Culture

City Installs ‘Female’ Traffic Signals for Equality, Gets Slammed for Stereotyping Women as Skirt-Wearing

Patriarchal crosswalk sign in New York City; inset: Melbourne’s new edition (Image: ABC via Twitter)
Officials in an Australian city worried that pants-wearing traffic signals were perpetuating ‘unconscious bias.’

The city of Melbourne, Australia, has started installing dress-wearing, “female” traffic signals in the name of gender equality, and now they’re being hit for perpetuating the sexist idea that women should wear dresses. 

According to an article in the local news source ABC, the city started installing the new lights on Tuesday as part of a campaign to eliminate “unconscious bias.” In other words, the city was concerned that seeing only “male” traffic signals was causing its residents to subconsciously develop the idea that male people mattered more than female people. 

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias,” chief executive Martine Letts told ABC. “The aim is to move towards one-to-one male and female representation across the state of Victoria.”

Although the total cost of reaching this one-to-one goal isn’t clear, ABC reports that it costs an average of $8,400 to change six lights. Now, you might be tempted to say that no price is too high when it comes to something that will so clearly reduce gender bias, but it turns out that this seemingly heroic initiative might not have been worth the money after all — especially considering that some people find it to be biased in itself: 

These people make great points. I mean, why weren’t we assuming that some of the pants-wearing traffic signals were women all along? Is Melbourne saying that you’re not a real woman if you don’t wear a dress? Oh, and by the way, why are all of these dress-wearing ones being declared “female”? Don’t these people know that not all people who wear dresses are women? Don’t they know that not all people who have vaginas are women? 

Now, I’m not saying that the pants-wearing signals aren’t problematic. They certainly are, for several reasons. For example: The signals have all of their limbs, and they appear to be walking. Isn’t that a little ablist? Why no one-legged and/or wheelchair-using signals? Why no dress-wearing, male-to-female-transgender, wheelchair-using signals? Why no signals that alternate between pants and skirts to represent gender fluidity? 

The truth is, representing “female” as “dress-wearing” certainly is using a stereotype. But here’s the thing: There is absolutely no way to make a visual representation of “female” — or of any group — without stereotyping. Think about it: Giving the “female” signals long hair would be perpetuating the stereotype that women have long hair, and giving the “female” signals curves would be offensive to small-chested (and male-bodied) women. 

So, just what is Melbourne to do? Twitter is full of suggestions, for example, this guy: 

At first glance, this seems like a good idea. Perhaps Melbourne should just spend however many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to change all of the signals to a simple “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” to avoid the problems associated with visual representation. But on second thought, maybe not. After all, that would be offensive to the people who cannot walk. Perhaps “Walk and/or Wheel” and “Don’t Walk and/or Wheel” would suffice? Or maybe — just maybe — Melbourne can spend its time and money addressing real, important issues instead of wasting it on political-correctness theatrics in the name of “fixing” a “problem” that no sane human was ever worried about in the first place. 

Most Popular

White House

Nikki Haley Has a Point

Nikki Haley isn’t a Deep Stater. She’s not a saboteur. She wouldn’t undermine the duly elected president, no siree! That’s the message that comes along with Haley’s new memoir With All Due Respect. In that book, she gives the politician’s review of her career so far, shares some details about her ... Read More
White House

Trump vs. the ‘Policy Community’

When it comes to Russia, I am with what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman calls the American “policy community.” Vindman, of course, is one of the House Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses. His haughtiness in proclaiming the policy community and his membership in it grates, throughout his 340-page ... Read More
Law & the Courts

DACA’s Day in Court

When President Obama unilaterally changed immigration policy after repeatedly and correctly insisting that he lacked the constitutional power to do it, he said that congressional inaction had forced his hand. In the case of his first major unilateral move — “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which ... Read More
Books

A Preposterous Review

A   Georgetown University professor named Charles King has reviewed my new book The Case for Nationalism for Foreign Affairs, and his review is a train wreck. It is worth dwelling on, not only because the review contains most of the lines of attack against my book, but because it is extraordinarily shoddy and ... Read More