Women in the Washroom


I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, just a general piece I could put up when I didn’t want to write anything else. It seems, though, that it’s most appropriate to put this up on International Women’s Day as it deals with inequality in expectations and an almost dehumanizing element of “femininity” that all human beings should fight against. Yes, yet again, I wrote about poop.

So here you have it:

I’ve written briefly before about the stricter standards of etiquette in ladies’ washrooms. It seems ridiculous that there is any shame in using a toilet for its purpose, and we have all had bad moments on toilets without much of a choice as to when or where one can be used. I think it should be an important issue in feminism and women’s unity to acknowledge that, and remove the shame of bodily functions.

Think of the sounds that come from bathroom activity. In elementary school I was made fun of once for my urination making noise when the stream hit the water in the toilet bowl, as if the other girl peed silently. Healthy stools release more quietly (god, what kind of medical information pamphlet am I writing?) although there’s sometimes a sound effect that I’m sure has an odd means of being replicated for radio. But when the burning hot mess of a bad lunch runs right through you, there’s no choice but to go to the can, and naturally when you do that in a public, multi-stall place there will be other people to hear you.

It just happens, yet the “proper lady” mindset denies that. Any noise from a stall creates a risk of being judged, even for things that partially define the purpose of separating gendered washrooms. The sound of peeling adhesive when changing a pad or the crumpling of unwrapping a tampon should not be looked down upon in a workplace like mine where statistically at least ten others should be in a similar state. Calling it the “ladies’ room” is nearly offensive, with the implications of antiquated standards of shame and denial of the facts of the human body and female sex.

Avoiding public washrooms in places like theatres or shopping malls is easy enough when you only have a couple of hours away from a more private alternative. In a place you’re stuck for eight hours, however, it isn’t feasible. I generally favour against working from home because of the sense of splitting up the day and a bit more integrated social contact, but this continuing shame, denial, and prejudice gives the promise of a private bathroom the telecommuting option a little more weight. Because even without other ears in the washroom at the time, you have to keep your mouth shut no matter how much the agony. The rest of the office is only a set of doors away.


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