It is with much regret and sadness that I note the time-honoured and magnificent institution of communal women’s toilets is under serious threat. In this gender-neutral age, women’s toilets are being gender-neutralised away. Such a shame. Whilst I can understand that having gender neutral toilets as well is important for non-conforming children and adults, I am dismayed to see that communal toilets for women are gradually being dismantled altogether in favour of gender-neutralisation all round. I’m thinking of having a funeral to say good-bye to the greatest institution of all time. I invite all you who also mourn this sad demise to the wake afterwards.
Women’s communal toilets are more than just a place to pee. They were, and are, our liberation and safety. They enabled us to have public lives, as well as being a place it was safe to be vulnerable. If we had a mess with our period, we could always rely on another women to help us clean up. If we got caught short with our period, we could always rely on another woman to help us out with a tampon. We didn’t even need to know these women. Women would just help women if they knew a woman in a women’s toilet needed help with anything.
They were also a place to have a conflab, to take a buddy away from the public gaze who was upset, a serendipitous meeting place, and a sanctuary to run to when the boys were chasing us. Okay, so that last bit was a primary school thing. But I also remember the women’s toilets in a bar being a place you get away from a pest’s unwanted attention. It created a camaraderie, a place where women would look out for each other. I don’t know of any other institution that combined need and social bonding in such a way. Women’s toilets are so much more than just a functional place to pee.
Now it’s all being gender-neutralised away, and uni-sexed up. What a loss! Not to mention a step backwards for women. There are now organisations, such as community centres with swimming pools and gyms, which have uni-sex changing rooms so that everyone feels “included”. Perverts and paedophiles love them. Of course, there are rules against bad behaviour, which is supposedly enough of a deterrent. Yeah, right. The trend of uni-sexing facilities is despicably dismissive towards women and girls’ safety. A twelve year old girl has to get leered at and felt up by a pervert, before he gets removed from her space. How safe is that? And how safe will that girl ever feel again, and be able to go about her public life? How could anyone with even half a gram of common sense not see this coming, or think it’s okay? And don’t get me started on about those boys and men (yes, once again it’s mostly males) who secretly film women and girls with their mobile phones in changing rooms.
I can’t imagine how awful it must be for teenage girls at school to have to share toilet facilities with boys, or even share the common entry area to individual fully self-contained toilet cubicles. Boys love shaming girls – period-shaming being one of the ways (I know that girls shame girls, too, which often copies the ‘boy way’ of shaming). Imagine a girl needing help with the unexpected arrival of her period. What’s she going to do? Open her cubicle door and shout out to anyone in the common entry area for a tampon? No longer is there a safe place for girls in schools which they know is theirs only, where they can safely do ‘girl-life’ things.
Women’s bodies are complex. More complex than men’s bodies. We didn’t put our hands up for this, it’s just what we got dealt. Women’s bodies house the main machinery of the human reproductive system. They’re designed to grow and produce new humans, should we want to, and something that impressive naturally requires a bit more than the simple knocking together of a few parts. The workings of that reproductive machinery are never far from our thoughts, until we get liberated from it with age.
Men, on the other hand, only have to produce and store some jizz in their ballsacks until they eject it. That’s their sole contribution to the reproductive process. It doesn’t require a huge amount of complexity, and even less thought. Once the new human is produced, though, and life changes dramatically, they may possibly wish they’d thought a bit more about keeping that jizz in their ballsacks – or at least away from a woman’s reproductive machinery. However, that’s by-the-by.
We women, with our more complex and more sophisticated reproductive machinery, which influences our whole lives, benefit from a collaborative network of ‘experts’ who also live with that machinery – i.e. women. Female-only communal facilities suit women and girls, because that’s what works for us and our bodies and our lives. Now, I know that most of us don’t want to live joined at the hip with each other, but seriously, although fully self-contained gender neutral toilets have their place, they are also pretty much isolation chambers.
Plus, we hate using the same toilets as men with their pee on the seat and the floor. Bad enough having that at home, without living with it in public, too.
Header pic by Free to Use Sounds