Re-examining the implications of single-gendered bathrooms

By Chan Tov

Dear ladies, if you’re promoting bathroom discrimination —  urine trouble.

Pardon the bad pun, but I really feel the need to address issues found in an article a few weeks ago. About three weeks ago, while reading this very same newspaper, I recoiled in shock as I read an editorial, in which a female student complained about guys being in her bathroom. She complained that the guys used what she had thought were single-gender, female bathrooms to take long showers and leave their messes. She then went on to essentially assert that men are always where women don’t want them — first their bathrooms, their ovaries, controlling reproductive rights.

Now hold the phone! It’s not that serious. How did a complaint about bathroom colonization turn into a reproductive rights debate? Linking the two concepts is such an extreme move that I’m sure most readers lost sight of the main point: bathroom equality, or the lack thereof.

My freshman year, I was on a hall that had integrated bathrooms and had no major issues. In a courteous environment, the system works. You get into the bathroom, do your thing and leave. This works on many levels: everyone is allowed to use the bathroom closest to him or her, which is, in short, the most convenient thing to do. This was changed almost halfway through first semester, because, reportedly, some girls felt uncomfortable sharing bathrooms. After the switch, however, some girls still used the male bathrooms and weren’t sanctioned; yet when one guy on the hall ventured to use the female bathroom, he was immediately written up.

Shared co-ed bathrooms, however, makes some people uncomfortable, and, to be frank, I really don’t understand why. Everything in the dorm bathrooms is closed off: stalls and showers. No one is naked outside of the showers in the bathrooms, whether co-ed or single-sex. With a towel on, one shows just as much skin as if he were wearing a swimsuit.

What is it that you think will happen? Do you feel as if guys will objectify you while you’re brushing your teeth? Do you think men on this campus are such misogynists that we will cat call while you shower? That isn’t going to happen. Instead of single-gendered bathrooms, we need bathroom equality.

In the author’s tirade against men, she forgot to examine her own hetero-normative privilege. Where does she get off arguing for single-gendered bathrooms? What about students with alternative gender identities? Should they be forced to use a bathroom that relates to their sex in order to please her?

As an HA in Bonchek, we take votes to determine whether to have single or co-ed bathrooms. If even one person indicates that he or she would be uncomfortable, the bathrooms must be single gender. As an HA, I worry about the negative effects single-gender bathrooms may have on the students who are transgendered. Why does one person’s complaint get to trigger a change that is inconvenient for everyone involved?

Instead of fighting for separate but equal (and we all know how that went), fight for respectable integration. There is a glimmer of hope in this bathroom equality saga however. Recently, while using the bathroom in Bonchek, I noticed two sets of signs: “To stand pee-ers: please wipe the seat and put it back up when you’re done” and “To the menstruators: wrap it up and dispose of it properly.” That’s a commendable step in the right direction.

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