Another great milestone was reached for women’s equality yesterday, with the introduction of female crossing signals in Melbourne. For years, women have had to endure an oppressive and patriarchal traffic system that has served to ‘[exclude] women from public space’, as the local minister for women, Fiona Richardson, put it. The little green man has dictated when we stop, and when we go, for far too long.
The move was hailed by the governor of Victoria as being ‘a practical and meaningful way to demonstrate that in fact 50 per cent of our population is female’. The move has been welcomed by feminist campaigners and Twitter activists alike. The Committee for Melbourne, which is behind the new crossing lights, is aiming for ‘one-to-one male and female representation across the state of Victoria’. How exciting.
But some people are pointing out that the little green man was not really a man in any obvious way to begin with. After all, women quite often prefer to wear trousers rather than dresses. Others are describing the move as an act of ‘gesture politics’, lacking in substance. But what do they know? Why should women fight for real progress when symbolic progress is just as good?
It’s easy to laugh about the direction modern feminism is heading in. Whether feminists are prioritising the lack of pockets on women’s clothing, or banning images of skinny women on public transport, they seem to be acting as if there’s nothing substantial left for women to fight for.
The depressing fact is that there is still a lot to fight for in the battle for women’s freedom. In the West, access to contraception, abortion and affordable childcare – all factors that have a serious impact on women’s freedom and independence – is still woefully lacking. In other parts of the world, simply being born female can have a huge impact on a woman’s chances in life. Why are so many feminists shying away from these complex issues, and championing vacuous issues instead?