Privy to privies

Graphic by Emily Thiessen (Graphics editor)

Graphic by Emily Thiessen (Graphics editor)

A number of SFU students are currently petitioning to turn a percentage of multi-stall washrooms on campus into gender-inclusive ones. On Feb. 18, protesters also staged a “shit-in”, where activists sat outside a men’s washroom with their pants around their ankles, using the afternoon to educate passerby about the harassment that non-binary people face when trying to simply use a washroom.

There are single-occupant washrooms on campus, which some believe should suffice for transgender people or for those who don’t identify as male or female, but the signage on those washrooms only acknowledges men and women, and they’re not always in convenient locations. Which demands the question, “Why the hell not?” More specifically, the question should really be, “Why the hell is protesting even necessary?”

We shouldn’t place too much blame on administrators for not switching everything over already. This issue, though important, was a rarely discussed topic in previous years. For people who’ve never thought of gender as a spectrum, the thought that the simple act of going to a public washroom could bring anxiety, confusion, and fear to someone would certainly never been on their radar. However, once administrators did hear about it, it should have been changed right away. There should be no need for protest, which is why it is soul crushing that this needs to be so exhaustively explained.

And yet it does. What is it about gender-divisive washrooms that many binary washroom users cling to? If it is gastrointestinal privacy from potentially sexy people, then it should be noted that this has only ever been afforded to strictly heterosexual patrons; gay people never had such a benefit, which should call into question how essential that privacy is. It isn’t, after all, as though privacy ceases to exist in washrooms frequented by all genders. Inter-stall boundaries are not being torn down in an excessive storm of inclusivity. Rather, the privacy is being balanced towards people in general, rather than towards people across the boundary of a particular gender scheme.

Here is what should’ve happened. Any coherent student could’ve easily walked to their administration and said, “Our washrooms can’t be gender specific because gender is not a black or white answer, and by forcing everyone to try and answer it in black or white you are creating unnecessary anxiety.”

Then the administration would reply, “Of course! What idiots we were for not realizing this sooner.” Then the administration would re-direct funds for stupid promotional Rubik’s cubes and replace binary signage with inclusive signage, and they would tell the student, “every time a new washroom or a washroom renovation is built from here on in we will make it gender inclusive.”

It’s just that easy.


Avatar guest

Sharing washrooms is gross in the first place. I’m tired of watching 9/10 guys not wash their hands. How about we ditch this communal savagery altogether and make all washrooms single-occupancy? Then everyone would have privacy from sexy people.

Avatar Hilda Sweck

Women didn’t used to have bathrooms at all. Originally, all public washrooms were for MEN, and women were expected to stay at home or use the public washrooms and get sexually assaulted. Women had to fight for the right to have public washrooms, which were of course violently torn down by groups of angry men. While I feel sorry for the non-binary people who feel uncomfortable going to the bathroom that matches their sex, the fact of the matter is that women have a right to privacy and freedom from men. We have a right to our safe spaces, and we have fought for them. As for the issue of simply making all bathrooms ‘sex inclusive’ go to the ‘strong building’ made of brick. It has a previously women’s washroom, which is now for both women and men, and then a men’s washroom right beside it. I assume they’ve done this because the men’s washroom has urinals, which means they’d have to do a bunch of construction to make the washroom sex neutral. However, the fact is that all they have done is take away safe space for women, and give it to men, while allowing men to have their own private men’s bathroom. This is not equality, and this is not right. If you are going to push for sex neutral washrooms, build three washrooms; one for women, one for men, and one for sex neutral/family/etc. Stop violating women’s rights.

Avatar GUEST

“Women didn’t used to have bathrooms at all. Originally, all public
washrooms were for MEN, and women were expected to stay at home or use
the public washrooms and get sexually assaulted. Women had to fight for
the right to have public washrooms, which were of course violently torn
down by groups of angry men.”

Do you have a source for that? Because it sounds like bullshit that you’ve just made up.

Avatar Hilda Sweck

Victorian officials provided men with lavatories because, without them, men would foul
the gutter, but women seemed much less likely to do so. Women’s lavatories appeared to
be something of a luxury, a high-quality non-essential service that the city might undertake
from municipal pride, or from concern for feminine comfort, but not because women
threatened the sanitary order of the street. Women’s lavatories might belong in the parks,
where women accompanied their families, but on the city’s streets (especially in male-
dominated downtown) men’s facilities seemed more of a priority. Toronto’s markets gave
men a place to urinate from 1860, but offered nothing for women until the later 1890s.
Even though officials recognized “the long-felt need of a WC for the use of females.”43

On the streets and downtown, in the city’s “masculine” landscapes of production, men’s
lavatories had a higher priority and the development of the women’s equivalent was much
more delayed. Even so, Edwardian officials would recognize women’s discomfort, and
began to address their lack of lavatories.

There were groups of Toronto women who campaigned on social and sanitary
issues,59 sometimes successfully, but they appear to have been silent on the issue of
women’s lavatories. Instead, the idea seems to come from the Street Commissioner who,
in 1905, announced that he would shortly begin building the first women’s facility.60 Long
ignored, women were finally provided with their first street lavatory at suburban Yonge
and Cottingham in 1908.61 Subsequently most new public lavatories would be built with
women’s facilities (Figure 3).

The first [Public] women’s bathroom in Toronto was built in the late 1800s by Timothy Eaton.

Segregation of toilet facilities by race was outlawed in the United States by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[1] Provision of disabled-access facilities was mandated in federal buildings by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and in private buildings by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[1] No federal legislation relates to provision of facilities for women.[1] The banning of pay toilets, beginning in New York in 1975, came about because women had to pay to urinate whereas men only had to pay to defecate.[1][6]

In many older buildings, little or no provision was made for women because few would work in or visit them. Increased gender equality in employment and other spheres of life has impelled change. Until the 1980s, building codes for stadiums in the United States stipulated more toilets for men, on the assumption that most sports fans were male.[3]

The first “Restroom Equity” Act was passed in California in 1989.[6] It was introduced by then-Senator Arthur Torresafter several long waits for his wife to return from the bathroom.[6]

Facilities for female U.S. senators on the Senate Chamber level were first provided in 1992.[4]

LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee was built in 1999 in compliance with the Tennessee Equitable Restrooms Act, providing 288 fixtures for men and 580 for women.[1] The Tennessean reported fifteen-minute waits at some men’s rooms, compared to none at women’s rooms.[1] The Act was amended in 2000 to empower the state architect to authorize extra men’s rooms at stadiums, horse shows and auto racing venues.[7]

Plaskow reports in 2008 that on the New York Hilton’s ballroom floor, the women’s room had four female stalls, compared to six stalls and six urinals in the men’s room.[4]

In 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives got its first bathroom near the chamber (Room H-211 of the U.S. Capitol).[8]It is only open to women lawmakers, not the public.[8]

In 2011 a “Right to Pee” (as called by the media) campaign began in Mumbai, India’s largest city.[9] Women, but not men, have to pay to urinate in Mumbai, despite regulations against this practice. Women have also been sexually assaulted while urinating in fields.[9] Thus, activists have collected more than 50,000 signatures supporting their demands that the local government stop charging women to urinate, build more toilets, keep them clean, provide sanitary napkins and a trash can, and hire female attendants.[9] In response, city officials have agreed to build hundreds of public toilets for women in Mumbai, and some local legislators are now promising to build toilets for women in every one of their districts.[9]

On 19 February 2012, some Chinese women in Guangzhou protested against the inequitable waiting times. This movement has drifted to Beijing, calling for women’s facilities to be proportionally larger to accommodate the longer use times and ameliorate the longer queues of females. Since March 2011, Guangzhou’s urban-management commission has ordered that new and newly renovated female public toilets must be 1.5 times the size of their male counterparts. The aforementioned movement is pressing for the regulation to be applied retroactively.[10]

In August 2014, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi gave a speech saying in part, “Every school should build separate toilets for girls in a year so that our girl children do not leave schools,” and “[i]t is a shame that our women have to wait for darkness to go out in the open to defecate.” [11]

Not to mention the whole trans issue is a red herring. Transwomen don’t want to go to the men’s room because a) they think going to the women’s washroom reaffirms that they are women (they aren’t) and b) they are afraid of getting sexually assaulted.

Women have separate public washrooms from men because of men sexually assaulting them.

If transwomen are allowed into women’s washrooms, some will sexually assault women, and/or men who wish to sexually assault women will simply go to the women’s washroom and do so, and then say ‘oh but I identify as a woman.’

The real problem is that we need to end sexual assault, and at the end of the day? Transwomen are still men, and still have the same rates of violence as other men, and frankly, although transwomen shouldn’t be raped by men, the fact of the matter is that men raping other men has nothing to do with women, and there is no reason why women should have to give up our safe space for men, who are being victimized by men (especially when the men get into our space, they may themselves decide to rape us).
The whole ‘let transwomen into women’s washrooms so they won’t be raped/assaulted by men’ is sort of like this scenario:

Let’s say you have a city whereby you have white people, black people, and Native American people. Let’s say the white people have their own space, and the Native American’s have their own space, and the black people have their own space, but most commonly work in the ‘white space’ (note that the Native American space and the black spaces are crappy compared to the white space). When they go into the white space for work/etc., they risk getting beaten up by the white people.

Logically, should we: a) stop the white people from beating up the black people, and de-segregate the entire city, or b) cram the black people into the Native American space (and take the former black space for more white people), so they can be safe from white people?

I think the answer is pretty obviously a.

Avatar Noah

I myself would like to see some kind of concrete criterion for manhood or womanhood, since we insist on using the terms. That being said, maybe make your case a little more modest, Hilda. You can’t just categorically say that every transition is illegitimate – certainly it is treated too carelessly, but we can have this argument without making sweeping generalizations. Bear in mind that the concern is equally for trans-men (whom you would say are really women).

It’s complicated.

Avatar Noah

First of all, lets get our facts straight. There are no “gender exclusive” bathrooms on campus. There ARE sex exclusive bathrooms. This is why:

“In 1995, the DRDV completed the “Sexual Aggression and Aggression in Intimate Relationships Survey.” Its results revealed that 1 in 6 to 1 in 4 women will experience sexual assault while attending UVIC.”

This is taken from the Anti-Violence Project’s own web page – the same people pushing for so called “gender-inclusive washrooms.” These horrific findings seem unlikely to me, but then perhaps I just lack expertise. Let’s therefore take them at their word and ask ourselves: what do so called “gender-inclusive” washrooms do to combat rape culture? That perhaps a handful of students are made slightly more comfortable (as if UVIC has any reputation for prejudice against non-binary sexualities and genders) does not seem a compensating good for the potential harm this might expose women (and men, lets be inclusive) to on campus – the group that is most numerous and most at risk.

While we’re at it, perhaps we ought to force men and women to share shower rooms as well?

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