This week, as the latest iOS update offered bold new messaging capabilities that promised to change our relationships for the better, the world felt full of possibility. What we didn't yet realize was the fanfare over squiggle drawings and tappable kisses doubled as a funeral dirge for someone very dear to us. On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Pink Shirt Girl vanished from our lives and status updates fell from 😃 to 😞 across America.
Pink Shirt Girl was born in 2010 as part of the Unicode 6 update, but was quickly seen on the most frequently used emoji tab for women the world over. Her full legal name is Information Desk Person, but friends called her Hair Flip Emoji, Sassy Girl Emoji, or simply Girl in the Pink Shirt. While there is a whole library of emoji to pick from, this one brought a distinctly feminine mystique to text conversations.
Pink Shirt Girl was most often seen throwing sass with her left hand up as if she was carrying a tray of invisible tequila shots to you and all your friends. She was all too familiar with the kind of pain we feel when we lose someone we love, as she too was known to suffer from mild depression that only a face massage could remedy. She could also be wildly enthusiastic, her hands flying above her head in a pose that became shorthand for OMG. Sure, she could be a little extra when you asked for her opinion on your outfit and she answered by throwing her arms up in an X as if she were at a self-defense class screaming "NO!" at her perpetrator.
But that is exactly why we loved her. She had moxie.
A vogue enthusiast and choreographer of modern gesture, Pink Shirt Girl was ready with a move for any possible scenario. Her various shapes transcended digital and took on a life of their own in the real world. Not since ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ has there been such an iconic digital gesticulator.
The circumstances surrounding her death have been murky, and the presence of a purple clad dopplegänger have sparked unrest within the emoji community. There are those that blame Apple, pointing to the disappearance of the murder weapon as a sure sign of guilt. Others seem to think she simply wanted to mix it up and got a new shirt.
These poor souls are so grief stricken they are blind to the fact that this new purple impostor has none of the charm of our girl in the pink shirt. Thankfully, Purple Shirt Girl has most of the dance moves down, but her eyes have swelled to the unearthly proportions of a Bratz doll. Where her mouth was once open, as if laughing at the funny joke you just made, it's now pursed closed. The girl in the purple shirt has none of the personality that attracted us to her predecessor in the first place.
While the update may have brought us such diverse achievements as a lady cop and a rainbow flag—which are of course to be celebrated—something was lost with Pink Shirt Girl. Along with the Dancer and the Women with Bunny Ears, she was one of the few emoji without a male equivalent, allowing women a place on the emoji keyboard that was uniquely their own.
Pink Shirt Girl was there when you needed to express your excitement over seeing Beyonce in concert and just a smiley face would not do. She was there when you needed to up vote the notion that women should get equal pay for equal work. She was able to communicate that our bodies are not objects, but tools of creativity, every bit as expressive as our faces.
While the new update may have effectively doubled the number of female emoji available, that doesn't mean we can't mourn the loss of a friend that got us through the hard times before emoji gender parity. Just because you have a new surfing buddy doesn't mean you don't still miss your bestie from childhood.
Pink Shirt Girl made me feel like I had some extra special powers as a girl. A girl who knew how to raise her hand and speak up. A girl unafraid of attitude. A girl who knew the power of a good haircut. And for that, she will be missed.
Rest in pink.
Cara Rose DeFabio is a pop addicted, emoji fluent, transmedia artist, focusing on live events as an experience designer for Real Future.