Going to the theatre should be a pleasant experience: last night I organised my life to go and see one of the final performances of MATILDA –given all its positive reviews. It started at 7.30 and my partner and I had to find somewhere to eat (and drink) first, so it was a bit of a rush to get there – and our first wish was to find a toilet!
The queues were horrific; women were standing around the signs that indicated women and men and the crush was so great that a male employee was guarding the door to the men’s room, and allowing ‘Ladies Only’ in. So there were a lot of males around as well.
If course women’s queues aren’t an unfamiliar sight as Soraya Chemaly– who writes for The Guardian, Huffington Post etc., and who has dramatically made the point that there wouldn’t be a woman who has entered ‘public space’ and not had to stand in line if she wanted to use the toilet. It’s not just up-market theatres that have an acute shortage of female facilities however; it’s supermarkets and department stores and museums and sporting fixtures not to mention convention facilities. Why is it that male architects can’t work out that women take more time in the toilet – and while prostate issues can arise with males they can still achieve their main aim relatively quickly.
Women so often have to stand in line for what may seem like an eternity with legs (and fingers) crossed waiting their turn. It’s another signal to women that public space is not for them.
When Soraya Chemaly wrote her most provocative article on “potty parity” she was confronted with a barrage of social media responses:
Some of them were along the lines that toilets for women take up more space and so there are fewer of them. And anyway why couldn’t women learn to urinate like a man! Standing up.
There was also the suggestion that while women had to wait in lines – this was infinitely better than the ‘the gents’ rooms’ which were disgusting.
Another explanation for the crammed women’s rooms was the fault of the women themselves as they spent so long looking in the mirror – hence the crush. They also tend to go to the toilet together – a sensible choice and one that most young girls are socialised to go along with.
Women need to use bathrooms more often and for longer periods; as Chemaly says; we sit to urinate, we menstruate, we wear more cumbersome clothes.
Women need to be seated- they often have children and babies with them. It’s obvious they should take longer (and they usually wash their hands as well).
So last night when we couldn’t get to a toilet at interval – we had to leave.