Thus Spake Zuska

Title IX and Your Toilets

Nothing gets by Absinthe’s diligence.

Inspired by my recent post regarding women’s washrooms, Absinthe writes to tell me:

Not having enough washrooms for women violates Title IX. who knew??? Check this out.

Absinthe suggests we study the ratio of womens’ to mens’ rooms in the top 50 physics, engineering, chemistry, and other science departments. It would certainly be interesting to see the results of such a survey.

Comments

  1. #1 ck1
    August 16, 2007

    I went to a small 40-person scientific meeting (biology) in a midwestern state about 15 years ago that was held in a conference facility on a lake. I was surprised to find only one other woman participant. I was even more suprised to find that there was only one “restroom” adjacent to the meeting room and it was a designated men’s room. And the only one in the building. Women participants were expected to return to our rooms in another building when nature called. No one seemed to think this was odd. Glad to see things are changing.

  2. #2 absinthe
    August 17, 2007

    I’ve got the survey up and running over at my blog http://radio.weblogs.com/0151290/

    Males and females from science departments across the country should feel free to take the short survey. They should also feel free to spread the word about the survey.
    If enough data is collected, it might make a kind of interesting publication when meshed in with NSF data on the demographics of the various departments that have been described by respondents to the survey.

    Zuska, can any of your sciblings at scienceblogs help spread the word about the survey?

  3. #3 Jokerine
    August 17, 2007

    Our Science Buildings from the early 60s have equal amounts of bathrooms for men and women, two on each floor. So noone has to walk further than 60 m to the next one. I guess we are just special ;)

  4. #4 MissPrism
    August 17, 2007

    I was at a conference at a heavily mathematical UK university in about 2002. I don’t remember the Ladies being particularly inadequate or far away, but I bought tampons from the machine and found that they had a token on the back with an expiry date in 1983 – so an undergrad there would be expected to put up with tampons older than she was. Very welcoming.

  5. #5 Sharon
    August 17, 2007

    Thanks Zuska. I love what Absinthe does!!!

  6. #6 Janne
    August 17, 2007

    I commented on this in the previous post: why have separate bathrooms at all? To increase throughput (as it were), you could have a small room to the side with men’s urinoars, and then have unisex bathrooms (as in closed rooms, not open stalls) with napkin receptacles in each unit. We have no problem with this arrangement at home for instance, after all.

  7. #7 absinthe
    August 17, 2007

    In response to Janne’s comment:

    I think I speak for the majority of women out there when I say that many of us continually wipe up enough pee at home from men with lousy aim without having to friggin do it at work to just so we aren’t standing in a pool of urine to use the toilet.

  8. #8 absinthe
    August 17, 2007

    Oh yeah, and my husband reports to me that by his estimate approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of men have the habit of horking a wad of phlegm into the urinal immediately after they urinate (this totally grosses my husband out).

    I’ve been using womens’ washroms my entire life, and I have yet to hear a woman hork into the toilet after a pee. Thank god.

    Plus, the womens’ washroom is the almost always the only women-only area in a science department. Many times have I gone in these places to have a good cry about gender inequity injustices done to me, and many, many times have I entered a washroom to find a female colleague having a good cry over their own gender inequity trials and tribulations. A lot of peer comforting goes on in womens’ washrooms. Having a unisex washroom removes the last harbor women in science departments have against what can sometimes feel to be a hostile hoarde of men pressing in on them.

  9. #9 Janne
    August 17, 2007

    absinthe: aren’t you sort of shifting the premises here? Unisex bathrooms really would solve this kind of discrepancy quite nicely when done right, and be just as applicable for workplaces where women are in the majority.

    If any particular group feel they need a place to themselves then that is a topic worthy of discussion (there are plenty of legitimate reasons for various groups to warrant it), but it’s not right to conflate it with bathroom allocation which, after all, is a completely separate issue.

  10. #10 absinthe
    August 17, 2007

    I don’t think not wanting to wipe up someone else’s pee just to use a toilet yourself is “shifting the premises”.

    Also, Janne, your solution that the men have a separate room full of urinals, and then another room that just has
    stalls that would be unisex is hardly “equitable”…it still gives the men twice as many places to go to relieve their bodily needs.

  11. #11 Helen
    August 17, 2007

    “I commented on this in the previous post: why have separate bathrooms at all? To increase throughput (as it were), you could have a small room to the side with men’s urinoars, and then have unisex bathrooms (as in closed rooms, not open stalls) with napkin receptacles in each unit. We have no problem with this arrangement at home for instance, after all.”

    That’s utterly demented — in a post about unequal numbers of washrooms being a Title IX violation, you propose a new arrangement for having an unequal number of washrooms?

    Bizarre.

  12. #12 absinthe
    August 17, 2007

    And another thing…as the title of this post points out, not having enough bathrooms for women is in violation of Title IX, the US federal anti-discrimination law; telling the women that what they need are unisex toilets to “solve their problem” is like telling serfs that what they need is ownership of their land to solve their problem of perpetual poverty. If women actually had any control over this situation we wouldn’t have this epidemic problem in the first place.

    It isn’t the women who need to hear your arm-chair-genius suggestions for “solutions”…it is up to administration of each university to figure out how to get into compliance with Title IX. As an aside, I seriously doubt a bunch of unisex stalls, with extra urinal stalls for the men fits into compliance with Title IX.

    No, Janne, what is needed is for the many science departments out there who have at least two mens’ rooms on each floor (and no womens’ rooms except on the ground floor) to friggin change one of the mens’ rooms on each floor to a womens’ room.

  13. #13 iltc
    August 17, 2007

    Ah.. unisex washrooms. Spoken by someone who has clearly never experienced them. I did, in a residence hall, with unisex washroom and showers, all of which were lockable, but where the sinks and mirrors were communal and the room as a whole was communal.

    Aside from pee on the floor, there was also the additional joy of being constantly scrutinized by men, especially the older ones, strangely. I was also approached, in a dating sense, several times.

    So boys, how about this: we can have unisex washrooms when you stop ogling and learn how to clean up after yourselves. Until then, I’d like to piss in private without wondering who’s trying to stare through the cracks at me.

  14. #14 Kaleberg
    August 17, 2007

    In 1971 a friend of mine at MIT did a study of the men’s to women’s bathroom ratio. She actually produced a rather good slide show documenting the lack of women’s rooms at the Institute. The MIT’s credit, they accepted her argument and converted a good number of men’s rooms into women’s rooms in existing buildings, and changed the specification for future buildings. I remember working late one night and being accosted by a rather amazed maintenance guy, “Are you sure that’s a woman’s room there? There’s pisspots!”

  15. #15 Warren Terra
    August 17, 2007

    About a dozen years ago, I worked in a Biology building from the 60’s, and on our floor there were two bathrooms, one next to the other. One had two stalls and a urinal, the other had a single stall. When the building went up, the smaller bathroom was designated for women, who were then very underrepresented. While I worked there, the two rooms were switched. So, we guys got the tampon machine (removed in fairly short order), while the ladies room had twice its earlier capacity, plus a urinal. The running joke was that this latter utility, being somewhat surplus to requirements, was now being used to grow a plant – although I note that the bathrooms had no natural light.

  16. #16 Janne
    August 17, 2007

    Unisex bathrooms has been the norm in most places I’ve been so far. More efficient for everybody. The suggestion of a _small_ separate urinal was just a practical suggestion to increase throughput; skip them if you want. Oh well, you want “separate but equal” then go right ahead.

  17. #17 Sameer Parekh
    August 17, 2007

    “telling the women that what they need are unisex toilets to ‘solve their problem’ is like telling serfs that what they need is ownership of their land to solve their problem of perpetual poverty.”

    Your point is?

  18. #18 John
    August 17, 2007

    absinthe says: “…it still gives the men twice as many places to go to relieve their bodily needs.”

    But men also have twice as many standard positions for relieving their bodily needs.

    Although, if you’re looking for a unisex solution, might I recommend unisex urinals? They save both space and time.

    http://www.urinal.net/dairy_queen/

    :-P

  19. #19 Jon
    August 18, 2007

    Why have only the communal restrooms? I think the usual men’s and women’s rooms should be present, plus a lot of smaller “whoever is in need” restrooms. And all this stuff about only men needing to aim just doesn’t hold up from the studies I’ve seen about the differences between men’s and women’s toilets: I’ve consistently seen that men’s rooms often look more disgusting but women’s rooms have the greater number of actually disgusting microscopic things. And I’ve heard that this causes some women to do a sort of “helicopter” version of going about their business (and create a great amount of mess in the process.) Also, communal toilet seats in women’s rooms often look absolutely disgusting underneath, but this isn’t seen often since not many lift the seat up to pee (though, again, some get it out of the way for the helicopter thingy.)

    Having the traditional men’s and women’s rooms plus the additional “as needed” restrooms would get rid of many of the financial and structural problems with retrofitting older campus buildings, too. And I’ve been to many dentist and doctor offices where a “restroom” is plenty.

  20. #20 Bill D.
    August 18, 2007

    “The suggestion of a _small_ separate urinal was just a practical suggestion to increase throughput; skip them if you want.”

    When a guy urinates standing up into a standard toilet, there’s a lot of splashing even if he aims well. This not only makes a mess for everyone but means toilet water is being splashed on one’s legs. You can feel this if you’re wearing shorts, but it’s still happening when you’re wearing pants. Gross, especially in a public restroom.

    As for guys trying to aim well, it’s not always as straightforward as you would think. Minor and temporary anatomical glitches (e.g. small tissue flaps stuck together, for instance) can send momentarily urine off in an unexpected direction when urination is started, to your surprise. Or, as urine flow trails off the last dribs may fall short. Basically, even if you’re pretty concientious with aiming you’re not going to achieve 100% success using a standard toilet.

    Urinals allow one to generally avoid these problems because one can get much closer to the fixture. This is another reason why standard toilets are not that great for urination while standing up.

    That’s why I greatly prefer urinals for urination in public restrooms, and why I sit down when I urinate in a private home, including at home. For everyone’s sake, please don’t remove the urinals in public restrooms.

  21. #21 Saij
    August 18, 2007

    Itc said (about Unisex bathrooms): “Aside from pee on the floor, there was also the additional joy of being constantly scrutinized by men, especially the older ones, surprisingly …”

    I don’t find that surprising at all. It isn’t really the younger generations of men that women need to worry too much about. 1) they didn’t build the buildings. 2) They aren’t in charge … yet. 3) they grew up in a world where equality of women was not a “weird” concept, even if it isn’t always practiced.

    In time, when the next generations gain power and control over these places, finally, there will be a shift. AS for now, it’s a struggle, indeed.

  22. #22 John
    August 19, 2007

    In regards to on-floor urination: I works for a company building roads in the back of beyond. Environmentally conscious, they had nice pit toilets built, rather than have everyone use the nearest tree.

    One day, one of the cleaning crew asked for everyone’s attention. She brought out a bucket, filled with a noxious substance.
    “This,” she said, “is what I cleaned from around the seat area. Either sit down, or clean it yourself.”

    I note that there were 25% females to males on the crew, and the nodding of heads caused a windstorm.

    John

  23. #23 octopod
    October 5, 2007

    I’m a bit surprised by people being unwilling to share restrooms. The student dorms in the South Houses at Caltech are unisex and have been so, I think, since desegregation in the ’70s, and it’s never caused any problems. I can’t remember ever hearing about any bathroom harassment issues, and they’re relatively clean (though the house janitorial types are very good and probably entirely responsible for this). I’m kinda horified at the thought of bathroom harassment, in fact — I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing anything like that at Tech.

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