The news that the Perth City Council has decided to introduce female-only parking bays in a CBD carpark should not come as any surprise — this is an international trend. The surprise is that women themselves are somewhat divided on the need for such special consideration.
Perth’s CEO Martin Mileham has said that 28 ‘female friendly’ bays — from a total of 700 bays — are being created at the Pier Street car park. They are close to entrances and exits in an area that includes upgraded lighting and additional CCTV cameras.
There is more than a hint of tokenism in this. Does the Perth City Council think that of the 700 bays, mostly used by city workers, only 28 are used by women? Is it just too bad for the women not quick enough to score a special bay? Doesn’t this suggest that some women and more equal than other women and therefore more deserving of special treatment?
According to Mileham, “Men won’t be fined if they park in the bays but the City encourages men to support this trial.” The trial is to last for three months and already, he says, feedback has been “supportive”.
I suppose it is a relief that Perth City Council won’t have council officers policing who uses these special bays but relying on the noble gallantry of men to happily cooperate does seem fraught with some difficulty. Think, for example, of those perfectly abled drivers of both genders who don’t blink when they use disabled car bays and of those passengers who almost yell their heads off in what are euphemistically described as ‘Quiet carriages’on suburban trains.
The National Council of Women President Barbara Baikie believes the trial bays would be “very difficult” to police — she must have forgotten or not known that there actually wouldn’t be any policing of them — adding, “I understand why that may be necessary to keep women safe, but I would think that this is just a band-aid solution.
“A much better solution would be to educate young men to respect women and not attack them,” she said.
I can well imagine the Perth City Council heaving a collective sigh of despair at this more-or-less dismissal of their idea.
This idea originated in Germany in 1990 as women there were concerned about their safety and the risk of sexual assault. Improved lighting, added surveillance systems and having the bays more closely positioned to entrances and exits were introduced.
This idea has gone a step further in China. Being a progressive communist country, surely it can be argued that everything authorities do there is politically correct, right?
Well, actually, possibly no.
In some Chinese cities, councils decided not only to introduce female only car bays, they thoughtfully decided that these bays should be 30cm wider. To make sure that they were obvious, they were painted bright pink and branded with the international female symbol you see on toilet doors — also in pink.
Well, the rice sure hit the fan.
Feminists raged that this suggested that women were worse drivers than men despite the fact both had to pass the same driving test. When one Council specifically labelled some bays “men only” because they were somewhat trickier to manoeuvre, the feminist rage was incandescent.
Government officials, trying to placate angry feminists, tried to explain that the wider bays for women were necessary because women needed the extra space to allow them to remove or settle the kiddies into the vehicle. Then many men went wild saying that this assumed only women had child care responsibilities.
In one Chinese city, not only were female only bays 80cm wider, the Council again — thoughtfully I am sure — had male employees on hand to take over the parking if it was still too tricky for the ladies. In another move hardly likely to gain feminist gratitude, that Council emblazoned the walls with drawings of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac because, they explained, women remember pictures better than difficult things like numbers. Oh dear.
But the ultimate non-prize in this contest, if a contest it is, must go to the City Council in the South Korean capital of Seoul.
In 2009 they painted 4,929 strategically placed city car parking spaces pink for the exclusive use of women which might not have been such a bad idea if only they had kept their mouths shut as to why they did it. Yes, it was to make the city more conducive to the wearing of high heels and to add, explained a spokesman, “a feminine touch” to the city.
Have you heard the one about the South Korean woman who proudly told her husband that a council inspector had praised her vehicle handling skills? Yes, he had put a piece of paper headed ‘Parking fine’ under the windscreen wiper.
I understand the men on the Seoul City Council are still laughing themselves sick.
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