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Had It with Long Lines for the Women's Room?

For lunch today, an open thread. I'll start:

Some guys just do not understand certain things about life as a girl/woman.

Take the guy who shot this video over the summer in Prince Edward Island. The line for the women's restroom is out the door and into the parking lot. The line for the men's room is not. Having had maybe enough of that age-old scenario, the girlwomenpeople start queuing up for the opposite sex's loo.

Our camerman: "A new low! A new low!"

Dude, wait on lines like I've waited on lines and then editorialize. Or talk to Kathryn Anthony, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who told us today about so-called potty parity laws.

Bonus: Potty parity haunts St. Louis arena

Comments

 

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I know here in Vermont they allow women's bathrooms to have more toilets than required, giving consideration to the "line issue". As a guy I have little knowledge of why exactly the dynamic works this way (women take longer, I guess?).

But wouldn't the solution be to scrap the seperate facilities and open larger uni-sex restrooms? My college fiddled with this concept in the dorms and it seemed to work fairly well. I would think the law of averages would come into play and you could design the number of fixtures based on an average bathroom trip between male and female.

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 1:05 PM | 5-12-2008

I heard the interview. I have been pregnant w/a fetus jamming her elbow into my bladder while trying NOT to lose control in a line for a bathroom stall. And I have commandeered the Men's Room when my toddler was ready to lose it all over the floor outside a full Women's restroom. Remember: every mom w/a boy too young to use the Men's room himself should count double!

Sent by T. Weiss | 1:32 PM | 5-12-2008

One argument against the concept of "potty parity" is that it often doesn't exist even if there's the same number of men's rooms and women's rooms. In college, I used to work for my brother's commercial cleaning service, so I've been in more women's restrooms than most guys, and in the average building's restrooms, the women's room might have, say, four stalls, whereas a men's room of the same size is likely to have two stalls and four urinals. So right there, two more men can pee than women at any given time!

Sent by Stewart | 1:52 PM | 5-12-2008

Segregated restrooms have never made any sense to me. In college I lived on a coed floor and the bathroom nearest my room (shared by maybe twenty residents) was coed, and there was never any friction or disrespect or inappropriateness (well, occasionally people would have sex in the shower, but that happened in the single-sex bathrooms just as often). If college kids can handle it, why can't adults?

I would also like to know why such long lines form at ladies' rooms. I had a girlfriend who always--always--beat me out of the restroom when we happened to go at the same time, so I'm pretty sure there's nothing intrinsic to womanhood that makes it take longer excepting, of course, a few days out of each month. Are ladies' rooms built with fewer fixtures? I'm sure a urinal takes up less space than a stall, but don't architects account for this? Is it bathroom design that's sexist?

Anyhow, if I saw that a long queue had formed at the ladies' room and there was none at the men's, I wouldn't begrudge their choice to queue for the men's as well. I wonder how most women would feel if the reverse took place.

Sent by Jordan Running | 1:53 PM | 5-12-2008

@Jordan: at the risk of speaking for womankind, I'll step up to answer this question, which Leigh pondered before.

The difference is simply that it's a lot quicker for men to pee than women. Think about it. Step up, unzip, there you go. It's a process best measured in seconds.

The simple fact that women first have to go into a stall, close the door, lock the door and then open the door just by itself adds to the longer time it takes for a woman. Then there's the more complicated clothing issues involved in the lowering of trousers or the gathering of skirts. That's actually the bulk of the increased time right there.

And god help us if the last person in the stall was a hoverer. I repeat, I used to work in commercial cleaning, and I have a message on behalf of my fellow custodial engineers to all of the women who won't allow their bums to touch a foreign surface: Y'ALL ARE GROSS! I really didn't appreciate having to mop the floor after you, so I can imagine how the woman who used the stall next felt when she hiked up her jeans and they were damp in places they hadn't been before.

Sent by Stewart | 2:34 PM | 5-12-2008

Stewart's comments about hoverers are hysterical! Very accurate based on my experience in some public restrooms. BUT I worked on the maintenance staff while in college and cleaned the men's dorms after they left. There is NO comparison w/the gross factor in my book. I cannot even describe the stuff we found in that dorm restroom since my comment may be publicly posted on the Internet. Nasty.

Sent by T. Weiss | 4:34 PM | 5-12-2008

Stewart's comments about hoverers are hysterical! Very accurate based on my experience in some public restrooms. BUT I worked on the maintenance staff while in college and cleaned the men's dorms after they left. There is NO comparison w/the gross factor in my book. I cannot even describe the stuff we found in that dorm restroom since my comment may be publicly posted on the Internet. Nasty.

Sent by T. Weiss | 4:34 PM | 5-12-2008

I wonder if the people who designed the stadia and other public venues assumed that the majority of customers would be men.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 5:33 PM | 5-12-2008

Per the International Building Code (which i believe is enforced in much of the US), architects are required to provide more toilets for woman than for men. Not sure what kind of research was done on the 'potty parity laws' but i just programmed a conference center and code required 14 toilets for women and only 4 toilets and 5 urinals for men. That's five more fixtures for the women.

Sent by kristine | 5:51 PM | 5-12-2008

While I'm a huge fan of not waiting in line to use the restroom, using the excuse of needing more women's rooms so that women can breastfeed their babies is ludicrous!!! A baby should never be fed in a restroom of any kind regardless of the method of feeding. Why that even had to come up in the conversation is insulting!!

Sent by shllywlly | 7:47 PM | 5-12-2008

I'm a building engineer, and I've had to clean restrooms in past jobs. So I'd put my experiences up against any "academician".

Women just need to pee faster.
They need to not hover.
They need to wear clothes that are easy access.
They need to get over their pee shyness.
They need to pee when they first feel the need to pee (I've never been brow beaten so badly as when I've been mopping the floor in a women's restroom when someone finally decides to go).

It's a problem of behavioral nonsense and excuse making is not the answer.

Sent by jw | 9:00 PM | 5-12-2008

I'm with T. Weiss. I had a summer job once cleaning restrooms. At a campgrounds. No comparison at all--the men's room was waaay grosser than the women's room. I think it's because the men have =ahem= more distance from the source of contamination so they aren't as incentivized to keep it clean.

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 9:28 PM | 5-12-2008

jw, I just pray that you never have to pass a baby through a birth canal and then have someone tell you a few months later to pee faster, get over your shyness while dealing w/monthly cycle issues, and know exactly when you need to go. Personally, I don't dress for easy voiding availability as you suggest, but then again I'm sure we'd all look lovely in such outfits.

Sent by T. Weiss | 10:42 PM | 5-12-2008

Okay, that's just weird. See, MY experience was that the women's room was usually way grosser than the men's room. At places like department stores or restaurants, I was willing to believe that it was because the mom was more likely to take the kids into the washroom than the dad was, and the kids would make a mess. But then I started cleaning the women's rooms in, like, nightclubs. And that was where I was once and for all disabused of the notion that women were intrinsically daintier than men. I mean, guys at least TRIED to aim at the bowl when they vomited.

Sent by Stewart | 10:45 PM | 5-12-2008

As one who has stood in line at multiple venues, I would like to relate a story recently. I was at a show at the Charolettesville Pavillon in VA. It was wonderful to be able to actually see a show. The ratio of bathrooms was wonderful and although I'm somewhat ashamed, I liked seeing my husband and friends standing in lines. The men were very upset and complaining how unfair it was. One man commented that when he bought a beer he might as well go ahead and get in line. Many of the women said "welcome to our world!" I can remember many times I have missed bulks of shows by standing in line. Also, there are a few women who hang around in the bathroom but for most of us, we don't want to be in there any longer than necessary as we have already stood in the line for sometimes 10 to 20 minutes. But also I have noticed that most women do take time to wash their hands afterward as well so that does add to our time.

Sent by Karma | 8:36 AM | 5-13-2008

@jw: how about you just cut to the chase and started with "women just need to get themselves a penis"? That would solve all your problems, I think.

I'm just amazed at the videographer: "a new low"???? Huh???? Yes, I imagine using a toilet previously visited by this doobob would be a low for anyone. Idiot.

That being said, I think there is a great deal of curiosity among men as to what goes on in women's restrooms. Not anything naughty, but just what in the world are they doing there all that time? I always imagined there were sofas for them to lie down on when they had vapors. Before you accuse me of being sexist, remember that I am describing my thoughts from when I was 10 years old. Don't hold my childhood stupidity against me now please...

:)

Sent by Marc Naimark | 10:03 AM | 5-13-2008

Well, I know my wife (bless her heart) held on during our flight from Chicago because she didn't want to disturb the guy on the aisle seat. When we landed, the bathroom in the terminal was longer the line to get on the plane. She held on (again) until we made it to baggage claim. And, no, my wife is very fast in the bathroom, faster than I am.

One more thing. It is the time it takes for women to go to the bathroom, but it's also the amount of real estate dedicated to bathrooms. The same amount of space for a toilet can fit more urinals. In order to accomplish the same acts, it would require women's bathrooms to be twice as large as men's bathrooms.

I know how much pain I'm in when I have to wait in those lines from outdoor rock concerts. If the law has to change so that women like my wife don't have to run a marathon before she gets some relief, so be it.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 11:52 AM | 5-13-2008

Oh wow a law to give women more toilets, about time! Can I get an amen from the other women out there?! I have sooo had it with the abyss that is endless line to the ladies room! I can't even begin to count the number of hours, wait hours, probably more like WEEKS of my life I must've spent waiting in line while the men whiz in and out without any wait at all. It is seriously ridiculous that women have to wait to do such a basic, and often very urgent and compelling, biological function that men can do without waiting. I don't have penis envy, I'm just a bit jealous that having a penis entitles men to a bathroom fastpass. You saw a men's line, really was this in a parallel universe?! I've NEVER seen any men's line where the women's wasn't at least 10 times as long. Would love to see the situation reversed. I feel no sympathy for those men who had to wait and complain it's unfair. Oh wow you had to wait on line for a change, boo hoo. What a tragic injustice that a man has to wait on line. Guess what women have to wait ALL THE TIME. Didn't seem to think it was wrong when a woman has to wait, that's somehow perfectly fair. Maybe now this will give you more sympathy for your sisters, wives and girlfriends, but I doubt it. I don't like to whine and complain but it is so annoying to have to wait, men just have no idea. And what is most annoying is that it took years, even decades for women to get these laws passed and after just a few complaints from men already the laws are getting strong and immediate backlash. We just can't win, it's a man's world I guess :P.

Ok I have to respond to this, it just needs to be said

Women just need to pee faster.-Really how do you propose we do that? We can't exactly just whip it out like guys do. I pee as quick as I can and don't dwaddle, believe me. It just takes us longer, it can't helped.

They need to not hover.-I partially agree. It is quite annoying to need a toilet and see a million other women peed all over the seat. This pretty much compounds the problem cause once one person pees on the seat everyone to follow does. I try to be considerate. If I pee on the seat I wipe it off. Just for the record though so long as the seat is not dirty I will sit. Hovering is uncomfortable, degrading and unnecessary. There's a reason there is a toilet seat ladies YOUR SUPPOSSED TO SIT ON IT! Biologically we are designed to pee sitting, if God had meant us to hover we'd have been born squatting ;). Sorry had to vent here.

They need to wear clothes that are easy access.- It's not a matter of clothes, it's a matter of disrobing to go. This isn't that huge of an issue now as most women wear pants, at least where I live they do. I try to dress as uncomplicated as possible though women shouldn't be forced to sacrifice fadhion sense for the sake of urination.

They need to get over their pee shyness.-Pee Shyness is really more of a male problem from what I've read. I guess your suggesting we all just squat side by side like guys do. Personally I don't know how any guys can pee side by side at troughs, gross! Women have to expose their buttoms to pee, I think this entitles us to some privacy. Besides which what if you need to poop? I'm not a terrible prude but I would die of embarassment if I had to poop in the open like that! As it is I won't do #2 in public unless it's an emergency. I'll admit here though I'm pretty shy and find it hard to go if other women are listening or talking, ack!

They need to pee when they first feel the need to pee (I've never been brow beaten so badly as when I've been mopping the floor in a women's restroom when someone finally decides to go).-Umm I can't speak for everyone but I DO pee when I first feel the need. Of course sometimes this isn't possible and I have to hold and hold and hold. At rest stops, theaters, stadiums often people will wait until intermission to go, why should we miss whatever event it is we are watching. We didn't pay to spend that time in the bathroom. At intermissions or after a movie I'll literally sprint to the restroom to try to beat the line but you know what there will still be a long line! Even running to the toilet there will often be a line out the door. I will never understand the logic of putting 5 stalls in the ladies room at events that seat 100s or 1000s and give you only 15 minutes to go! Also some women have to do #2 which takes more time. Women have to use 5 stalls for #1 and #2 and female issues which=more time. Men can juust use urinals if someone's taking a dump. I've also read that women's bladders tend to fill up faster than mens and the urge strikes more suddenly. Men often feel the need build up gradually so can hold longer. Women won't feel the urge until later and then will suddenly have to go very bad. So unlike guys when we need a bathroom we often cannot wait as long, we need it NOW!

Sorry just had to get that off my chest and I'll thank you men not to stare at that! I thought it funny that someone suggested the candidates offer potty parity to win votes, I think that just might work lol. That could get you half the voters right there :). As a libertarian however this does go a bit against my anti-nanny state views. I'd really rather see the market solve the problem but so far it doesn't seem to be doing so. Left on it's own I'm not confident I'll see shorter lines anytime soon, if ever. And I won't totally deny that alot of women, myself included I'll admit, often do waste alot of time primping, washing hands and chatting but in this case I'll be a little less libertarian lol. So C'mon guys show some sympathy and let us go pee! Support Potty Parity!

Sent by Jill | 9:21 AM | 5-18-2008

Interesting topic. While I'm not unsympathetic ladies I'm afraid I'll have to voice my opposition to this unnecessary law. Something Jill said I feel sums up why as it brought to mind some experiences of my own.

"I don't have penis envy, I'm just a bit jealous that having a penis entitles men to a bathroom fastpass. You saw a men's line, really was this in a parallel universe?! I've NEVER seen any men's line where the women's wasn't at least 10 times as long. Would love to see the situation reversed. I feel no sympathy for those men who had to wait and complain it's unfair. Oh wow you had to wait on line for a change, boo hoo. What a tragic injustice that a man has to wait on line. Guess what women have to wait ALL THE TIME. Didn't seem to think it was wrong when a woman has to wait, that's somehow perfectly fair. Maybe now this will give you more sympathy for your sisters, wives and girlfriends, but I doubt it. I don't like to whine and complain but it is so annoying to have to wait, men just have no idea. And what is most annoying is that it took years, even decades for women to get these laws passed and after just a few complaints from men already the laws are getting strong and immediate backlash. We just can't win, it's a man's world I guess :P."

Ok here's my problem with these so called "Potty Parity" laws. When you get down to it they don't really create parity, they merely reverse the inequality and put the burden on men, reverse discrimination. It's taking men's restrooms and making them ladies rooms. I'll admit that we men have had it pretty good in this regard so I can somewhat sympathetize, but Jill, how is it ok for men to have lines while women don't? This is basically the same problem:One gender has to wait, the other doesn't, only now it's a wait for men. I guess that's ok to women so long as they aren't the ones waiting. From what I have observed this seems to be a common attitude. I won't deny men can be jerks but hell hath no fury like a line of angry women! I've been to plenty of places where there was a long line for the ladies but the men were considerate and did not complain when the women forcibly commendeered OUR restroom. Had men done the same thing we'd have been arrested! And while there will occasionally be men who will make a snide remark about the women's line most are quite willing to offer the women access to the men's room in times of need. However there was this one time I recall, one of those rare reversals Jill mentioned, and the women behaved quite similarly. Honestly they were practically cheering like it was the greatest thing they'd ever seen. I can understand how it would be amusing but really who is being unsympathetic here? Most women would probably behave with just as much, if not more, indifference towards men if the situation were reversed. Women are way more vindictive on these matters, no sexism intended ;). Men being forced to wait is no less unjust.

What's the solution then. Some have suggested unisex restrooms but those have obvious issues about privacy etc. Plus I wouldn't want some woman checking me out at the urinals, assuming they have them. Personally I don't see unisex as solving it. Assuming no urinals doesn't this just compound the problem? Essentially you'll have likely fewer stalls but both genders having to share meaning long lines for everyone. Perhaps it will be more fair since men will have to wait with women, but much more irritating. Maybe I'm going to sound really chauvenistic and unsympathetic here but it seems that there is no real solution. If the idea of potty parity is to equalize waits then guys are kind of in a lose-lose situation. Since men can pee in a minute or two and women often taking 10-20 or more equalizing waits would simply result in shortening women's lines by increasing men's. Even where women have had many more bathrooms there is often still a line. Really if you want things EQUAL the correct ratio of men's to women's rooms should be 1:1. Maybe that won't solve the problem but at least it won't increase it. If women can't pee fast enough should men have to wait longer as a result, I say No! Sorry Ladies but I've got to look out for my own interests here. Men don't like waiting either!

Sent by Arthur | 4:06 AM | 5-19-2008