One reason why we can’t solve gendered bathrooms (and some history too)…

It is deeply embarrassing to enter into other gender’s bathroom. Each place has different signage leading to even more confusion. Why not have unisex toilets?

Jay Stooksburry looks at the issues and blames the government  regulations for the problems.

Yes, you can blame the International Building Codes (IBC) for those obnoxiously-named bathrooms that segregate genders. (Actually, just the restaurant owners bear the brunt of the blame for goofy names.)

Building code standards are adopted at the state and local level to enforce uniformity in construction-related benchmarks—everything from how high the handrail for your stairway needs to be to how many fire-suppression sprinkler heads you must disperse throughout your building. Within the scope of the IBC is the requirement that certain businesses and facilities must build separate, gender-specific bathrooms.

These restrictions placed upon business owners and construction contractors are the biggest hurdle to addressing this issue of gender-neutral bathrooms in public spaces. Even if a progressive-minded business owner wanted to install unisex, single-occupancy bathrooms in her restaurant, she would be in violation of universally adopted building codes and would likely be forced to close until the code violation was remedied.

Some history:

Urinary segregation laws date back in the United States to the 19th century, and, much like most bad ideas that originated during that era, it was the result of pseudoscientific claims that masked social agendas as biology. This particular brand of ideologically-drenched science was called the “separate spheres” movement. This movement, which predicated itself on the “biological determinism” of the genders, suggested that men and women were inherently different—thus, each gender must be treated differently in public spaces to maintain their unique virtue.

Pittsburgh established a mandate that there must be at least 3.75 female toilets to every individual male urinal in all public spaces.

This prudish thought was a response to the growing presence of women in an increasingly industrialized and centralized workforce. Misguided concerns over how female menstruation might impact male lavatories inspired efforts to offer separate facilities in the factories. Terry S. Kogan, legal scholar and author of the book Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, found that segregating genders was a “kind of cure-all” for the Victorian-age anxiety over women “ignoring their duties”—namely, housekeeping and childbearing.

Biological determinism was codified into law in 1887 when Massachusetts passed what is considered to be the first public mandate regarding separate bathrooms. The “separate but equal” binary quickly became the statutory solution across the nation. By the 1920s, nearly all of the U.S. states had adopted similar legal requirements.

“Potty parity” laws became the implicit norm for building codes, establishing awkward ratios that attempted to compensate for the differences in men and women’s bathrooms. Such differences include the “fact” that men’s urinals take up less physical space than women’s toilets, which may result in the construction of more urinals, creating a disparity in gender equality. For example, Pittsburgh established a 3.75:1 ratio, mandating that there must be at least 3.75 female toilets to every individual male urinal in all public spaces. (How one exactly installs three-fourths of a toilet is beyond my engineering abilities.)

Didn’t know this and never even struck to question the design…

Let people figure..

So until building code mandates become more liberalized, freeing up businesses to build facilities in a way that best meets the needs of their clientele and liberating municipal governments from the burdensome legalese trickling down from the state and federal levels, you can expect more public disputes, like the transgendered bathroom issue, to arise


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: