Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Equal Crossings campaign aiming to achieve?
We want gender equal pedestrian crossings in the City of Yarra…and eventually right across Victoria! This would look like a 1:1 ratio of pedestrian lights in dresses/pants.
Why is it important to have equal gender representation at pedestrian lights?
The symbols we have in public spaces matter – and this includes pedestrian lights. When we only see men represented around us, whether it is in the media, on signage or at traffic lights, the message sent is that being a man is the ‘norm’, and that other genders are less relevant and less important.
By increasing the number of pedestrian lights that have a person with a dress, we are trying to address the ‘unconscious bias’ (the stereotypes that we hold without realising) that male figures are representative of everyone, and that being a man is somehow better.
Male figures are not representative of everyone. But the implications of this assumption, which is embedded into our streetscape, are vast. It can make it difficult for women to taken seriously as leaders, and be promoted or simply paid equally in the workplace. Research also shows that when women only see masculine images around them, they feel less safe. We need the street to be a safe and inclusive space for everyone.
Having images of women and non-binary genders at pedestrian lights is much more than symbolism: it goes some of the distance to making our community a fairer, safer and more inclusive place.
Is it really a green ‘man’ – couldn’t it be a green ‘person’?
Currently, the universal symbol for “man” is a figure with pants and for “woman” it is a figure with a dress. So when we see a ‘neutral’ figure with no dress, we automatically assume it’s a man. This is why the figure at the pedestrian lights is known by most as the ‘green man’. Also, it’s hard to deny that the silhouette has a very masculine, boxy physique!
Eventually, we would love to change the conversation, and simply refer to the figure at the pedestrian lights as the ‘green person’ whether it’s wearing pants or a dress.
Who is behind this campaign?
Imogen, her mum Kat, her aunty Andreana and lots of amazing friends!
The Committee for Melbourne ran a successful Equal Crossings initiative as part of its Future Focus Group leadership program in 2017, that culminated in the installation of female pedestrian light symbols at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders Streets. This has inspired many women, girls and others…including Imogen. Now Imogen and the team are carrying the Equal Crossings torch, to see what changes we can make.
How does someone get endorsed as an Equal Crossings candidate?
Candidates in the 2020 City of Yarra council election were invited to endorse the Equal Crossings pledge, which is to:
1. Sign and share the Equal Crossings petition.
2. If elected, advocate to VicRoads and the Victorian Government to achieve a 50/50 “dress/pants” split in pedestrian light crossings across Victoria.
3. If elected, actively work towards achieving a 50/50 “dress/pants” split in pedestrian light crossings across City of Yarra by the end of my four-year term.
Isn’t this a waste of taxpayers’ money?
The symbols used in public spaces are vitally important, impacting the unconscious bias we have against women, girls and non-binary genders, and impacting on feelings of inclusion and even safety. Getting this right is a valid use of taxpayers’ money!
However, as it happens, this change will require very minimal public funds. We are advocating for a gradual and cost-neutral rollout across Victoria, with lights changed to figures in dresses when they are broken or otherwise in need of replacement, until a 1:1 ratio of pants/dresses is achieved. We are also advocating for the installation of lights with “dresses” around schools and shops in the City of Yarra, with the potential of sponsorship and crowdfunding to help cover costs.
Is this campaign reinforcing gender stereotypes, by assuming that women wear dresses and men wear pants?
What we eventually want to see is a conversation shift, where we do not make automatic assumptions about gender based on what someone is wearing. It would be great if we simply talked about the ‘green person’ at traffic lights – regardless of whether they are wearing a dress or pants.
I identify as a non-binary person. Does this campaign include me?
Pants are for all genders, and dresses are for all genders. One person might see a ‘green girl’, but another might simply see a person in a dress. This campaign embraces all genders – whether they are wearing skirts, pants, dresses or all of the above! We would also love people to imagine the kind images on pedestrian lights they would like to see, which could very easily be non-binary.