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The internet authorities have announced a raft of new emojis including one of a man holding a baby for the first time. The dad emoji is an important development.
There is to be a new emoji. The world emoji council, or whoever it is who actually decides these things, has decreed it. In fact there’s to be around 70 new emojis appearing on phones from the autumn.
One of the new images is of interest to us.
It’s a dad holding a baby: the dad emoji.
Let’s deal with the negative first. Clearly it’s outrageous that the emoji council (who I like to think consists of 11 people each with a giant yellow head plus one giant smiley poo sitting around a big board table) signed off a woman holding a baby and no-one thought to include a man doing the same. That illustrates how far we’ve still to go in putting fatherhood on the agenda.
The dad emoji has been added to the list along with an image of a non-gender specific person holding a baby. It’s remarkable how those making the decisions clearly thought parenthood/childcare and with laser-like focus went straight to woman/mother.
But let’s focus on the positive. The ‘father holding baby’ or ‘father feeding baby’ is now joining the roster of emojis.
The obvious next question is ‘So what?’
Well it matters. Because visibility matters.
It’s a cliche but it’s true: you can’t be what you can’t see. Professionals in the Diversity and Inclusion field know this, it’s why they promote examples of people getting on in their firms that are anyone other than a white man.
At an event I spoke at just last month a dad explained how he’d never thought about taking Shared Parental Leave until his boss did it. He saw someone else do it, he wanted to be that person. And from that decision good things have flowed including a boost to his wife’s career and a happier family life.
There’s a flipside to this. If men go looking for examples of caring dads but can’t find any, they may be put off. They may conclude it’s not normal. (This is why workingdads.co.uk is so important too. Our sister site workingmums.co.uk is excellent of course. But if men have to type in that address to find part time or flexible jobs they are going to get a clear signal that they are encroaching into territory where they don’t belong. At workingdads.co.uk we welcome all dads thinking about their work life balance.)
We know emojis are popular among the young in particular. Young men often don’t think about fatherhood until it is upon them. But including the emoji gives them the option. Something as small and simple as that can trigger novel thoughts, new ways of looking at things.
We know millennials take a different view of life as a working dad. This new emoji plays to that. It normalises the idea of men doing childcare. (Which is good for men, women, children and society as a whole). And it provides an opportunity for a new generation to express themselves and their thoughts about family in whatever way they are comfortable.
And we know that dads are getting better at opening up. Increasingly they are aware of their mental health and how to maintain it. But one of the key locations dads use to talk and discuss how they are feeling is social media. Men, for whatever reason, feel more comfortable talking about their feelings in a Facebook group or on WhatsApp. This new emoji will arrive in a space where men already are. That’s helpful.
So providing an image of a man holding a baby, even if it’s just an emoji is powerful. And it will hopefully lead to many more smiley faces all round.