In a mind-boggling bid to reduce subconscious gender-bias in Victoria, lobby group Committee for Melbourne announced plans to pursue a 1:1 ratio of male and female icons at pedestrian crossings. A trial has been approved by VicRoads and the first lights have been changed in Melbourne already. So far the costs of changing fittings have been absorbed by a local electrical company. Meaning, thankfully, the tax payer isn’t funding this madness.
Yes, I think it’s utterly mad. Not because I am against gender equality–far from it. In addition to being a rather pointless exercise that will likely have no effect on the public whatsoever, I feel that this is a step backward for gender equality.
Firstly, the icon presents as a woman because it wears a skirt. Forget for a moment that some poor person had to try (and failed) to design a skirt-wearing icon that didn’t look like it had broken legs. Just… try to forget that while your brain screams about how the leg shouldn’t be going that way–ohgod it looks painful! Forget it. Forget!
This isn’t some back-water conservative town–this is Melbourne, so why do we have to put a skirt on it to call the icon a woman?
Because that’s what we’ve always used to denote a woman?
Sure, but that doesn’t make it right to perpetuate the skirt-wearing female icon in a state that considers itself to be progressive, in 2017.
Women wear pants too, it’s one of the wonderful things about being liberated and equal to men. We probably already have a 1:1 ratio of male to female pedestrian crossing icons. Did anyone ask them? Did we just assume the gender of all those icons?
It’s a step backwards for complete gender equality, too. Adding a skirt to an icon represents nothing more than a clothing choice in a progressive society where gender barriers and bias are truly broken down.
There are more gender expressions than ‘male’ and ‘female’, there are more ways to physically represent those genders than there are stars in the sky–is every Victorian going to get their own pedestrian icon carefully designed to represent their gender?
I would argue that the addition of a skirt only adds more gender bias, not less. It reinforces the idea of a binary gender system in a very destructive way. It reinforces the concept of a woman as some skirt-wearing broken-legged being, a particular presentation of a woman that we have tried to get away from!
A pedestrian crossing icon is just that. If it means so much to reduce subconscious gender-bias by changing the street fixtures, take away the icon altogether. Make it a pair of genderless legs! It doesn’t actually matter.
What matters is that we approach equality for all, not just for the traditionally accepted models of gender.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
Photo: Twitter / Nine News