Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Don't Men and Women Share Public Washrooms? A Synchroblog

I always enjoy what random and unexpected places a discussion or idea can lead you to. It's a meandering path! You start out here and eventually, end up somewhere surprising!

We're going to try something new – a Synchroblog. One topic, three blog sites and 3 independent bloggers. All with our own take (Although I feel somewhat out of my league with the writing and blogging talents of these two captivating women.) Jewels from According To Jewels, Lydia from On The Other Hand, and of course, myself of The Woven.  Let's see where we end up!

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Why Don't Men and Women Share Public Washrooms?

This topic isn't new to the blogsphere. I began by surfing around the internet trying to get a general feel of what people thought. The majority of responses fell within 3 groupings: 1) Safety, 2) Privacy, and 3) Culture (as in, it just is culture. It's what we know. It's what we've been taught and conditioned to). And there is an abundance of humour to be found here. I also discovered that, apparently, in Japan men and women share the same public latrine. Which got me thinking whether the first 2 concerns (Safety and Privacy) were really just projections that might fall under Culture.

And there was also a 4th group, but far from a majority. Some believe we have men and women public W.C.'s because of gender-policing. That caught my attention, because for our freedom-based Western values, it sounded a little bit too Orwellian; Totalitarian; 1984-ish (the novel, not the year. I love the '80's).

Is there really a danger of sexual assault or harassment – even being given 'the look', the once-over, being uninvitedly checked-out, if we were to introduce unisex public washrooms?

If we can find examples where mixed public bathrooms are the commonplace and without an increase of cases of sexual assault or harassment (which we have in Japan) then this reasoning becomes more of a cultural projection of fear. (Unless the Japanese are more in control of their 'animal longings' than we are).

Fact is, we are commonly seeing more Family Friendly washrooms and even change rooms. Do we really believe we are all driven by lust and violence?

In our more modern times, there is a significant higher level or awareness and tolerance of gay and lesbian members of society. If gender-based washrooms are based upon safety (from the threat of sexual assault), then with the advent of this relatively new (in historic terms) element we should see this manifest, which I don't believe we do. That could stem over into privacy issues as well. Would I be comfortable using a urinal beside a man I know to be gay? I am not homophobic, but no, I wouldn't.

Privacy? Well, here's my thoughts on privacy. Stalls are private. Some washrooms are single-occupant rooms with proper doors and deadbolt locks. But most importantly, the entire concept of Privacy in a public environment is somewhat of an oxymoron, isn't it?

One blogger posted their concern for poor little Sally walking into a unisex bathroom and seeing Uncle Joe's junk at the urinal. As far as urinals go, I should think the urinal evolved alongside the gender-segregated system. (I know many men who do not like urinals for lack-of-privacy issues).

The fourth option, that I suspected but rarely heard mention, was gender-policing (... I'm afraid this is where it gets heavy...)

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We Westerners seem to demonstrate a strong habit for gender policing to enforce the binary of “man” and “women”; boys and girls. There's several issues worth establishing here. Although biologically, gender is simple, we know that culturally and sociologically, gender is quite complex. The simple point of view of, Take off your pants; you're either a guy or a girl, is a little bit too shallow. If that were the case, then we would wear clothing purely for practical purposes. We would not have gender-specific articles of clothing nor would we have gender-specific styles (Woman's ski-jacket vs. Men's ski-jacket). This issue greatly transcends public washrooms. Gender is much more than biological or sexual orientation. (Actually, I might argue that Sex and Gender are two different things altogether).

I can't help but wonder if our Western perspectives have it all wrong. If we look at the hijras of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Fa'afatine of Polynesia, the Two-Spirited people of Native Americans and Canadian First Nation's people, we see old and ancient people who have long since recognized this aspect within humanity. This is not a new or modern idea of tolerance.

In our Western culture, homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness (insanity) until 1972! Let alone any idea of an “other” or 3rd gender.

"So why don't we have them within our culture or communities then?" some may ask; the assumption being, if we don't have them, then they cannot be a regular part of humanity – that they are a product of a tolerant culture that allows them.

I would put this logic in the same category as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pronounced nut-job) stating to the UN Council that Iran does not have homosexuals. It's laughable. Of course Iran doesn't have homosexuals! They're shot! They're there. They're just quiet and hidden. Maybe even lost.

It is difficult if not impossible to deny their existence within the human condition and experience. Maybe they are an exception, a sort of one-off mutation? A perversion or deviant (from a biological/psychological point of view) of some sort; that they are not a regular or healthy minority but an aberration?

In 2005, Indian Passport forms were updated with three gender options. The Hijra of India are probably the most well known third sex type in the modern world. The Humsafar Trust – a Mumbai-based community Health Organization – estimates that there are between 5 and 6 million hijras in India. That's a pretty big number (Even as a percentage that's still around 0.5%. That's the same as the Black Hispanic population within the USA).

My point simply is, maybe they are a natural aspect of humanity. One in which our Western world-view has attempted to stifle, repress, or snuff-out. Maybe to the determent of our entire society. Is our society guilty of behaviour manipulation?

Western medicine with its symptom-treatment “take-a-pill” philosophy. Fast food, Instant information, instant gratification. Materialism and consumerism run amok. Online social networks at the absolute decay of real relationships. Gender-policing.
The more and more I learn and see of other, non-Western world-views, the more and more I am coming to believe we got it wrong. We got it so wrong.

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Okay, okay.
A bit too heavy.
Let's bring this back down to a more mundane reality. 
A few of these facts I knew of. Many were eye opening. 
The world as I know it is not the reality of what the world is.

My world's not real. I think it's healthy to keep that in mind.

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Okay, okay. Even lighter still.
In my journey through the googleverse in search for ideas and pic's for this post, I couldn't believe the urinals that are out there! From the fun to the profane, they'll make you laugh and they'll offend you. (I thought to myself, Holy Crap! Do I live in a bubble?). Here are some that - one way or another - caught my attention.

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Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the little boy's room. ;)

1 comment:

AccordingtoJewels said...

That was a heavy 7am read but an interesting one given it is so different from my own. I don't give much credence to the safety of it or even the modesty of it. I'm not prudish and think that American's in general are overly sensitive to issues like sex and gender. I think that a little in your face penis and vagina would do some people good....anyway.

Good job. :D