Public restroom design is sexist.
A year ago today, Soraya Chemaly published The Everyday Sexism of Women Waiting in Public Toilet Lines. Her article was, obviously, met with ridicule, ignorance and ire -- I guess men are convinced that the "real" reason women's restroom lines are so long is because... women are vain? And obsessed with their hair and makeup? And love to bond and gossip in the bathroom stalls?
But the shocking -- SHOCKING! -- truth... is that women basically do the same thing men do in the bathroom -- with the exception of, sometimes they have to change pads/tampons. So what's "sexist" about public restroom design? It's that, in spite of THIS:
1) Women have wombs. That means they have smaller bladders. That means they pee more frequently than men.
2) Women have greater childcare responsibilities. They are more likely to be helping/waiting for/dealing with small children, and/or changing diapers.
3) Stalls (which women use because most women don't pee standing up, though it definitely can be done -- a fact that always surprises men) (another fun fact: we can also pee into Gatorade bottles while we're driving) take up about twice as much space as urinals. Meaning that, given equal amounts of space, there are fewer facilities in most women's restrooms than men's.
4) Women tend to wear more, and tighter, layers of clothing, which must be unzipped/unbuttoned and pulled down. This takes a little longer than unzipping your jeans and whipping your dick out.
Most buildings still devote equal (at best) amounts of space to women's and men's restrooms.
And, sure, there has been some legislation concerning restroom space in newly constructed buildings... but this does little to address the restroom situation in, you know, almost every existing building, including schools, political buildings, arenas, etc. In fact, many old building codes required more space for men's than women's restrooms, since women's roles were more restricted then. Why would you need a women's restroom in a university? Why would you need one near the Speaker's Lobby in the House of Representatives? (Fun fact: until 2011, the nearest restroom to the Speaker's Lobby was too far away for women to actually make it there and back during session breaks. Meanwhile, the men's restroom featured a fireplace, a shoeshine stand and televised floor proceedings.)
This is why, occasionally, I am forced to commandeer a men's restroom -- with the help of either a male or female ally.
For example, at my Stanford 5-year reunion last fall, we had this beautiful, amazing Dinner on the Quad.
And, expectedly, the thing that always happens, happened.
There was a huge long line at the women's restroom... and no line at the men's. The girl in line behind me and I were like, "No. This isn't working for me." Standing in line, uncomfortable, missing out on a three-course meal and an open bar? No, thanks.
So we got in line at the door of the men's room. When the first guy that came out, we stopped him and asked, "Are there any men in there?" He checked and said, "Yes, there is one more guy in there." When THAT guy came out, I guarded the door while my new ladyfriend went in and did her thang. (#BeRude?)
Shockingly -- SHOCKINGLY! -- she didn't take hours and hours, just because she's a woman. She took, like, two seconds.
Then it was my turn. By then, a guy had gotten in line behind me. I asked him to wait outside while I peed. He said sure. I peed, and returned to the party.
The five women who had been in line in front of me for the women's room were still waiting to get into the women's room.
This is the part where certain ignorant dudes might just be like, "Why don't you just buy a Shenis?" (If this sounds like you, please see Dear Dudes: If You Think Women Are The Problem, YOU Are The Problem.)
For those who don't know, a Shenis (or a Freedom to Stand, or a Pee Buddy) is a funnel that women can use to pee standing up.
And, like, sure. A woman can use a pee funnel to pee standing up. But this does little to address the fact that:
1) There's still going to be a long line.
2) There are still fewer things to pee into in a women's bathroom than a men's bathroom.
3) Women will still have to pee more often than men.
4) Women still occasionally have to deal with menstrual stuff.
I support a woman's choice to use (or not use) a pee funnel. Part of me, personally, cringes at the idea of it -- I guess because I don't like the idea of carrying around this big pee funnel? Or something?
Also worth noting, as mentioned above, all women have the ability to pee standing up without a pee funnel. If it's new to you, practice a few times in the shower before you try it at a concert or whatever. But basically, what you need to do is:
1) Find your urethra. If Orange is the New Black is correct, many women don't know exactly where their pee comes from. (Hint: it's not your vagina.)
2) Find your labia (I think most women know what/where to find this).
3) Stand with your feet about shoulder-ish width apart.
4) Use your fingers (on one or two hands -- whatever you're comfortable with) to separate your labia, just in front of your urethra.
5) Pee. You will need to start and stop abruptly, not gradually, or else it will kinda drip.
Again, you should probably practice in the shower, first, until you have a sense of how it's going to work. But trust me: you'll be surprised at the range and arc of your stream.
Regardless. Even if every woman learned how to pee standing up and decided that she preferred it to sitting (fun fact: a 2011 study out of Johns Hopkins found that 35% of American men prefer sitting to standing while they pee, and 49% of married men in Japan willingly sit to pee)...
There's still the whole, everything-I-said-above this:
1) There are still fewer things to pee into in a women's bathroom than a men's bathroom.
2) Women will still have to pee more often than men.
3) Women still occasionally have to deal with menstrual stuff.
Fortunately, legislation and new building codes seem to have recognized this as a problem. Hopefully, this means that obnoxiously long lines for women's restrooms and the obnoxious stereotypes that accompany them will soon be a thing of the past.
But in the meantime, can we all just acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, women aren't the vain, narcissistic, mysterious bathroom-dwelling creatures that we assume they are? And instead think of them as people who have to wait in much longer lines than men, for entirely stupid reasons?
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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