Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Boys will be boys; and we all need a potty break....

"As soon as you flush the toilet, you're right in the middle of ideology."--Slavoj Žižek

No, it's not the scholarly research I'd prefer to do, but I'm lazy and Google makes things easy.

The conservative idea that civil rights protections sexually endanger women and children in public bathrooms is not new. In fact, conservative sexual thought has been in the toilet since the 1940s. During the World War II era, conservatives began employing the idea that social equality for African-Americans would lead to sexual danger for white women in bathrooms. In the decades since, conservatives used this trope to negate the civil rights claims of women and sexual minorities.

And if you want to get all historical about it, blame the Victorians!

The commode has been at the center of civil rights battles since the first modern public lavatory with flushing toilets opened in Victorian London.

Who were the interlopers back then? Women, of course, and they’re still fighting for “potty parity”. The US Congress, for example, has yet to pass the Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act to make sure government buildings are built or leased with, at minimum, the same number of toilets in women’s restrooms as in men’s. Urinals are included in the count.

Public bathrooms are places 'where people’s level of discomfort is accentuated and magnified'  In the segregated south, Jim Crow laws banned black people from public “whites only” bathrooms until the 1960s, in perhaps the most elemental form of segregation. People with disabilities were not promised access to public lavatories until the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by then-president George W Bush in 1990. Homeless people still struggle to find restrooms they are allowed to use. 
See?  Technology does make everything better!  Well, except for human nature and our tendency to identify an "other" who makes us feel vulnerable.

Public bathrooms are “a flash point” because they are places “where people’s level of discomfort is accentuated and magnified in ways it isn’t in other places,” says Kathryn H Anthony, professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“People are afraid because they’re exposed,” says Anthony, author of Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession. “There’s a vulnerability we feel in public restrooms we don’t feel in other places.”

Why is this important? As she told the House committee on oversight and government reform in 2010, the average person uses a toilet six to eight times a day.

Toilets are everywhere. At least, they should be.

Or, to quote Katie Brossard:  "You pee differently than I do.  It's a very basic human thing."

So, more stalls with doors?*

*My college dorm had two bathrooms (there were baths there, not just toilets and sinks) on each floor. It was the largest room on the floor, and the walls and floor were covered with tile.  The shower was a room behind the sinks, but about as private as a public plaza.  The toilets were all stalls (IIRC), without doors.  Nobody used the first two toilets, because they had full visual access to anyone who walked in the door.  You also didn't really want to use them (when you had to be seated) when someone was taking a shower, as most of them had a prime view of that room.  Somehow we survived.

Although my favorite story was when some friends turned off the lights and threw a string of firecrackers in the bathroom when their friend went in to relieve himself.  With all that tile, it sounded like a bomb had exploded.  My guess is his ears stopped ringing after a few days.....

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