Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pees and queues

Now don't laugh, this is a serious issue. The habitual rationing of women's toilets, and the constant queues of frustrated females outside them, has been taken up by British MPs.

Men may just chuckle at all the impatient faces as they make a lightning visit to the gents, but all the women who regularly have to put up with long waits are far from amused.

As far as they're concerned, they're being treated as second-class citizens yet again, their needs apparently still not as important as those of high-powered, overstretched males with not a second to waste.

Even brand-new buildings, and ones recently refurbished, still have inadequate female toilets, despite the obvious additional need.

So a committee of MPs are pressing for a duty on local authorities to improve toilet provision, with at least double the number of toilets for women - since they not only use them more often but usually for twice as long.

As one expert puts it, they take longer "thanks to a range of sartorial, biological and functional issues". Or in plain English, menstruation, layers of sexy underwear and dodgy bladders. Not as some men seem to think, perfecting their make-up and exposing more cleavage.

New York City and 16 US states have already recognised that women need double the toilet provision of men. And New Zealand requires that no woman should wait more than three minutes for a toilet.

Recent British gender legislation provides for "services of like quality" to men and women. A test case in relation to female toilets could bring a few long-overdue improvements. And who knows, maybe no more queues.

The British government is to make it illegal to use prostitutes who have been trafficked into the country or who work for pimps or drug traffickers. However a similar law in Finland has so far not brought any prosecutions.


  1. AMEN! When I was at the Women's conference at the Long Beach Convention Center, I was horrified by the fact that bathrooms in this place only had two or three stalls for women. At one point I waited over 1/2 an hour and by the time I got to the stall, it was out of toilet paper! Nightmare!

    Anyway, I hope more stalls for women becomes the norm.

  2. i hope this extends to ireland, i have been to the gents so many times as i just can't stand the queues at the ladies!!!

  3. Sorry, my SEP field has kicked in.

  4. I hope they find out why women always feel the need to go together to the loo - if they just went one at a time we wouldn't need more toilets.
    My wife doesn't wear make-up but she still goes to 'powder her nose' - could she be on drugs?

    These are the kind of things that keep me awake at night

  5. Liz - A half-hour wait, that's outrageous. Clearly the American toilet upgrading hasn't reached Long Beach yet.

    Tatty - I'm not sure if the new British law covers Northern Ireland. I haven't a clue about southern Ireland - as a Dubliner, you tell me!

    Thrifty - Somebody else's problem? You must be one of those blokes who chuckles at the lines of women....

    Quicky - I thought women went to the loo together to gossip and swop notes on the most attractive guys. Not to actually use the toilet.

  6. I am so glad you posted on this - I was starting to feel like an over the top feminist when I complained about the sexism in the toilet facilities at my workplace.

    In the university where I work, they stagger the toilets by floor - and almost all of the toilets on the main corridors are male. On most of the floors where only a female toilet is available, there is a unisex toilet. This is not the case for the floors where there are men's rooms. It is enraging, and in my mind, blatently sexist!

  7. FG, that's scandalous - both the lack of female toilets and the "female" unisex one. And that's the problem - if you complain about it, people think you're being obsessive or petty or loony-feminist, or all three.

  8. Rather than stand around I now unapologetically use the disabled toilet or to give it the correct name – toilet for the disabled – seldom used, clean and plenty of room.

    ‘Ladies go in 2s’ so that they have someone to chat while in the queue and hold the handbag while at the task, since most loos have no place to hang or stand it.

  9. Grannymar - I do the same on the rare occasion that the men's is full. As you say, they're hardly ever used, and I can easily leave if required.

  10. Great title for the post, Nick, as usual. You come up with a tee-hee nearly always!
    I'm with everyone else on this. It is shameful how because they are so underprovided and overused, many, many times there is no toiletpaper and a hasty digaround for tissues from waiting bystanders has to be passed under the stall door.
    It's about bloody time something was legislated.
    It all goes back to that famous phrase of the seventies, right?
    "If men bled, menstruation would be a sacrament".
    With free Kotex and tampons no doubt and five days off a month for the cramps. And toilet stalls with daybeds for a lie down.

  11. www - Is there any Canadian legislation on this? By the sound of your experiences, definitely not. Yes, if men bled it would be a really big deal, a bit like man-flu. And they'd have four times as many toilets as women.

  12. I did wonder, when I read this post today, whether these were designed by women to get there own back?!

  13. Excellent Douglas Adams awareness there. No I don't chuckle, but I usually have a fairly fixed purpose in mind to the exclusion of all else at that time. Anyway when the queue get's long they typically invade the gents and use the cubicles in there.

  14. Suburbia - That link isn't working right now, I'll try again later.

    Thrifty - Must admit I cheated and Googled it. Hmmm, women don't invade the gents in my experience. They must be a bit bolshier down south.

  15. I always thought men went more often actually. Maybe that's just me. It is probably the best advantage of being male - the easiness to relieve your bladder.

  16. Conor - Men take an average 35 seconds, women at least 60 seconds. As you say, it's very handy being a bloke when nature calls.

  17. Suburbia - I read that Madonna insists on a new loo seat at every tour venue. Presumably not just new but thoroughly disinfected.

    Still can't connect to that link, sorry.

  18. Menstruation, layers of sexy underwear and dodgy bladders. - I take umbrance! My bladder can sustain me for about 12 hours thanks to my public toilet phobia! Why don't we cotton on to the unisex loo thing?

  19. Baino - Lucky you, having such a resilient bladder! Mine's a bit more temperamental unfortunately. I suppose the reason for separate loos was in case men made a nuisance of themselves with the ladies....

  20. As a planner I have been concerned about the poor provision of ladies toilets and I have arranged for an e petition to be posted by the Welsh Assembly. One does not have to be resident in Wales to sign it and perhaps any success could be replicated in other parts of the UK. If there are enough signatures a committee will consider the matter and amend the proposal according to its powers and concerns. The deadline ids 29th February 2012.
    The petition is as follows and the link is pasted below.

    Simon Williams-Jones MRTPI

    We the undersigned call on the National Assembly to urge the Welsh Government to amend building regulations to require increased provision of ladies toilets at public entertainment venues.
    Please go to this link if you’d like to support this
    or go to the Welsh Assembly website
    and search for epetitions

    • Life & style
    • Women
    Time to end loo queues
    Why must women, who often have leaky children in tow, always have to queue for a ladies' loo? Isn't it time for a loo revolution?

    o Share 122
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    • Comments (53)
    • Maureen Paton
    • guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 July 2011 21.31 BST
    • Article history
    If there is one thing guaranteed to frustrate women everywhere, it's the eternal queue for the ladies' loo. We have to wait in line, with legs crossed, in workplaces, department stores, clubs, cinemas and theatres. Meanwhile men, with their space-saving urinals, can smugly whiz in and out.
    Perhaps it is the fact that space-saving urinals give them twice as many places to pee as women. Or perhaps it is the fact that most male architects, town planners and sanitary engineers are unaware of the problem. Or maybe it is all just a cunning conspiracy to keep us indoors?
    As women still do most of the shopping – often with leaky toddlers in tow – and need extra "comfort" breaks for menstruation and the bladder problems of pregnancy, isn't it time there was a toilet revolution?
    Enter the London-based Women's Design Service (WDS), which first published a bad-loo guide, called At Women's Convenience, 11 years ago. In response to more closures of public lavatories they are hosting the UK's first seminar on the subject later this month.
    "It's the last gender frontier in the struggle for equality – restricting women's freedom of movement is like a purdah," says the University of the West of England's Professor Clara Greed, one of the seminar speakers.
    While wacky contraptions such as Shewees allow women to do it standing up at, say, rock festivals, it does require you dress for the occasion. "Wearing jeans is seen as a sign of equality with men, but historically women's skirts were much more practical – the Georgians would think nothing of squatting over gutters," points out Greed.
    But most of us still prefer to pee behind closed doors. "Cubicles are our urinals, so we need an equal number to the men," insists Michelle Barkley, technical director of Chapman Taylor Architects, and another WDS speaker.
    Providing more toilets is seen as a drain on resources, but Greed argues that wasted public foyer space could easily be modified for more female cubicles. The problem is that women are so used to their second-class status that although they grumble to each other in those damn queues, they

  21. Simon - Glad to hear about the petition. I've added my signature. The general inadequacy of women's public toilet provision is a disgrace.