Territorial Pissings: Infuriating Queues To Women’s Loos

Guest article written by Em Johnson, who promotes shows in Manchester under the name Bomb Ibiza.

“Because I was an alien, toilets were not prevalent.”

Queuing for bathrooms. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? That rush as the interval nears, as the band finishes, or as the seat belt sign comes off on a plane. That desperate drive to get in the queue. The knowledge that if you don’t get in early you will be trapped for twenty minutes of dead time and awkward chat.

Oh wait. Maybe we haven’t all been there. Women reading this are probably nodding. Many men have probably discarded this as an irrelevance to them, or cracked jokes about women taking longer because of putting on lipstick or gossiping (thanks to those who haven’t). Because guess what? Toilets are a feminist issue.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez should be a mandatory read for everyone who has any care about equality. It’s taught me a huge amount about the structural discrimination that distorts opportunity for women – for example being 47% more likely to suffer serious injury or 17% more likely to die in car accidents because of lazy testing designed for male physiology (turns out using slightly smaller male crash test dummies doesn’t work, who knew?!).

So yes, it’s made me angry about my own mortality (and the twice yearly physio I have for an old whiplash injury). But it’s also made me really angry about toilets. Here’s why:

  • Bathroom facilities are lazily designed as 50% male / 50% female
  • Women on average take 2.3 times as long as men to use the toilet
  • Women make up the the majority of the elderly and disabled, two groups that have a greater dependency on bathrooms
  • Menstruation is really unpleasant and takes time to deal with
  • Women often have children with them, which takes time
  • Pregnant women, or those who’ve had children, often need the loo more regularly, for a host of medical reasons
  • In developing countries, increasing toilet provision for women reduces sexual violence by up to a third

I spent this weekend in London, one of the most progressive cities in the world. And drinking in Bermondsey, at supposedly some of the most ‘right on’ breweries in the world.

I spent large parts of it queuing to pee. At one point there were eight women queuing at Brew By Numbers for the one ‘gender neutral’ bathroom next to the urinal. While we queued, twenty or so men came in and out. And the eight of us stood and were angry. And ashamed that we were supporting a company that thought this was okay.

Creating gender neutral bathrooms has of course been a really valuable step in fairness for the trans community – but too often, women’s loos have just been converted. Provisions for men have remained the same or improved, whereas queues to women’s or gender-neutral toilets have become even longer (the Old Vic Theatre has recently been at the centre of a backlash on this front).

Glastonbury taught me that men should always be given space to pee. Create urinals and take them away from the portaloos. Stop awful drunk people ruining everyone else’s festival with their piss. I don’t have a problem with that.

What I have a problem with is that my own time is being wasted for the space afforded to that privilege.

Oh and 90’s kids, remember Theme Park? Remember what happens when there are people queuing for facilities? It disrupts revenue. Those women who are queuing would have been buying from you. So not only does this situation waste time and cause stress for a large part of the population, it’s bad for GDP.

Toilets are a feminist issue. Be angry about them. All of you.

“Gotta find a way, a better way…”

You can read more about Invisible Women here. If you don’t have time for a whole book, Caroline Criado-Perez did an excellent 45-minute interview with the 99% Invisible podcast, which you can listen to here.

This is a guest article written by Em Johnson, who also wrote a great article about Solidarity Not Silence for us. She used to pretend to be a cool ska/punk DJ, but now spends most of her free time eating cheese and walking her dog. 

Check out Em’s 100th gig, taking place in Manchester on New Years Eve, featuring a ska-punk history lesson in the form of Stand Out Riot, Catch-It Kebabs and Sense of Urgency.

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