Equality Comes in Strange Places — Like The Bathroom
It seems like such a little thing, but it’s the little things that can make all of the difference in fairness between the genders. Women are finally getting a chance to have equality at the Capitol.
At least, in the bathroom.
It’s being called the “Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act,” and simply put, it means that all federal buildings must now have as many women’s toilets available as they have men’s toilet and urinals. It seems like such a small issue, but in fact is an amazing step towards admitting that federal work areas may no longer be the male-dominated spaces they have been assumed to be in the past.
Congress held a hearing yesterday on the “Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act,” which would require a one-to-one ratio for toilets in women and men’s bathroom facilities in federal buildings. The bill, sponsored by Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), requires any buildings constructed, undergoing major renovations, or leased, to be constructed “in such a way that the number of toilets in women’s restrooms will equal or exceed the number of toilets (including urinals) in men’s restrooms.”
During the hearing, Kathryn Anthony, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne architecture professor, said “Until recently, most architects, contractors, engineers, building-code officials and clients were not concerned about this issue…They rarely contacted women about their restroom needs; women were rarely employed in these male-dominated professions, nor were they in a position to effect change.” reported the Washington Post. During the hearing, increased risk of urinary tract infections, cystitis, abdominal pain, or other health problems associated with long lines at restrooms were also mentioned.
According to Huliq, Towns said last month that disparate restroom facilities have long “served as manifestations of more deeply rooted problems of discrimination among race, physical ability and gender.
An equal number of restrooms are of course a great first step. But why stop there? Why not mandate that every federal building have a designated and properly equipped lactation room available for nursing mothers, in order to make it easier for women to return to work while still caring for their young. Or even better, a federally mandated in office daycare center in each building, something that would greatly improve the working and personal lives of both men and women working at government jobs.
As much as it is great to recognize that all people urinate, real strides in gender equality will be found when we ease the burden of childcare that often rests on the women, and make it easier both for mothers to work and raise children, and for fathers to shoulder more of the responsibilities.