s still more auburn than anything else, and that means my emoji choices have historically been rather limited. The blonde and black-haired women are plain inaccurate, and my deathly-white Celtic complexion means I feel weird using the olive-skinned brunette emoji.
Stumped, I usually revert to bland yellow smileys, or give up on faces entirely and send a series of twinkly stars.
And while I know it’s ridiculous, this has always stung a little. To understand why, it’s important to grasp a fairly universal truth about gingers: most of us, at one point or other in our lives, have been teased, excluded or straight-up bullied because of our hair. (Observe Emma Kelly’s comments about redheads being “ignored” and ‘left out’, words which no doubt come from experience.)
My own hair is far from flame-red, but it was certainly red enough to see my primary school years soundtracked by the chant “Get back in your biscuit tin, ginger, ginger!” Friends with redder locks report being mocked to the point of tears, believing that they were inherently unattractive because of the colour of their hair, and feeling as though they had no option but to dye brown or blonde.
Redheaded boys get an even rougher deal than girls, thanks in large part to the long-term lack of cool ginger men in pop culture. (One 2014 study found that 60.6% of red-haired men felt they had suffered “some kind of discrimination in the past due to their hair colour”, compared to 47.3% of women.) Growing up in the Nineties and early Noughties, I could at least look to Ginger Spice, Jessica Rabbit and Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic as proof that red hair could be beautiful. My ginger brother had Ron Weasley and an adolescent Prince Harry: iconic in their own way, perhaps, but hardly Will Smith.
Today, things are – I hope – a little different. Young people seem to be more accepting of difference, for a start, and there are plenty of male and female ginger icons, from Adwoa Aboah and Emma Stone to Michael Fassbender and Damien Lewis (not to mention grown-up Prince Harry, officially cool now that he’s engaged to Meghan Markle). And now we have ginger emojis, the ultimate sign of 21st century acceptance.
So yes: go ahead and celebrate the arrival of the red-haired emoji, gingers of the world. I’m cheering with you.