STOP the Inequality: Melbourne’s Traffic Light problem


from ABC news

The great feminist battle of March 2017 is the pedestrian signal. I know it sounds small…and pedestrian, but how wrong was I! Thousands of people have participated in straw polls and thousands more have made comments on social media. In fact, the issue has become so contentious, not only are articles appearing on the ABC, The Age, and Herald Sun, from across the globe even the BBC are reporting the story.

According to ABC news, ‘Ten female pedestrian figures will be installed on traffic lights at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets as part of a VicRoads-approved 12-month trial.’

The Committee for Melbourne — a non-profit organisation comprising more than 120 Melbourne business and community groups — is behind the move.

Chief executive Martine Letts said having only green or red silhouettes of men discriminated against women.

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias,” she said.”

I didn’t realise men only pedestrian lights were an expression of inequality and oppression. I mean, does anyone really look up and think, ‘see that green man, I wish I was like him’? Apparently we do, but none of us were aware of this unconscious bias, until now. To help me out, I asked my wife what she thought of the saga, only to have a pair of eyes roll past me as though I must be stupid for ever thinking this must be matter for women’s equality.

Victoria’s Minister for Woman said, “There are many small — but symbolically significant — ways that women are excluded from public space.”

I am not denying there are real issues between the genders, but am I the only one who is asking, are we being a little too precious about our traffic lights? I can think of 742 better ways of spending  funds than altering the gender of pedestrian lights, but if it such a pressing issue, then as a Melbournian I say, go ahead; it’s a green light from me.

As we wrestle with this unacceptable prejudice, I can’t help but wonder, what if all traffic light action figures had always been female? I can imagine today’s fight being very different, we would have feminists being outraged as they discover some secret derogatory messaging in our women only traffic lights. Maybe these lights are subconscious signals that make women into inanimate objects!

Let’s be clear, I’m totally cool with changing pants to dresses, but I do have one quick question though, in representing women with a figure wearing a dress, are they not stereotyping women?

One one cheeky friend posted on social media,

“Not far enough Melbourne!

Still stuck in the fixed binary red/green paradigm.

We need lights on a spectrum from red to green”.

Leaving aside that mischievous (although not entirely aberrant) comment, and the perennial problem of our traffic lights discriminating against colour-blind Melbournians, let’s stop for a moment, or at least slow down to amber: the fact that we are even having this tiny squabble over pedestrian lights ought to tell us how far society has moved on women’s issues. If the sex of pedestrian signals is where the fight now lays, then I don’t think we have too much to be worried about.

I was walking through the city today, and when crossing the street I didn’t realise that the traffic light’s gender had changed, but as I can see with this photograph from ABC news, it has (or should that be, she has?). I had just come from speaking to a group of people about some slightly bigger issues, such as God, life and death, and hope. I guess I am a little ambivalent about the messaging in our traffic lights, but I do wish and pray that we Melbournians would stop and think about these biggest issues that we all are facing, which no small social or council alteration can solve.

Contrary to current feminism, which may turn to smaller things because the larger battles are won, the propensity of Melbournians is to focus on miniature and what are often trivialities, at the expense of facing the eternal questions that we must all one day address. And it’s not as though we are lost in the dark, with no direction given. God has given a definitive signal, his only son, Jesus Christ, and yet we walk through life as though he is an irrelevance, and then we wonder why there are so many traffic accidents in life.

Once a crowd asked Jesus, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

He answered, albeit with a somewhat cryptic message, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in 3 days.’

John (the author) then explained Jesus’ meaning,

“the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

Let’s not ignore CBD traffic lights, and please let us stop ignoring God’s signal to us.