Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Toilet humor

After perusing the racism v. sexism faceoff in the comments to this post, a reader inquires, "Must all bathrooms in government buildings be unisex?"

While unisex bathrooms were the bugbear during the ERA debates, they seem less threatening now, having made appearances on Ally McBeal and in many other locations across America. The separation between men and women in the lav was never that strict; boys have been accompanied by their mothers and (less frequently) girls by their fathers for years. We've more openly acknowledged the presence of male caregivers (and thus the increased likelihood that fathers will bring children into the men's room) by the recent installation of changing tables in both bathrooms instead of only the ladies' lav. Although the unisex bathroom experiment at HLS may be coming to an end, my experiences with them were uniformly positive (unisex bathrooms mean no line for the ladies'!). That said, how can we create an unisex bathroom that will please everyone, or at least minimize offense? How to deal with segregated bathrooms that we already have?

I think the ideal government bathroom would have be T shaped with a single entrance: on one side of the T could be a wall of urinals. There should be partitions for privacy and so they can't be seen be everyone entering. Then just put a line of stalls on the opposite side of the T. Sinks can be facing the stalls and urinals or centrally located near the entrance hall. At the very least sex segregation should not be enforced by law (don't retrofit already-built bathrooms but do not punish people who use the "wrong" bathroom). Nearly all of us share bathrooms at home with people of the opposite sex, so why not at work, too?

UPDATE: Inspired by Spencer, a relevant poem.
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