'Female' Traffic Signs A Step Forward, Or A Step Back?

According to ITV, "crossing light symbols depicting women instead of men have been introduced in Melbourne, Australia with campaigners calling it progress for equality."

The CEO of Committee for Melbourne, Martine Letts, said:

"There was unconscious bias built into our brains because we are accustomed to seeing a male figure. If we see more female figures on traffic lights that might also have a positive impact on changing the way we view the world."

Letts' argument seems to be that the standard traffic crossing symbol – a stick figure associated with the male body – should be replaced with a figure that appears to be wearing a dress, making it visually, identifiably female. Is that not misogynistic, and cisnormative?

Listening to Letts and other activists, one could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that men always wear pants, and women always wear dresses. What about the women who wear pants, the men who wear dresses, and those who identify as neither sex?

Are we reducing human sexuality to pants and dresses? Is all the work done by feminists and their allies in the name of advancing equality being erased by Letts' cisnormative, misogynistic perspective?

Setting aside the disgustingly regressive ideas featured in these new crossing symbols regarding the roles associated with men and women, a more troubling thought emerges. If these new symbols are supposed to represent equality, why are they different at all?

Crossing signs featuring differentiation between the sexes implies men and women are categorically different; it also implies that a person must be either male or female. Someone who respects the fluidity of sexuality and gender would never advocate something so exclusionary.

Perhaps genderless symbols would be more appropriate. An arrow means walk; a circle with a slash through it means stop. Of course, the entire world would have to be re-educated so as to avoid traffic accidents, but wouldn't a few casualties be worth it to establish real crossing sign equality?

Maybe someday, we can progress beyond the sexist and cisnormative ideas of people like Letts.


What's Your Reaction?