March 08, 2007

Potty Parity

It's blog against sexism day, and I was thinking about the idea of critical mass and various professions. Even though we've been talking about law, and obviously I've written about academia, what I thought of was the profession of my eldest sister, who started in architecture at a time when women were a tiny fraction of the professional population.

There's an interesting intersection of women's professional advancement, women's health, and naturally, an incredibly stupid label: potty parity. Before women were significantly involved in planning, building and construction, architects didn't think about the particular health, accessibility, and other concerns of women when planning toilets. Potty parity argues that ignoring those needs, especially for pregnant women, not only is an inconvenience, but discriminatory especially towards women's health.

Kathryn Anthony has written an article (among a large body of work) about "potty parity," and why it's an important issue. Unfortunately, it's behind a subscription wall (and of course, our university doesn't pay into that journal). However, here is a brief summary of why this is an important issue:

Potty parity refers to equal speed of access to public restrooms for men and women. The absence of potty parity, a classic problem around the US and around the world, results in long lines for ladies' rooms but not for men's. This disparity mirrors the power structure reflected in the planning and design of restrooms that privileges men over women. Historically, architects, contractors, engineers, and building code officials rarely contacted women to learn about their special restroom needs. Only recently have women begun to be employed in these male-dominated professions and able to affect change. ... A significant number of females at most public places will be actively menstruating or pregnant, and waiting could lead to medical and health complications. Pregnant women feel an increased need to urinate and many suffer health consequences if they are forced to hold their urine.

According to the piece, potty parity laws have been on the rise since 1974 in the US, when the California Secretary of State publicized the issue by smashing a toilet on the state house steps. These laws call for increasing the ratio of men's to women's toilets to at least 1:1, up from earlier examples where there were 40% more facilities for men than women.

Thus, on blog against sexism day, let us champion the benefits of eliminating sexism in architecture and planning, and the benefits to women's health from potty parity.

Posted by binky at March 8, 2007 02:09 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Gender and Politics

Post a comment

Remember personal info?