Melbourne's 'female' pedestrian lights spark backlash

Melbourne's new "female" pedestrian lights have sparked mockery on social media.

Story highlights

  • Backers of the new lights say they are designed to combat "unconscious bias"
  • But some say it's discriminatory to assume the figure in pants is male and one wearing a dress is female

(CNN)Ten sets of pedestrian lights in the Australian city of Melbourne have had a makeover.

The standard red and green "men" have been replaced with "female" figures as part of an Equal Crossings initiative which launches this week, according to CNN affiliate 7 News.
    The change comes just before International Women's Day on March 8.
    "One example of gender inequality throughout society is the exclusive use of male symbols at traffic lights," said Equal Crossings in a statement posted to Twitter. This "symbolic disparity contributes to an ongoing unconscious bias in society that women are less equal than men."
    But the new figures have sparked outrage and mockery on social media.
    Some Australians are complaining it's backward and discriminatory to assume the conventional figure in pants is male and the new figure, wearing a dress, is female.
    Others questioned where the logic of this equality initiative could lead.
    "We need ones with wheelchairs, because of the disabled community, larger figured ones for the overweight, the pregnant and the bodybuilders in the community," wrote user Jared Kelly on Facebook. "We need thin ones for people with eating disorders ... We need to make sure some have hair and some don't.
    "I'm all for progress, wouldn't want to deny my mother or my sister or any other woman from the (real) 'inequities' they still may face," he wrote. "But c'mon really. This is not what needs to change."
    Twitter user David Turnbull used humor to express a similar idea on Twitter.
    Others have complained about the cost of the changes. Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle described the scheme as "a costly exercise" that is "more likely to bring derision," according to 7 News.
    Facebook user Kevin Smith criticized the initiative as a waste of money on the Facebook page of the Committee for Melbourne, a nonprofit civic group that backed the new pedestrian lights.
    The Committee for Melbourne has not responded publicly to any of the complaints or to CNN's request for comment.
    The newly gendered lights were installed for a 12-month trial period. But the committee hopes to make the changes permanent and extend them to cover half of the city's pedestrian lights, according to 7 News.