In the city of Melbourne, one of Australia’s state capitals, ten pedestrian crossing lights will be replaced at a cost of 8,400 AUD so that instead of little green or red men saying ‘cross’ or ‘don’t cross’, it will be little green or red women (in skirts).
Oh for goodness sake! How petty can we get?
Of course I want gender equality. But why am I supposed to give a flying fiddle-de-dee which gender tells me when it’s safe to cross the road as long as they get it right? Apparently it will make me feel good. That, I hate to tell them, is likely to depend on issues far greater than the gender of crossing lights. And if female ones will make a positive difference to my outlook, will they have a negative impact on men? And if not, why not? Personally, I’ve always regarded the figures on pedestrian lights as sexless stick figure, but maybe that’s because I never wear skirts.
It’s a bit like the furore over the word mankind. I like mankind. It has a ring to it – a rhythm. And a history. And it had never occurred to me that it was discriminatory. As far as I am concerned, it isn’t. It’s a two-syllable word referring to the whole human race, male, female, LGBTIQA or whatever – man as opposed to dog, monkey, elephant, amoeba etc, not man as opposed to woman (or LGBTIQA). And humankind? As well as being a clumsy word (or perhaps because of being a clumsy word) it shoves the human part down my gullet, and humans at the moment are being pretty damn stupid, whereas mankind is an entity in itself whose meaning we all accepted until gender fanatics got their knickers in a twist about it.
So it’s all a matter of nuance, isn’t it. Which shade of meaning you choose to see. And it is my absolute belief that if we continue to rake up every possible discriminatory nuance we can find and make a song and dance about it, we are trivialising a movement that has far more important issues to deal with, and should be keeping its focus on things that matter – like equal rights, equal opportunity, equal protection, equal pay – instead of poncing around about the gender of traffic lights.