A picture of a “gender-neutral” restroom in Lewes, England, has gone viral. Why? Because it has a giant urinal along one wall.
Now, gender-inclusivity apparently means that if what was formerly the women’s room is full and a female of any age just can’t hold it (ladies with toddlers, you know), there’s a good chance they’ll walk by men peeing to get to a toilet stall.
The establishment in question, Charleston Trust, is “committed to creating safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for all our visitors and staff.” It said it “introduced gender-inclusive toilets in one area of our site in September 2018 to help members of the queer and trans community feel safe with us, and to ensure disabled visitors who need assistance are not troubled by the gender of their carer.”
“We recognise that the way the toilets are currently designed has practical limitations, and are exploring removing the urinals to make both toilet blocks truly gender-inclusive.”
The administrators of Charleston Trust say they realize mixed-sex spaces can be uncomfortable because of sex differences. While other organizations try to address concern by posting reassuring flyers, such as this one at right that Federalist contributor Caroline D’Agati found in Seattle, Charleston Trust’s answer is to erase as much of the evidence of those differences as possible and declare publicly that it’s all in the name of safety and inclusion.
But getting rid of urinals or posting notices won’t make women much more comfortable sharing the space with men because women’s objections to the erasure of their exclusive space go beyond safety or even awkwardness.
Even progressive feminists used to be concerned about women’s bathroom experiences and achieving “potty parity.” In 2001, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on the subject, lamenting the long lines due to insufficient and poorly designed stalls. “The laws governing women’s bathrooms seem to change only when men are inconvenienced,” the staff writer observed. Although the language has shifted, the Western world of 2019 proves she was right.
The Transgender Agenda Is Undoing Women’s Progress
Bathrooms are changing primarily because biological males attempting to live as women desire access to the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. Females who identify as men also want access to mixed facilities, but their numbers are fewer. Either way, it’s safe to say the only things women are changing are diapers on that single changing table in the restroom.
That’s a shame, because the struggle to make public life more accommodating to women has been long and hard. Nineteenth-century women had to limit their excursions outside the home to how long they could hold it because there were no “women’s rooms.” An article in Time Magazine outlining the history of sex-segregated bathrooms notes, counterintuitively, that men’s and women’s facilities didn’t arise simply from “basic biological differences.”
“Even as women entered the workplace, often in the new factories that were being built at the time, there was a reluctance to integrate them fully into public life,” it reads. But it became a necessity. Those spaces — from reading rooms to train cars to privies — were designed to “mimic the comforts of home — think curtains and chaise lounges.”
One may find it sexist that women’s reading rooms and train cars (at the back, to protect them and the children) were a thing, but the development of the designated women’s bathroom was critical to allowing women the freedom to work and move about freely, as long as they wanted, outside the home. Now the transgender agenda has many women begging for those hard-won, women-only spaces to be eliminated.
Women’s Bathrooms Serve Many Purposes
Since the late 19th century, those female restrooms became, and perhaps were meant to be, much more than a utilitarian set of closets. The restroom is unquestionably a social and emotional space.
Single-occupancy bathrooms are seen as a “sensible solution” by people who want to quell the outrage, while the unisex restroom is the “gender-inclusive” answer many in the avant garde of gender ideology demand. But they both eliminate an important, although banal, sociocultural institution.
The women’s room is where women get real with each other and with themselves. It’s where they gather to regroup when social situations get awkward or intense or they need to communicate in private. It’s where chit-chat warms women up to each other in a world where it’s easy to turn a cold shoulder or entertain suspicion or false ideas of what other women are like.
What lipstick is that? Where did you get your purse? Could you spare a tampon? Those questions might seem trivial to men, but they are part of the social cohesion that isn’t fully appreciated until it’s gone. Plus, sometimes you really need a tampon.
The resistance to eliminating women’s rooms was never just about sexual abuse or having regular moments of awkwardness. The bathroom is where women go to take deep, slow breaths to overcome their anxiety before an interview or presentation. It’s where teenagers vent to each other. It’s where broken hearts spill out in hot tears onto wet counters, and blessed strangers come alongside to offer comfort. You think all that’s going to happen in unisex washrooms?
Women’s Accommodations Aren’t Sexist
The Time author seemed to insinuate that “mimicking the home” in public accommodations for women is sexist. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn’t appreciate spacious bathrooms with seating, music, non-fluorescent lighting, some decor, and ample counter and mirror space.
Who doesn’t want public accommodations tailored to his or her own needs and preferences? It’s like turning down a Holiday Inn room for a co-ed bunk. Designing a mixed-sex space with no urinals and enough stalls for everyone is a challenge; not many businesses are going to invest in the extra non-stall square footage or any of the little details that make public restrooms less drab.
That’s not to say a male who identifies as a woman wouldn’t love homey bathrooms, too, but the temptation is to appease everybody by turning restrooms into a utilitarian row of single-occupancy water closets for both sexes or turn the existing facilities into unisex spaces. It’s not fair to women and apparently not fair to men, either, because they network in bathrooms (John Kerry said as much).
Do you think men are going to linger and talk if they’re sharing the space with women? Certainly not if the urinals are done away with. Do you think men want to make women uncomfortable with their presence for longer than they have to?
Women Are Losing Ground
Women who used to be “chained to their bladders” because of a lack of female restrooms are now expected to fight for their elimination. We are being taken advantage of, and not solely by the tiny minority of transgender people who just want to use the restroom they identify with.
This is, however, the consequence of gender ideology, which disregards the behavioral and biological differences between men (males) and women (females) as meaningless. Women are being erased as the term is broadened to cover those who aren’t female and is thus emptied of its rich significance. When anyone can be a woman, no one really is. It is no surprise, then, that women’s spaces are increasingly devalued and perhaps facing extinction.
Women and girls deserve their own spaces, depend on their own spaces for privacy, and gain from them socially. We shouldn’t have to justify that with sexual harassment or assault statistics, or the fact that females and males are biologically different. As Libby Emmons wrote recently, “Fighting for the rights of women and girls to have fair accommodation is not about other people. It’s about women and girls, staking a claim to what they need, and demanding it. Women and girls are notoriously bad at saying what they need.”
The more womanhood is scrubbed out for being outdated and bigoted, the harder it will be for us to speak up for ourselves. Policies that snuff out women’s spaces are not solutions for “gender equity” we can live with.