Some days ago a colleague shared with me a form from his friend Sam who is writing a MA dissertation on social power and looking for stories about what public toilets represent to different people.
I found it very interesting because there is a lot of time that I reflect on public toilets. What a crazy thing for an Organizational Transformation Consultant, right? hahaha.
But let me tell my story and you’ll immediately find the reason:
“TOILETS AREN’T FEMINIST”
One of the things that I love the most with toilets is to see and even collect (by pictures) the signals that differentiate men’s & women’s toilets.
Because they’re always disgusting for me.
One of the things that make them always disgusting for me is that they don’t represent the multitude of gender identities that actually exist: women, men, queer gender, neutral gender, dynamic gender, no gender …
If in our societies patriarchy did not exist we could have just common toilets no matter what gender. Of course, this is not possible right now because of the need to protect women from men’s aggression. In fact, once, in a toilet, I saw an extra signal made with handwritten paper remembering that only women in this only women’s toilet.
At the same time, by doing this, we don’t protect these other underrepresented genders that also suffer aggression because of gender reasons or sexual orientation reasons.
Another thing that disgusts me a lot is that women + people (no matter the gender) with disabilities + facilities to care for babies use to be addressed to the same toilet. While men have the other toilet aaaaaaaall for them. It doesn’t look to be a fair distribution. More than 50% of the population (women + ppl with disabilities + babies) we have to share, and “normative” men have only for them toilets that, for more grievance, use to have more urinaries, so they don’t have to wait so many time to piss like the rest of us. This is clearly a result of an androcentric conception: normative men + the rest of the world. And the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
This is also a result of the caring mindset: the non-paid work of care is on women.
These are the messages that are sent by these signals in toilets and how they’re distributed.
The other thing that disgusts me is that most of these signals perpetuate or reinforce a lot of patriarchal patterns: women with skirts and men with pants, the thing around cares I already told, etc.
But the most disgusting signal that I’ve ever seen before in my whole life (until this moment… life always surprises you) was a toilet in a restaurant when I was touristing in Rome and surprisingly they only had one common toilet. This fact interested me a lot and doesn’t disgust me. The specific thing that did it was to find a signal where a male puppet (representing men) was climbing the door of a toilet where a female puppet (representing women) was pissing to spy on her while pissing and middle naked.
It was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t. NO NO NO!!
What it was is a clear normalization and naturalization of patriarchal violence.
So it wasn’t funny, it was violence in itself. And this is my story with toilets.
I also share here an extra story of “toilet” discrimination in History, in NASA.
You can contribute to Sam’s MA dissertation by filling out his form here.