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Iconic justice: bye-bye, ‘floppy disk’—now let’s get rid of the tool icons Symbols in our environment must reflect current reality and values, not what's in the white working class male's garage.

Good riddance.

Welcome to 2022. Justice in emojis and computer icons has made great headway. In 2015 we finally first got our emojis of color; in February of this year we got our pregnant man emoji; and we have now almost entirely gotten rid of the confusing “floppy disk” icon, that creepy retro-tech visual from a time before women and People of Color were invited into personal computing.

Now it’s time to have a conversation about getting rid of the cogwheel and tool icons. Here’s why.

Just outmoded — or old order symbols?

Like the floppy disk, most of us millennials have no lived experience with these physical brute force devices — and in fact, they stopped having a modern application in our digital world at just around the time we decided to start critically examining White Supremacy. This makes these icons potent symbols of the old order.

Picture this. You want to enjoy your Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream and watch a contemporary movie. You’ve just about settled in with your bucket of dairy based self-care when the protagonists wander near a garage or workshop.

Women and People of Color have historically been denied access to work shops and tools by white working class males — due to white fragility.

BAM! You’re suddenly in the middle of a full-on mansplaining incident centered around an oil rag equipped white working class male inevitably inhabiting the space. He’s waving around a wrench — his royal orb symbolizing the rule of his tool kingdom — while talking about the 1960s muscle car he’s working on and conjuring up ever more banal middle class America sentimentality.

You know the scene. It’s Hollywood’s biggest trope.

The wrench is irredeemably tied to our idea of the white working class male, and indeed to his self-conception. The wrench is the white working class male’s identity. And Mr. white working class male, I needn’t tell you, is irredeemably tied to Trumpism and ensuing White Supremacy.

Thus we have a direct link from White Supremacy to symbols that needlessly surround all of us in our daily life.

How many of Earth’s 7 billion people are muscle car fanatics?

Icons reimagined by modern demographics

The fact is we wouldn’t accept a little Black boy having to click a burning cross every time he wants to access settings on his phone. Why, then, do we stubbornly hang on to the wrench and the cogwheel?

We don’t — and that’s key! The continued inclusion of these old order icons in modern UIs is coasting on inertia and laziness — that’s the way it’s always been. All it would take for us to conquer and replace them is a coordinated push. What are they going to say to oppose our push? Nothing, is what. They’ll be relieved someone did the job for them.

Old order icons are not even good symbols for their use case. Settings, for example: to change functionality in an app. I can immediately think of a better symbol for change, and so can you.

Click to change settings.
Sorry, Afrunauts! While 85% of you are wonderful people, the other 25% were far too frequently brigades and troll farms. Their abusive comments have traumatized our moderators, and so we can't allow comments until we have built an ethical way to address the troll problem. If you feel the calling and you have familiarized yourself with what is and isn't free speech, you can still email us your scribbles. If your feedback is excellent, we may manually add it!
PS. The A Black Woman Is Speaking mug is a standing invitation to sit down, shut up, and engage in the wisdom shared by Black women. Lord knows the world needs it right now.

16 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">Iconic justice: bye-bye, ‘floppy disk’—now let’s get rid of the tool icons</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Symbols in our environment must reflect current reality and values, not what's in the white working class male's garage.</span>”

  1. White working class men and all the other working class people used those tools to build everything you take for granted. You hate everything that is good in this world.

  2. As a woman HVAC tech just about to start my own gig, with a TRUCK FULL of tools, this whole shit article is wildly offensive

    Like, your office you write from only exists because someone like me used an evil racist hamd tool to build your shit, yo

    • The terrifying thing is, it’s impossible to be certain one way or another, because it is eminently conceivable that actual human beings believe things like “the confusing “floppy disk” icon, that creepy retro-tech visual from a time before women and People of Color were invited into personal computing”.

      Or maybe it’s just an AI demonstrator of some sort. I wouldn’t pay any money for it, but some slickee boys probably see dollar signs over it.

  3. The words “mandate” and “tool” trigger me. I’m shaking right now and had to call my rabbi and my psychologist. Both have put me on hold.

  4. I was told not to use the briefcase to represent business recently. You also can’t use the women with skirt icon to represent women.

  5. Ah arguing for the most important things in life – symbols that don’t trigger you.
    Kinda like the “right” to kill your unborn child (pro-choice btw).
    Considering how its all turned out, I really hope I live to see the fall of western civilization.

  6. The march for iconic justice must not stop with Pregnant Man. It’s crucial that symbols in our environment reflect current reality and values—not what’s in the white working class male’s garage.

  7. The gals who write on this site sure hate men. You know those type of guys who actually have crafted the skills to produce a product, love their wives, mind their own business, and don’t care so much about someone elses feelings.


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