Sunday, July 8, 2012

Public Restrooms Are Sexist Segregation.

  I watched The Ides of March a while back (good movie, worth watching), and there was a point made in it in passing, which is what I wanna talk about today. I should preface this by saying that this is pretty strictly an American issue, because I can't address how this is viewed in other cultures or is represented in media.
  I propose that having separate restrooms for men and women is equivalent to segregation. As long as men aren't allowed into women's restrooms and vice versa (and they aren't, really, even if there is no specific law saying so, because many places prosecute on a sexual harassment basis), I consider this an infringement upon basic rights and discrimination by gender.
  I'd like to quote the decision of the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case.
"We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment."
  Did you catch that? I'll paraphrase: "Separate but equal is unconstitutional because separate means inherently unequal." I know they were talking about educational facilities, but the same principle was then applied to buses, and train cars, and all other manner of public facilities. I've yet to understand what makes restrooms different.
  Oh, I know there are some arguments, of course. There is the, "I don't wanna see the other gender naked every time I walk into a restroom" argument, but I don't see guys naked every time I walk into a men's restroom, so I think that point is moot. If it doesn't apply now, it certainly wouldn't apply then. There's also the, "It would make sex in restrooms way too easy" argument, but, the way I see it, we're making it unfairly easy at present for gay couples. Now, I've met people who want to discriminate against gay couples before (which I am most definitely and completely against, by the way, and not afraid to say it), but never anyone who wanted to discriminate against STRAIGHT couples.
  My friend said she didn't want to have to explain to her young kids, when she had them, the differences between men and women before the kids were ready. I may choose to address this in more detail in a later essay, but I think explaining these differences casually in a non-sexual way when children are young can obviate more problems than it creates. I personally am of the conviction that a sheltered existence causes more problems in the long run than the few it postpones are worth.
  And think of the BENEFITS! Not having to walk all the way down a hall (or even just around a corner, when you're in hurry) to find the next men's restroom, being able to optimize usage of floor space in a building (imagine how many restrooms are in a large mall, and what having half, or even a quarter, of that space available to stores would mean for business), NOT DOING SOMETHING UNCONSTITUTIONAL. This isn't just an archaic and esoteric conversation, though it may be arbitrary; there are some obvious practical applications. "Because it's awkward," is not a valid reason to violate the Constitution.
  If people are unwilling to consider this, I would at least like them to accept that they are not as committed to equality and "the American Dream" as they might have me believe. I find that pursuing the ideals listed in the Constitution or ingrained in the subconscious of the American people often requires thoughts previously considered blasphemous. If we don't take the ideals to the extreme that they should reach, then I think a constitutional amendment is in order, stating that we do not discriminate by sex EXCEPT in the case of public restrooms, because OBVIOUSLY that is a worthy place to draw the line on the principle of liberty. (That was sarcasm. It doesn't translate well in writing.)

Men Women Bathroom 2 Clip Art
The symbols of oppression.

- Adarsh Nednur

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  1. Separating restrooms by gender is segregation. However, it is a mutual segregation, and it is indeed a good thing. Segregation is only bad when it's discriminatory, or hurts one or more of the segregated parties in any substantial way. This, however, is accepted by both parties and it harms neither of them. Also, this particular brand of segregation preserves one’s right to privacy, which can be viewed as extension of the “liberty” guaranteed in the Due Process Clause of the 14 Amendment. To force men and women to use the same restroom would be stripping them (see what I did there?) of their privacy.

    What is there to be gained by combining male and female bathrooms? In most cases, the men and women's restrooms are right next to each other, meaning that there is no significant amount of space wasted with the current setup. Moreover, one could argue that having one bathroom for the two separate genders would necessitate doubling the current size of a male or female restroom (except with more hydro-inefficient stalls) in order to accommodate women, who tend to have a more difficult time handling their bathroom affairs while on their feet. The anatomical differences between men and women alone are enough to justify the existence of two separate bathrooms. Also, the benefits which stem from these differences speak for themselves. To address the elephant in the stall (it's late, and toilet humor can only be so clean as it is), it definitely is, and may always be "awkward" to defecate while someone of the opposite sex is in the same room (especially if it's not a bathroom). The male and female anatomies are different, and the general lack of familiarity which is a result of this creates a modicum of uncomfortability which could prove very difficult to overcome if the two separate genders were forced to share one restroom. What of those who already find it difficult to be around the opposite sex? Wouldn't having one bathroom be discriminating against them?

  2. (There is a limit on how many characters I can post at a time, so here is the rest)

    Several forms of segregation which are ever-present in our lives are overlooked on a daily basis because they are logical and necessary for the structural and peaceful conduction of our day-to-day lives. For instance, in school, students are segregated by age. It is in no way malicious or discriminatory, in fact, it's a very healthy segregation. By grouping students according to age, you allow them to maximize their learning capacity by learning alongside those whose pace and level of understanding is closer to theirs. By the same principle, we have AP and Gifted/Talented programs. Should those be eradicated because they discriminate against students who have a faster learning curve? Or kids who have a slower learning curve? Is the existence of 50 separate states unconstitutional? Certainly not, quite the contrary. Although, following your logic, you could and should abolish segregation at all levels, in all places, until everyone in America is living in one state, in one mega-city, under one single-party, unicameral government. This would be truly constitutional, right? Nothing is separate, everything is equal. Harrison Bergeron (a fictional character in a short story by Kurt Vonnegut) wouldn’t stand a chance.

    This, not mutual segregation, is the substance of opposition to “the American Dream.” The American Dream is not about equality, although that is an intrinsic part of it. It is all about choice, and the unchecked freedom of the individual to take advantage of each and every single opportunity which presents itself. Equality is simply a concept which allows us to sustain and enjoy this freedom because it asserts that every human is equally entitled to what the Declaration refers to as “unalienable rights,” which can be viewed as a list of ideals which protect one’s freedom to make one’s own decisions. Freedom of choice is at the core of the American Dream, and the Constitution was written to protect said freedom. As opposed to forcing everyone to use the same bathroom, effectively robbing them of their freedom of choice and most likely forcing them into a situation which is uncomfortable for everyone, creating more unisex bathrooms would be a much more “constitutional” approach to addressing the unjust “infringement upon basic rights” that is the segregation of restrooms by gender.

    1. Allow me to apologize, please, dumbrains, for being so irresponsible as to reply weeks later. I also enjoy reading anything that completely refutes everything I've said, and you've written my two favorite comments on the whole blog, if only for the "especially if it's not a bathroom" line. Also, kudos on the Kurt Vonnegut reference. I don't remember the story, but I know I read it in middle school and was blown away. I should reread it.
      I was thinking of some other possible benefits to this idea, and it occurred to me that it would be much more comfortable for transexuals and other people of nontraditional gender or sex identities, many of whom often face the problem of not being able to go to the restroom in which they feel they belong. Also, as far as the examples of "segregation" you brought up, I think the difference is that every student has the opportunity to move up in grade level, given time, or move to a different state. (Arguably, AP and gifted/talented does/doesn't work the same way. That's merit-based, though, which different restrooms aren't.) I think this would probably be solved most effectively, though, like you said, if more unisex bathrooms were created.
      But, really, I think I half wrote this essay in a satirical sense to point out exactly what you did (if only to myself), that equality is not what Americans value most. I'd been arguing with myself about the (at the very least on-paper) benefits of communism as compared to capitalism, at least under the value system of Americans who claim to value equality more than anything else. I think this was the example I needed to break it to myself that complete equality is not the highest ideal.
      Seriously, I'd love it if you'd write for us, dumbrains. This is the most intelligent thing I've read in a long time. I love when someone more intelligent than me tells me why I'm wrong. : D

      -Adarsh Nednur

    2. Thanks for your reply, Adarsh, I thorougly enjoyed reading it, as I did your original post. Also, I'm glad you enjoyed reading my comments, although, it's much easier to attack an argument than to put one together, so don't be too impressed! I've actually been interested in writing for you guys since I first started reading this blog, and I've read through the whole process before, so I'll send something to you guys soon.

    3. Cool! I look forward to it eagerly.

      - Adarsh Nednur

  3. I'm certain that Adarsh will get back to you when he's organized his thoughts again, but, until then, would you have any interest in writing for us, dumbrains? Contact any of us on Facebook or email QuestionsBarAnswers (at) gmail (dot) com.

    P.S. I thoroughly enjoy reading anything that trounces Adarsh's ideas. It gives me a subconscious feeling of superiority. -Jason Rossiter