This is a backburner thought, but I’ve contemplated shaping Mutant Standard’s encoding standard over the long term to somehow prevent easy use (and thus cooption) by corporate entities.
Continuing with my tradition of making blog posts about why certain emoji that are in the Unicode Standard are not and will never be in Mutant Standard, I have decided to talk about the very first few emoji I decided to exclude – police and border patrol.
With police, I’m mainly bullet pointing this because it’s really depressing and I only have enough emotional energy for one of them, and borders seemed like the better choice because I have my own long personal story.
This is quite a long post and it’s going to go to some dark places.
CW: the generic state of world politics, violence, a degree of pessimism.
I often hear a particular undercurrent of attitudes or beliefs when I hear various discussions about Unicode codepoints and Unicode emoji symbols, and to me, as an illustrator and a designer (ie. a visual communicator), and someone who is trying to navigate their place in the world of languages, I find that these attitudes usually come from a place of privilege, and/or a lack of knowledge about how graphic communication actually works.
I think the notion that Unicode Emoji is something that can be permanent, stable and reliable, doesn’t make sense and isn’t realistic. And even if you could make it that way, that’s not a situation anyone should actually want.
Here are a couple of outcomes from me thinking about stuff the past week or so…
Mutant Standard’s toilet symbols: a gender neutral toilet icon and WC.
The binary gender toilet icons will be joining various other Unicode Standard emoji that will outright not be included in Mutant Standard, such as police officer, border patrol, family ZWJs and others. You can see the full list and reasonings for them here.
Gender-segregated bathrooms reinforce negative and damaging stereotypes about male and female genders while also acting as a bludgeon against gender-nonconforming and non-binary people, policing their appearance and behaviour.
They don’t really make sense and they don’t correspond to how people perceive gender, as highlighted by the ridiculous backlash against transgender people using bathrooms that best correspond to their gender identity.
🚻 has been replaced with a gender-neutral toilet icon and 🚾 is also in Mutant Standard. (both pictured above)
So, all of the major emoji vendors have now redesigned the gun emoji to look like a squirt gun, while Mutant Standard hasn’t made any gun emoji yet. I had been asked about my opinion on this and what I plan on doing and I talked about it on Discord. Here’s a blog post summarising those thoughts.
Clearly, I don’t have any issues with the corporations deciding to slant away from Unicode Specification – Mutant Standard does that liberally and I’ve talked about why I believe that is fine to great length. But I do have problems in other regards.
I feel that the rationale for these decisions is mostly a PR move – American companies don’t want to be associated with gun violence in the American political climate, and that’s understandable, but also what often missing in this discussion is that this decision is only for them.
This move is a disneyfication. It does not erase the horror or the reality of mass shootings or racially-biased police brutality in the US. Nor does it erase the many Americans who have pernicious ideas about gun violence, nor does it erase the lobbying that prevents scientific investigation and systemic changes that might be able to help this. (And there’s also the racist relationship between gun control legislation and black and brown people owning firearms which often goes ignored.)
These companies are some of the most powerful corporate entities in the world, and if they wanted, they could lobby and use their political money and power for change. They could even just have a meaningful dialogue about it instead of vaguely pointing to ‘company values’. But they aren’t interested in taking a stand or making a real contribution to any real issue in the cultural or political sphere, so they change a gun emoji to a squirt gun instead.
It’s like the pointed peach – if you change the emoji, you can make that particular form of communication appear nonexistent without having to engage with it at all. I wouldn’t necessarily mind the squirt gun if they had a dialogue about it and actually contributed something to the world, but they refuse to. And on these kinds of principles, (as opposed to just immature psuedo-free speech narratives) i think the squirt gun is a fucked up thing to do.
But is making a gun emoji okay, and is it okay now, in this current situation?
I think making a gun emoji is probably fine, and maybe Mutant Standard will eventually be one of the few emoji sets that will end up having a gun. I want people to be able to responsibly talk about and communicate about violence (beyond the childish mythos of the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’), keeping in mind it also exists beyond the aesthetics of physical violence. I also want people to have guns for RPG purposes (and more guns than just a pistol because that would be fun for RPGs).
That being said, I also don’t think it’s right to do it now in the current political climate in the US. I don’t want to be seen as the validator of certain certain culturally negative groups of people who are agitated by the situation in the wake of the Parkland shooting and actively seek validation (even though Mutant Standard’s open embrace and support of certain minorities should probably prevent that to some degree). Regardless of what I intend the gun to be, my decisions have cultural consequences beyond my intent.
So yeah, at least for the meantime, Mutant Standard just won’t have a gun. If it does, it probably won’t be a squirt gun.