When Rayouf Alhumedhi’s friends wanted to identify themselves to one another in a WhatsApp group chat, they didn’t rely on their names. Instead, each friend used an emoji. “My friends, who don’t wear the headscarf, they found something.” Alhumedhi said. “For me? I had to opt to not use an image of a woman wearing a headscarf. Because there isn’t one.”
And that is something the 15-year-old high school student decided to change. The teenager, who lives in Berlin and is originally from Saudi Arabia, is the lead author on a new proposal for a hijab emoji to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that governs the creation and approval of emoji.
“I wanted something to represent me, alongside the millions of women who wear the headscarf every day, and pride themselves on wearing the headscarf,” she told me Tuesday morning by Skype.
Her proposal, which now has the support of one of Reddit’s co-founders, was promoted Tuesday afternoon in an “Ask me Anything” on the platform.
Particularly for teenagers like Alhumedhi, emoji now are way more than just a fun decoration for digital conversations among friends. They are, increasingly, the conversation themselves. “It’s the new language,” Alhumedhi said.
A potential design for the proposed emoji. (Design by Aphelandra Messer)