"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Potty Parity

"Like beauty, perhaps Jesus is in the eye of the beholder." - Harry Reasoner


Toilets as a Feminist Issue: A True Story
Taunya Lovell Banks

"One can measure the degree of equality between the sexes in America by its public toilets. As a child growing up, I remember that most public toilets for women had pay stalls... I was surprised to learn that there were pay stalls in the men’s bathroom, but the urinals were free. Thus, women were penalized because no one had created the 'feminine' equivalent of a urinal... I wonder how many women see the correlation between the difficulties they face at public toilets and the attempt by men to discourage women from participating fully in activities outside the home...

The elimination of the pay toilet did not end discrimination against women in this area. Take for example the long lines often seen outside the women’s bathroom during intermission at the theatre, concerts or athletic events. There is rarely even a short line at the men’s room...

I believe that the presence of urinals in men's rooms, along with a few stalls, allows these rooms to accommodate more users than women’s bathrooms for approximately the same cost of construction. Men would say that this is economic equality. Granted, economic considerations are valid, but I contend that economic claims mask the deep-rooted reasons for inequality of access: men’s desire to keep women at home...

[A] male friend of mine suggested that women’s bathrooms be constructed with rows of toilets, making the cost similar to that for a bank of urinals. This suggestion ignores the biological differences between men and women. Men use urinals facing inward, whereas women use toilets facing outward, thus, unless the toilets face the wall women would have less privacy than men under this arrangement.

Would it really be unreasonable to require by law that public restrooms be constructed to accommodate the same number of users? Two possible results of such a measure would be shorter lines for women and longer lines for men. Either way produces equality...

I am sure some men find public urinals offensive. Perhaps my male friend is so uncomfortable in public toilets because he fears that his neighbors at the urinals are covertly comparing their genitals to his, urinal curve notwithstanding. If this is the case, then the men most likely to use public restrooms are either those who are secure enough that they do not care about the size of their genitals or anyone else's, or those men who like to look at men’s genitals...

I am convinced, based on over forty years of experience, that almost all public toilets are designed by men. These men either hate women or have never paid much attention to women’s bathroom needs...

Men fail to realize that most women, and a few men, have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing that toilet stars spread all kinds of diseases, including “VD.” Thus. I have never been totally convinced that those paper toilet seat covers provided in some toilets or the strips of toilet paper that you use to cover the toilet seat really protect you from all of those diseases. As a result, many of us still squat over rather than sit on public toilet seats...

Some bright man decided that, rather than remove and reposition the stall walls and toilet bowls, he would simply enlarge the space in the last stall to accommodate a wheelchair. In so doing, he decreased somewhat the space in the neighboring stall and also caused the toilet bowl to be off center. The bowl is very close to one wall, making it difficult, if not impossible, for a large woman to sit comfortably on the seat and requiring us squatters to angle our rears in at forty-five degrees.

A woman would never redesign the bathroom in this way. Of course, if more women were industrial designers, we might have bathrooms designed to accommodate equal numbers of men and women and stalls designed for women’s comfort and convenience. Hence another example of inequality perpetuated by the exclusion of women from the workplace.

The final and perhaps most difficult-to-achieve measure of gender equality at the public toilet is guaranteed access to toilet tissue, sanitary pads and tampons. For years, mothers and grandmothers kept purses stuffed full of tissue because they knew that they would always need tissue when using the toilet, whereas men did not. Failure to provide toilet tissue is arguably a form of sex discrimination...

Men can get very hostile when their bathrooms are threatened, causing one to suspect that men see bathrooms as indices of power. Maybe that explains why corporate executives covet that key to the executive washroom, or even better, the private bathroom. Of course, it could also be the fear of exposing oneself at the public urinal, something that women do not experience because of the exclusive use of stalls in women’s bathrooms...

It is time for feminists to realize that access to public toilets is a feminist issue. We must realize that continuing inequality at the toilet reflects this male-dominated society’s hostility to our presence outside of the home. This hostility is often most apparent in public settings that traditionally have been closed to women...

Women need to start measuring their degree of equality by public toilets. When the lines are gone, when each stall is clean and always has toilet tissue, when the stalls are reasonably comfortable, and when the dispensing machines are stacked with sanitary supplies we probably will be much closer to achieving equality between the sexes than we are now. In the meantime, remember the tissue, ladies!"

- in Feminist Legal Theories: an impact of the law on the lives of women / Karen J. Maschke ed.

An interesting thing I've learnt is that in 1975, New York banned pay toilets, but excluded service stations in 1988.

A dubious footnote:

"Women have a wider pelvis (the pelvic arch or outlet is usually at an obtuse angle), while men have a narrower pelvis (the pelvic arch or outlet is usually at an acute angle)... Thus, while sitting on the toilet sent, men fit nicely and find it quite comfortable. That is why a man will take a newspaper or book to the bathroom to read while sitting. On the other hand, women find toilet seats uncomfortable because their pelves are wider and hit the seat"


The author goes on to note:

"In reply, one reader responded: “The suggestion that the long limes could be reduced by the removal of all these mirrors is not frivolous. I am familiar with a private girls' school where this is done, and it shortened the time spent by each individual in the restroom by at least 50 percent.

We do not need legislation to solve this problem. All we need is the elimination of all accessories in these places that encourage the expression of female vanity while people are waiting in line to use the facility. (signed) Charlotte Halstead.” (letter responding to Potty Parity article), Wash Post D6 (Nov 27, 1988).

Both the original critic and the reader overlook the fact that women are standing in line to use the toilets, not the mirrors! Both expressions evidence a disdain for women and rely heavily upon stereotypical notions of women for support."

As usual, if you're not a feminist, you're a misogynist.

Addendum 2:

This is a good example of how feminism is for equality of results, not equality of opportunity]
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