In its pilot program, the city will install 10 such new lights. It costs $1,400 per change, and the government says taxpayer money was not used. In the long term, Letts says, her group wants gender parity.
“There are many small — but symbolically significant — ways that women are excluded from public space,” Victoria's minister for women, Fiona Richardson, said in a statement.
Not everyone is so enamored. Evan Mulholland of the Institute of Public Affairs told ABC that the move was “politically correct gesturing by policymakers that want to feel good about themselves.”
Here's a sampling of some mocking tweets by critics:
Better equality PR would be if Melbourne left pedestrian light signals the same and said "See, it doesn't matter what women choose to wear!"— Tudor Holton (@LordHootNut) March 6, 2017
Other countries have taken similar steps. Germany has a decade-long history of feminist traffic crossings. The Ampelfrau — literally translated as “traffic light woman” — was introduced in Zwickau in 2004. Since then, this squat, pig-tailed icon has spread across much of the country's east. In 2014, Dortmund introduced a plan for crosswalk gender parity: It pledged to replace half of its crossings with the young lady. The city said it would replace the male icons as they burned out.
Not everyone was excited. The WAZ newspaper poked fun at the proposal by calling for compromise “crosswalk couples.” The Christian Democrat Young Union deemed it a “senseless, red-green world-improvement daydream.” Others decried the icon as not feminist enough. Berlin’s Senate rejected introducing her in the city, calling her an outdated cliche.
In June, London introduced a new spin on the idea. As my colleague Max Bearak reported:
Nearly 50 traffic signals for pedestrians around London's Trafalgar Square were modified to show emblems of love and LGBT pride in the lead-up to the city's pride parade this weekend. The changes were made Sunday by the company Siemens, which operates the lights, in cooperation with London's transit authority.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan explained that the changes were a way to express solidarity with the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. “These new signals show that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them and display the tolerance and celebration of difference in our city,” he said. There are seven versions of the green lights, representing different kinds of couples, as well as universally recognized signs for transgender people.