launched new gender-friendly signs on a public bus
Tuesday as part of a campaign that has caused a firestorm of
protest in the Austrian capital. The stickers, meant
to designate transport seats for people with special
needs, are aimed at downplaying differences between
the sexes. They feature an elderly woman with a cane, a
blind man, and a man with a child on his lap.
The older versions of the stickers show an
elderly man, a blind man, and a woman with a child.
There are also plans to include an image of a blind
woman in the revamped set. Both sets also feature a pregnant woman.
The new signs, part of a campaign called
''Vienna Sees It Differently," were inaugurated
Tuesday by Deputy Mayor Sepp Rieder and Sonja Wehsely,
city councilor for women's affairs. Over time the city
plans to replace half of the old signs, including those on
trams and subways.
At a news conference in December, Wehsely
presented the new public transportation signs in
addition to a set of images, including one depicting a
ponytailed female figure wearing a skirt and working at a
construction site and another showing a woman in knee-high
boots and flowing hair running for an exit.
But the images have sparked a stormy response,
with opponents calling them a waste of money or
sexist. The campaign will cost about 2,000
euros (U.S. $2,580), Wehsely said, adding that the
public transportation signs will be put up over time
as the older ones start peeling off.
Three emergency exit signs depicting a woman
were removed from Vienna's city hall after just a day
after a security expert said they did not conform with
EU regulations, Wehsely spokeswoman Marianne Lackner said.
The construction site image, along with several others, was
only depicted on a poster describing the campaign and
won't be put to use officially either.
Wehsely said she welcomed the debate sparked by
signs as ''a step in the right direction,'' adding
that most of the negative feedback has come from men.
But not all women seemed to welcome the new signs.
''I'm a woman but I couldn't care less if
there's a woman or a man on the sign. I'd prefer it if
I got the same salary as my male colleagues,'' wrote
one reader on the Web site of the Austrian newspaper Der
Standard in response to an article on Tuesday's inauguration.
If the signs are meant to apply to women, then
they also should show women, Wehsely said, noting that
previously women were only depicted in relation to
children. Vienna has undertaken other moves to make things
easier for women, including expanding sidewalks in one
district to accommodate baby carriages and shopping
bags, Wehsely said. (Veronika Oleksyn, AP)