Redheads rejoice: Your emojis could be coming

Ed Sheeran (AAP / file)
Ed Sheeran (AAP / file)

A new troop of emojis could be on the cards following ongoing complaints over the lack of red-haired characters. 

A meeting has been scheduled by Apple in San Francisco, where options for representing red hair will be discussed with a Unicode Technical Committee. Unicode, rather than Apple, are responsible for encoding and handling text and characters using in many modern operating systems.

An online petition calling for the introduction of a red-haired emoji has gained a slow but steady uptake of 20,000 signatures. The petition argues that "an important group of people" is missing from the emoji family.

"Redheads. In all their glorious gingerness, they've been missed out. Again," the petition reads.

"If you say you're going to diversify, why not add a few red-haired emoji in the mix?"

Newshub's Samantha Hayes (Twitter)

Newshub's resident redhead, Samantha Hayes, says she would welcome the additional emoji, but it would be one of many needed to represent humanity in all its variety.

"There are probably hundreds more emojis needed to be properly inclusive but a red haired emoji would be a welcome move and a big deal in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, where 10 percent of the population has red hair.

"My hair isn't naturally red, but I could still use it right?"

Red hair is the rarest natural hair colour in humans, comprising just 2 percent of the world's population. In most cases, the trait for red hair is carried by the recessive MC1R gene. That means if both parents do not have red hair but they both carry the gene, it's possible to have a redheaded child.

On playgrounds, red hair has sometimes been a cause for ridicule and exclusion.

In 2014, a physchology undergraduate found 60 percent of red-haired males and 47.3 percent of females reported suffering "some kind of discrimination" due to their hair colour. The survey was of 1742 people across 20 countries.

Perhaps YouTube's most famous redhead, CopperCab, real name Claire Kittrell, told The Sun the emoji will do "great things for young red-headed kids who may be getting bullied for the colour of their hair, because it will make it more normal for people to come across redheads now, like ... in their phones."

The YouTuber went as far as to describe the "anti-redhead sentiment" as "a form of racism."

"Our skin pigmentation is completely different, we obviously have a definite hair colour, and we have setbacks because of our genetics such as being sunburnt more easily."

Although red hair is most commonly associated with northern and western Europe, it's a trait found in populations right across the globe - a diversity that could prove difficult to represent in an emoji.

Examples of red-haired emojis (Emojipedia)
Examples of red-haired emojis (Emojipedia)

Notes for the upcoming Unicode meeting acknowledge the complexities of representing the world's redheads in emoji form. 

The option of introducing a seventh skin tone modifier with "pale white skin and hair" would allow for redheaded male or female chefs, scientists and astronaut emojis, but the meeting notes point out that a new skin tone modifier would also "embed the notion of hair colour linking to specific skin tones" and require seven images instead of six for each human emoji.

While some have embraced the idea of a red-haired emoji, others are a little more cynical. "Validate me with an emoji that I'll use maybe three times," wrote one Twitter user.

If Unicode was to approve plans for a red-haired emoji, users may still have to wait until 2018 for the update.


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