When you type “shoe” into your smartphone, a red stiletto is typically the first suggested emoji that pops up. And all the other women’s shoe emoji options, apart from one possibly unisex sneaker, have high heels.
That’s a problem, says Florie Hutchinson, a media strategist and self-described emoji enthusiast based in Palo Alto, California. She is campaigning to add a woman’s flat ballet shoe to the official emoji library, arguing that the “bright vixen red” stiletto doesn’t represent the shoes most women wear on a daily basis.
“For me, the lack of a flat shoe emoji felt exclusionary,” Hutchinson told TODAY Style in an email. “I simply didn’t identify with any of the options available to me.”
Earlier this year, she wrote to the Unicode Consortium, the group that sets the worldwide standard for emojis. In her detailed proposal, she argued that the red stiletto, the current default for "women’s shoe" in the emoji universe, is too sexualized.
“The high-heeled stiletto is highly suggestive,” Hutchinson wrote. “(Stilettos are) most often associated with fetishism and seduction and made popular in the 50s during the era of ‘Mad Men,’ and most recently by ‘Sex in the City.’”
The red stiletto emoji promotes the unhealthy misconception that high heels are the preferred shoe for the female gender, she argued. It's a misconception that's alive and well today, when a woman can still be fired for not wearing heels to the office.
Determined to make the flat shoe emoji a reality, Hutchinson enlisted the help of Aphee Messer, a Nebraska-based graphic designer. Messer designed a classic ballet flat emoji in a variety of colors, with an optional, tiny bow on the toe box.
“I think this emoji will send the message, albeit a subtle one, that women are not defined by their sex appeal,” Messer told TODAY Style in an email. “I don't think there's anything wrong with red stilettos or the other heeled shoe emojis, but I do think the ballet flat will help the emoji keyboard be more representative of what the average woman actually wears. And I think it will be useful for young girls who don't need to be thinking about wearing high heels yet!”
So, is the flat shoe emoji coming to a smartphone screen near you? We won’t find out until November, when the Unicode Consortium announces which proposed emojis will definitely roll out in 2018.
In the meantime, Hutchinson is hoping for the best — not just for her own sake, but for what this new emoji could mean to her three young daughters.
“(I hope) to raise women who are proud to wear flats," she wrote in her initial proposal, "and have an emoji that confirms that their height and leg lengths are perfect, as they are.”