Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Melbourne's female-friendly pedestrian lights a bit frivolous

Perhaps in honour of International Women's Day, the right-on city of Melbourne, Australia is striking a blow for feminism by showing representations of females on their pedestrian crossing lights. The idea is "to help reduce unconscious bias", and to combat discrimination against women. They are supposed to make Melbourne's public spaces more inclusive of women.
The city's council is quick to point out that tax-payer's money was not involved - the project is being funded by the Committee for Melbourne, a non-profit organization of local businesses and community groups - and actually only ten lights in the downtown area have been changed as part of a 12-month trial. Each light alteration apparently costs $1,400.
But the project has garnered a lot of media and Internet attention. Predictably, people either hate it or love it. My own feeling is that the money could probably have been better spent elsewhere. I am at a bit of a loss to understand how the old lights were discriminatory - they seemed to me to be representations of generic humans, neither obviously make or female. Also, convertig the images to female by means of adding a skirt seems somewhat patronizing. I would have thought that just the words "WALK" and "DON'T WALK" would be less contentious and less gendered (and, given the red and green colouring, would be quite comprehensible to even the most language-challenged of foreign visitors).
Perhaps my favourite of the many Twitter comments the changes have generated was: "Oooooh now deal with violence against women and workplace discrimination", closely followed by "Man in kilt".

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