Germany Works To Make Iconic Crosswalk Signs A Little Less Sexist
Most of us think of the little person on the crosswalk sign as a generic, genderless, nondescript pedestrian. In East Berlin, though, crossing signs are inhabited by the adorable hat-wearing “Ampelmann,” an enormously popular cult icon who can now be found on lights all across the country. But some Germans worries that as cute as he is, he makes all their crosswalks a bit too… well, male-centric.
That’s why the Green and Social Democratic parties in Dortmund, Germany recently announced a proposal that would put strict 50/50 quotas on the amount of male crosswalk signs within the town’s limits. Half of the already existing male crosswalks will be eventually replaced by the Ampelfrau, a female counterpart to the iconic Ampelmann who first appeared on Zwickau crosswalks in 2004.
The Ampelfrau has her fair share of critics, of course. While her pigtails wide skirt is mean to be eye-catching for the visually impaired and elderly—the Ampelmann’s hat was designed for just that purpose as well, in fact—some see these traditional markers of femininity as too stereotypical. Berlin refuses to install them because she’s oo “cliché,” and German newspapers described her as “frumpy” and “fussy” when she was first introduced.
Green Party spokesman Sebastian Pastusczyk, who’s in favor of Dortmund’s crosswalk gender quota, even suggested they redesign the Ampelfrau entirely to make her less sexist as well. “Not all women can identify themselves with a ‘traffic light woman’ that is wearing a skirt and has a plait,” he said.
Dortmund’s proposal, which is the first of its kind in Germany, has also faced setbacks as well; many detractors wonder if the town shouldn’t be concerning itself with more pressing matters than the gender equality of its crosswalks, such as the real-world concerns that many underrepresented German women face in the workforce. One German newspaper even jokingly suggested on Facebook that the town implement “crosswalk couples” instead to make everyone happy.
But the Ampelfrau’s supporters aren’t ready to give up yet. “Given the equality of men and women, a partial transformation of ‘traffic light men’ into ‘traffic light women’ would only be consistent,” a joint statement from the Social Democrats and Green Party read. That’s right, adorable cultural icons for everyone!
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