why I think a long line at the ladies is a feminist issue
Women’s toilet queues are a universally ‘shitty’ topic. Much discussion as to the logistical functionality from a ‘pee and flee’ or time management perspective has arisen since the creation of the modern day bathroom and sanitary revolution. In particular the lengthy lines that accompany all women’s toilets regardless of country, race, religious or wiping preference brings much speculation to my brain and bladder everyday- it’s kind of like being part of a secret club so exclusive that not even the president has a clue about their role or duty.
And it is with great thought that I hypothesise that women’s toilet lines across the world are primarily an issue of gender oppression that is haphazardly wiped around by issues of clothing logistics, speed and manners. If my hypothesis serves me correct it could potentially end the arduously global issue of lengthy ladies lines.
Yesterday while waiting in line (as usual) for a toilet at university amongst five or so other women I became acutely aware of the sounds around me; usually one chooses to block the sounds of bowel excretions from conscious thought, yesterday was different, yesterday there was no sound. In a bathroom of 8 occupied cubicles not one single person was excreting waste, the hollow echo of urine into the bowl that usually crescendos around the cubicle was missing. There was no ‘plop’ or splash of faecal matter to be heard, even the soft tears and scrunches of toilet paper ceased to whisper. There was literally an arid toilet ghost-land where all citizens had disappeared in their digestive tracks due to the omnipresent gender etiquette that looms in your toilet bowl, on the bleached sheets of your toilet paper and even out of the leaky toilet tap that drip drip drips throughout the night.
The social norms that create functioning bathrooms for women and men are uniformly queer and odd even on a surface inspection. Traditionally, men are designated two separate spaces for bladder and bowel excretion- one being the urinal which is an open wall or container with little privacy and the other a cubicle similar to a woman’s bathroom that is designated for pooping or men considered ‘shy’ about the public display of their penises at a urinal. Unlike male toilets, women have not traditionally been given an avenue of a more ‘public’ method of waste disposal for practical reasons such as a propensity for accessories like handbags, scarves and belts and clothing styles that would require a woman to partially undress herself, like a playsuit.
Therefore from a logistical time perspective it makes sense that women take longer than men in a regular toilet due to the limited option of a single cubicle that is used for urine and/or faeces (the latter being the more time consuming option) . It is also important to consider that women lug around more crap like handbags to place sanitary pads in or wear two pairs of tights, a skirt and Bridget Jones underwear if it’s a cold day which all culminates in increased toilet occupation time.
However if you inspect further into the problem of these logistical‘ issues’ such as one toilet and ill- equipped clothing to reveal ones vagina or anus for quick waste excretion, it is revealed that they are in fact extensions of a broader gender oppression that is finely demonstrated by the silence I regularly hear in bathrooms .
To fart or urinate loudly even in the privacy of a woman’s cubicle is considered ill-mannered and avoided at all costs, despite men literally flinging out their penises as they urinate standing next to each other. If you are a female reading this please reflect on your own toilet etiquette and measures you have gone to lessen your ‘sound’. I am guilty of placing toilet paper at the bottom of the toilet bowl so my urine doesn’t sound too loud, a girlfriend of mine leaves the tap on when she defecates so no-one waiting can hear her.
Just imagine a group of males (who identify as a male, have a penis and are cisgender) all lining up with their penises flopping out next to each other at the urinal tip-toeing around so the other wouldn’t recognise that they were producing natural sounds of peeing in the designated waste disposal area. A situation so extreme is unlikely to occur, sure there are reservations around the etiquette of urinals, yet it is a generally socially accepted toilet behaviour that is comparable to women urinating in solitude and privacy.
It must be made very clear that this isn’t just an issue catalysed by men, there certainly isn’t a table of males sitting around screaming out “all women should remain chaste, clean and never fart” it’s a systemic issue that women willingly propagate and participate in. The physical design of a cubicle as a closed, private and relatively sound-proof box literally creates oppression and a ‘hush-hush’ culture of women even when they are taking a good old dump, just as nature intended. The design and function of female toilets was created so that (unlike men) our genitals remain private and behind closed doors when urinating and that it is relatively soundproof so a facade of ultimate ‘embodiment’- the learning or mastery of body techniques such as holding farts- can be adhered to at all times.
I am not suggesting a toilet revolution comparable to the Russian or French, though I think the creation of a ‘she-wee’ – a plastic funnel shaped like a penis to urinate into – is a really great progressive idea. I am just sick of waiting in long queues at the toilet because women are too afraid to just ‘let one rip’ per se and divulge in timid urination practises as a ploy to make others think they’re not ‘using’ the toilet and are in fact just floating above the cubicle smoking a cigar while watching GOT. We all know you’re taking a poo. Stop participating in a systemic patriarchal problem – urinate loudly.
The world and our social practises inspire me, toilets don’t. Think outside the cubicle square and critically view human behaviour and interactions from an alien perspective, I dare you.