Occasionally Slate has a good piece, but an article today titled “Sex-segregated public restrooms are an outdated relic of Victorian paternalism” had nearly no redeeming qualities.
In it, Ted Trautman argues that we should do away with gender-specific bathrooms because they are leftovers of nineteenth-century sexism and needless chivalry.
But Ted’s male brain has obstructed the reality that for some women, this isn’t a matter of chivalry; it’s a matter of safety.
“Gender equal” bathrooms will become an excellent place for perverts to prey on vulnerable people. I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into a five-stall women’s restroom and checked each stall to make sure no men were hiding in them – particularly near closing time in a mall when the restrooms seem abandoned.
Imagining that I could end up washing my hands as a man walks out of a stall next me in said abandoned bathroom sets off panic alarms in my heart. Talk about a war on women! I’d be dragging my dad or brother or boyfriend into every public restroom I ever had to frequent.
Plus, call me old-fashioned, but relieving yourself is still a private matter. Yes, the seventeenth-century idea of privacy was starkly different than ours. It was the Victorian era that brought about our modern privacy-obsessed culture. I won’t argue that sex-segregated bathrooms are a relic of that world, but they are one that we should most certainly preserve.
Does anyone remember middle school? Can you imagine an awkward “going-through-puberty” twelve-year-old girl in a bathroom with the even-more-awkward pubescent boys? How’s that for a boost of self-esteem?
Or in the workplace? Whether it’s the male boss and female coworker or female boss and male coworker, there are some things you’d rather not share with your superior. Please tell me we would at least enclose the urinals – or is that too prudish, too?
One point I will concede is how stupid gender-specific one-person restrooms are. We’ve all used the wrong restroom in dire need before. Except for the cleanliness factor (which can be a concern), there is virtually no difference, and if you are only going to have two single restrooms there’s no need to assign gender to them.
That being said, multiple-stall bathrooms should remain segregated. If for nothing else, so we ladies have a place to go to spruce up our makeup, don some lipstick, and giggle about our date.