Women’s and men’s washrooms: we encounter them nearly every time we venture into public space. To many people the separation of the two, and the signs used to distinguish them, may seem innocuous and necessary. Trans people know that this is not the case, and that public battles have been waged over who is allowed to use which washroom. The segregation of public washrooms is one of the most basic ways that the male-female binary is upheld and reinforced.
As such, washroom signs are very telling of the way societies construct gender. They identify the male as the universal and the female as the variation. They express expectations of gender performance. And they conflate gender with sex.
I present here for your perusal, a typology and analysis of various washroom signs.
[Editor: After the jump because there are dozens of them… which is why Marissa’s post is so awesome…]
The Universal Male
One of the ideas that supports patriarchy is the notion that a man can be representative of all humanity, or “mankind”, while a woman could only be representative of other women. For example, in politics we see “women’s issues” segregated from everybody issues.
Washroom signs illustrate this idea by depicting the male figure simply, and the female as some kind of elaboration on the male figure. This sign expresses in words what many do with images:
The most common type of washroom sign, pictured at the top of this post, is another example. Typically, these signs depict men as people, and women as people in skirts:
In Iran, men are depicted as people, and women are people in skirts and hijabs:
Occasionally, we see that men are people, and women are people with waists:
Which highlights the absurdity of the construction of gendered bodies because, well, men have waists too.
In this sign, we see that men have torsos, and women have floating, disembodied boobs:
Women also sprout tentacles from their heads
Finally, we have a sign that, while patronizingly insulting, is interesting in that it takes the assumption of the universal male to its logical conclusion. That is, if “men” is interchangeable with “people”, and women aren’t men, then women can’t really be considered people at all, can they?
That is, if “men” is interchangeable with “people,” and women aren’t men, then women can’t really be considered people at all. But who wants to be a person when you can be a beautiful, delicate flower instead?
There is another kind of washroom sign that, although based on the men-are-people/women-are-people-in-dresses trope, doesn’t quite fit. These signs depict men and women as triangles.
One is not an elaboration of the other. They are both simply triangles. These signs remain problematic, though, because they construct men and women as fundamentally opposite to one another. It also assumes that the viewer understands that the triangle side signifies either shoulders or a skirt, and that is not a given. Which becomes apparent when you consider this sign:
Unlike the previous signs, here the downwards pointing triangle identifies the women’s washroom, and the upwards pointing triangle signifies the men’s washroom. I assume that the angles are supposed to represent torpedo boobs and a pitched tent.
Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
In controversies over who is allowed to use which washroom, a recurring theme is the conflation of gender, sex and sexuality, as cis women insist on treating male-bodied women as some kind of threatening sexual predators. This conflation is illustrated by washroom signs themselves, which sometimes designate washrooms by gender, and sometimes by sex, sometimes accompanied by assumptions about sexuality.
Many washroom signs do not depict the male as a universal stick figure. Instead, the distinction is made by playing up differences between how masculinity and femininity are performed. In doing so, the signs communicate essentializing notions about what makes a man or a woman. Most often, it is style of dress.
This pair of signs is interesting, because it might not immediately be apparent to the modern viewer that the individual pictured on the sign for the men’s washroom is, in fact, male. It shows that the styles we associate with masculinity are not universal across time and space.
Then we have these signs which universalize gender performance to apply it to the insect world:
Butterflies are naturally feminine because they’re pretty, and beetles are naturally masculine because they’re not pretty.
Even more suggestive of the notion that “clothing makes the man” and woman, are the signs which do not show people at all, but just gendered apparel.
Some signs incorporate gendered posture: the woman is canting, or has her eyes demurely cast downward, while the man has his feet firmly planted on the ground, displaying his physical strength.
These are also suggestive of the behaviour we expect from men and women – women should be coy and submissive; men brash and dominating.
After stick-figures, signs showing different styles of dress for men and women seem to be the most common way to designate men’s and women’s washrooms. However, like transphobic people, some signs focus on what’s under the clothes. A couple of the following photos might be mildly NSFW.
These signs are of several kinds. All are essentializing and erase trans people and people with atypical sex organs.
The first is men-have-penises/women-have-breasts. I believe that these are indicative of the degree to which breasts have been sexualized in our society as, like the sign below, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that women have genitalia, and hence construct breasts as the female equivalent of the penis.
The second group is men-have-penises/women-have-vaginas.
It seems that vaginas are shown attached to women to a far lesser extent than breasts are.
Somewhat related to the last category are the signs that pose the question: do you stand or sit when you pee?
(A note from an anonymous commenter: …the photo of the pointers/setters is from a restaurant in Philadelphia called the White Dog Cafe, where I worked for many years. There are four single bathrooms, all named after types of dogs (punny, I know) – and all explicitly non-gendered. Those bathrooms were designed in part with the West Philadelphia queer community in mind; when I worked there I had many LGBTQ coworkers, including someone who was transitioning, and it was an incredibly supportive environment. Duly noted.)
Other signs use the secondary sex characteristics of animals:
This illustrates the way we assume the universality of the gender binary, when it is not universal. For example, hens have been known to behave like roosters, and then develop male secondary sex characteristics, making the news in Sweden and China.
There was also a rooster in Italy who started to lay eggs after a fox killed all the hens.
This sign is even more essentializing, specifying the chromosome pairs you need to use the washroom:
It also universalizes the gender binary to alien races (whose legs conveniently seem to abstractly represent human sex organs) and robots.
Conflating Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
Signs can vary between designating washrooms by sex and by gender because most people assume that they are the same thing.
Her thought bubble: “shopping”; His thought bubble: “football”
This sign covers all the bases. Male as universal/female as variation: He’s a simple egg-shape, she’s wearing a dress and lipstick. Biological sex: He has a minimalist penis, she has minimalist vagina. Gender performance: He’s thinking about football, she’s thinking about shopping. It’s almost funny that the graphic designer felt that so many different elements were necessary. It’s also interesting because it illustrates how total the conflation is and the rigidity of the resulting dichotomy. Women must meet standards of femininity. Men can’t wear lipstick or enjoy shopping. And they certainly can’t have vaginas.
There’s an element of absurdity to it. We don’t segregate washrooms because people have different interests. Nor is it because of people’s wardrobe choices since, obviously, women wear pants. And, as this sign from Utilikilts points out, it’s not unheard of for men to wear skirts.
We segregate washrooms because of sex. Because of the presumed sexual interest of the opposite sex. That is, because of sexuality.
Specifically, because of male heterosexuality, which is assumed to be predatory. Heck, it’s expected and accepted as predatory, to the extent that it’s joked about.
This is unfair to a lot of men. And it becomes an excuse for those men who are predatory.
The segregation of washrooms is based on an assumption of heterosexuality, predatory in men and passive and vulnerable in women; the association of sexuality with sex, and the conflation of sex and gender. In other words, it is nonsensical. One thing we don’t segregate washrooms by is sexuality.
Finally, here are some signs that I just found confusing. In Germany, women are represented by fire, and men are represented by water.
Whereas in Brazil, fire represents men. Women are
represented by flowers…
This one is from Sangunburi Crater, on Jeju Island in South Korea. I’m assuming there’s an explanation for why the woman has a scuba mask on her head, and why the man is golem, but I don’t know what it is.
UPDATE: Several people responded with explanations on threads where this post has been linked. Here is one of them: The woman diver is a haenyeo, or pearl diver – there is an independent haenyo subculture that is actually pretty kick-ass and unique to Jejudo. Only the women dive. ... The golem male represents a traditional totem of men wishing the pearl-divers good luck and safety on their journeys.
From an Applebee’s in Sao Paulo. The red sign is for the women’s washroom. Obviously.
because you value your soul
Dark Roasted Blend 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Akshay Gandhi’s Blog
Funny Photo Collection
1 Design Per Day
Marissa has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Toronto, with minors in sociology and history. She is currently finishing law school, and hopes to practice family law. She has been blogging at This Is Hysteria! for two months, where she writes about social justice issues, politics, culture and working in call centres.
Thanks to Lucy for pointing us to her fantastic post.
If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.
Laura — September 2, 2010
I can perhaps shed some light on the golem/diver dichotomy. On Jeju, there are many small statues made from the island's volcanic rock (kind of like Easter Island) of "grandfathers."
Whereas traditionally, the women of Jeju have been fearless divers in the cold and treacherous water. They dive in search of shellfish, mostly.
That's all I remember from a few visits. I bet Wikipedia could help out too.
Anon — September 2, 2010
So what's an example of a "good" sign?
jfruh — September 2, 2010
There's an Afghan restaurant in Baltimore that uses pictures of peafowl on the doors of its bathroom to identify the intended gender use. I always find this interesting because, in contrast with stereotypes about humans, peacocks (male peafowl) are much more colorful and visually ostentatious than peahens, which means I always have to think for a minute before choosing my bathroom there.
PearsPeach — September 2, 2010
While certainly not all men are predatory, there are plenty of men I've run into who feel that a public space is a good place to harass me.
I personally feel more vulnerable with my pants down, and would never want to share a bathroom with men.
The solution is single stall toilet rooms with a picture of a toilet on the door.
Ellen — September 2, 2010
Unlike the previous signs, here the downwards pointing triangle identifies the women’s washroom, and the upwards pointing triangle signifies the men’s washroom. I assume that the angles are supposed to represent torpedo boobs and a pitched tent.
Is that correct? I interpreted them in the opposite direction (with the men's sign indicating broad shoulders and the women's sign indicating a skirt, or wide hips). I'm curious how the signs were actually used, since I assume the post writer wasn't the one who took the picture.
Of course, if true, that just makes the sign more problematic -- it's still portraying women and men as opposites, PLUS you can't tell which bathroom you're supposed to use.
quickstart — September 2, 2010
In my hometown there's a bar where the washroom signs say "Quarterbacks" and "Receivers."
Whenever I end up there, I always catch someone standing hesitantly in front of the bathroom, not totally clear on where they should be going or how exactly to take these signs. This is actually how I met the love of my life, when I informed him he was a quarterback - he'd been standing there for a while - he said, "I know. It's just so offensive."
Jack — September 2, 2010
I was curious about the scuba gear vs golems sign and did a little google and wikipedia 'research' and I think I have it figured out.
The woman is a Haenyo, or 'sea woman'; in the 19th century, women took over the jobs involving diving because the men had to pay such heavy taxes that it was unprofitable for them to go on doing it, and women therefore became the main earners in the household. Most of the economy centered around products from the sea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haenyeo has more information -- from a cultural perspective it's interesting, though I wish there were more citations.
The little statue guy seems to be a dol hareubang. It's a sort of stone statue that, according to local lore, offers both protection against demons and fertility. The mushroom-like (or phallic) hat, shown there in blue, is an important feature. So are the two hands, one placed higher than the other, though on the sign they're outstretched and the statues have them crossed over the chest. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dol_hareubang
I'm sort of amused by how -- if my short research is correct -- those signs could be "all women are breadwinners!" "all men are fertility symbols!" Though really, that's no improvement over any other all/all statements we get from bathroom signs, I suppose.
Olek — September 2, 2010
In Poland most common is sign of circle for women and triangle for men.
It seems to be quite neutral.
Jayn — September 2, 2010
Wow. Some of the signs in the boob/penis category would confuse the hell outta me (as would the triangles sans other markers). Even knowing what I'm looking for, they're difficult to decipher.
Thibaut THOMAS — September 2, 2010
I loved a bar in Paris which had "Men, Gays, Trans" on one side and "Women, Lebians, Trans" on the other. Also, most LGBT places I went to where not segregating in any form.
Paul — September 2, 2010
I think the problem starts the moment you seggregate them. Once you've done that, you run into the problem of indicating which one is for whom. Which would be a good sign? Or, better yet, if we are going to have separate toilets, based on what are we going to separate them? Or who do we expect to use each? Then, we can try and do an appropriate sign, but I guess that would be difficult.
A better solution, unisex toilets. There shouldn't be so many problems, with proper stalls and such. I've used them in several camping sites and never heard of any problems.
Paul — September 2, 2010
I hate to be entirely utilitarian about this but my major concern when I need a washroom is to know which one to go into so though I do appreciate the well known symbols listed here (GREAT POST AND MANY GREAT OBSERVATIONS)if the bathrooms are for different groups I want to be going into the right one (once I am finished then I will do my theorizing...kind of a variation on Maslow...pee then think.
Too often I have been places (trendy restaurants who want to try something else) where I look back and forth and make a leap of faith.
It would be great to have signs without this baggage but I feel for the designers who have to solve this old problem.
Mary — September 2, 2010
A lesbian bar in my city (which is now sadly closed) used to have three restrooms, Women/Men/Unisex. This way there was a comfortable option for pretty much anybody. But this isn't exactly a space-efficient solution, I guess.
Anonymous — September 2, 2010
Don'tcha just love how some of the signs also imply "men are people, women are people with skirts and WITHOUT ARMS"?
Of course women don't need arms. They shouldn't even be opening doors, you know (whether literal or figurative doors).
Lance — September 2, 2010
It puts me in mind of Raphael Carter's old "Renaming the Bathrooms" story, which (since zir website has long since gone away) can be found at the Internet Archive, at http://web.archive.org/web/19990225122911/http://www.chaparraltree.com/raq/rename.shtml .
This post does, alas, also beg the question of what does count as a good sign. I'm heartily in favor of a pair of one-person bathrooms, each labeled "bathroom", but as different-anon notes above, that won't work in high-traffic public spaces. Until the radical social shift occurs to make multiple-stall unisex bathrooms, what can you do other than (a) enforce a male/female dichotomy and (b) do so with unfortunate graphics? (Other than minimize the unfortunateness, because, sheesh, some of those photos are really unfortunate.)
Katy — September 2, 2010
One of my favorite rest room signs is at the Detroit Science Center is a "picture" of the XX chromosome for women and XY for men. It really shows how puny the poor Y chromosome is.
Adam — September 2, 2010
This argument/segregation was neatly "solved" at the University of Manchester, England by use of signs reading:
Toilets With Urinals
Of course, this left a lot of people throwing their arms up in the air about "The state of things today" and "Liberal pandering" and such nonsense, but I can see it as being a really handy split for those who want the high-efficiency in-and-out of urinal usage, no matter what pronouns they refer to themselves with.
SP — September 2, 2010
I would only use a unisex bathroom under great duress. I simply do not feel comfortable performing certain bodily functions with strangers of the other sex in the bathroom.
So if all bathrooms were to be converted to unisex bathrooms to appease your politically correct conscience what do you propose I do? Never, ever use a public bathroom?
Lisa — September 2, 2010
I do like the note about the dog restrooms, but one of the dogs has long eyelashes, so there is still some clear gender marking. Maybe they four restrooms are supposed to be "men", "women", "other" and "other"; it'd be interesting to see all four images together.
Rose — September 2, 2010
To be honest I have gone to the washroom in the designated men's washrooms before, because I simply could not handle the line up, and unexpected time delays that are commonplace when visiting the women's washrooms. I don't care about what the rest room sign stipulates, if you have to go, then go. I mean honestly, how silly is it for people to have to hold the "urge" to go because one washroom (womens) is full while the other washroom (mens)is empty. I have seen this type of behaviour before. The whole point of erecting the washroom in its entirety is to provide space to eliminate waste! Segregation exists everywhere, and is NOW unavoidable. Perhaps in decades to come, people won't put that much time and effort into separating the vaginas from the penises.
The Perplexed — September 2, 2010
One of the most blatant depictions of gender roles on bathroom signs was at Portland State University after they renovated the bathrooms in one of the classroom buildings. The signs have been corrected but the message is still impressive in its honesty about social roles.
Undercover Punk — September 2, 2010
"...cis women insist on treating male-bodied women as some kind of threatening sexual predators..."
WTF is this?? Like we're just HYSTERICAL women!!
FACT: Male-bodied people are the PRIMARY global predators of women.
If any male-bodied person can choose to I-dentify as a "woman" and waltz right into the female-bodied bathroom, WE ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR ASSAULT. And reflexively calling this FACT *transphobic!* is conclusive evidence of your willingness to put individual I-dentification above the PHYSICAL SAFETY of female-bodied people. Period. And it's not even *about* whether trans women, specifically, are more likely to attack. It's about the general population of men who ARE. This is, admittedly, an unintended consequence of I-dentity politics, but can NOT be overlooked or dismissed. It significantly increases women's risk of physical assault-- including for perfectly innocent trans women passing in the female-bodied bathroom.
I support single stall unisex bathrooms.
Tom M. — September 2, 2010
I knew the man who created the classic icons for the "man" and "woman" washroom signs. His name was Paul Arthur, and he developed them (as well as many other "pictograms"— as he baptized them) for Expo '67 in Montreal.
Paul was a brilliant designer, who was concerned with helping people find their way through cosmopolitan, crowded spaces without having to use language. (He also coined the terms "signage" and "wayfinding", which are now popular design industry jargon.)
Paul was challenged with a defining a simple, visual way to differentiate men and women that everyone could understand. I'm sure the idea of going straight to simplified penis and vulva (or breasts) illustrations crossed his mind, but that would not have been acceptable at the time. It was the mid-60s, and at that time pants and skirts were still very much standardized gendered attire for most people who would be visiting Montreal. The decision to use clothing (and to a small extent, sexual differences in body shape) was a purely practical one: if a woman from Tokyo really had to go, she needed to be able to spot the "ladies room" without having to translate language or decode symbolism.
It's interesting to read 21st century perspectives on where these breakthroughs in international communication have taken us, but there is a funny anecdote from Expo that I'd like to share in this link:
It turns out that the original signs weren't stereotyped ENOUGH for Expo visitors. So Paul and his partner had to develop the much more elaborate "Mad Men" style illustrations in the link.
Regardless, I doubt any oppression was intended by the original signs. They were supposed to bring the world together by liberating us from language differences. Yes, that's very 1960s!
Paul died a few years ago in Toronto, and I miss him. I was fortunate enough to know this legend in my industry, briefly, because his stepdaughter is my brother's wife. And I really wish he was around right now, to add to this discussion. I'm sure he'd find the more "creative" (ie obscure) gender icons to be as ridiculous as you do.
Beth Ann — September 2, 2010
One of the really frustrating things is how fiercely women "protect" their bathroom space. I have seen my (biologically female, masculine appearing) partner accosted dozens of times when using "legally" correct bathrooms. Women get nearly violent when "pointing out" that she is in the wrong bathroom. In some cases she nearly had to flash them her breasts in an attempt to "prove" her right to be in the restroom. More recently she has just taken to asking me how masculine she appears that day and then choosing accordingly. Interestingly, no guy has EVER approached her about being in the wrong room.
MissPrism — September 2, 2010
Note from a pedantic geneticist: individuals with ZW chromosomes are female. The "chromosome" sign on the left would suggest that that stall should be used by female mammals and flies, but male birds and moths. The sign on the right would be for male mammals and flies, but female birds and moths. Sex determination is done in a surprisingly diverse set of ways across the animal kingdom, and sometimes doesn't involve different chromosome sets at all.
Chlorine — September 2, 2010
Okay, phew, done wading through the comments.
This is a great post and I'm happy to see it. I've never understood, even since I was a child, why the hell we're still segregating bathrooms (and clothing, but that's a different post) when genders are supposed to be equal. It's like having black/white drinking fountains to me, I don't understand it and I think it's demeaning and ridiculous.
As a person who doesn't conform or identify particularly strongly with EITHER gender, I avoid segregated bathrooms as much as possible and tend to use whichever one I think has less chance of me getting caught inside, or entering/exiting. It always feels like I'm sneaking around mission impossible style just to pee and it's humiliating. I've gotten stares in both bathrooms. There is nowhere to go safely.
That said, here's a photo of the bathrooms at a local Dairy Queen: http://i54.tinypic.com/2s63909.jpg
:D I would like to see more bathrooms like that.
skeptifem — September 2, 2010
People flip out when I use the men's room. Like I should sit there needing to pee because some knob decided what kind of appendage matches the toilets in each bathroom. Fuck that. The toilet doesn't care, why should I?
Bathroom Signs | There Are Days — September 2, 2010
[...] humble Bathroom Sign has many variations. Comments Off. Please Email. Return [...]
Vega — September 2, 2010
The observatory at my old university campus has two single-room unisex restrooms, although only one of them had a urinal. The building was constructed some time in the 1960s or 1970s, and it seemed clear to me that the restrooms had originally been segregated, but somebody later on made the decision to desegregate them. I was glad of it, too, since it decreased the chance of having to wait in line when I had to pee. One of my biggest pet peeves is encountering single-room sex-segregated bathrooms. I just don't get it.
I'm fairly certain that another, much older building on my old campus was built at a time when only men attended the university. The women's restrooms all used to be men's restrooms, and because the building originally had no need for pairs of restrooms placed near each other, the current women's and men's restrooms are in entirely different parts of the building. This can be quite frustrating for a person looking for their "assigned" bathroom if they don't know the layout of the building well.
I have a friend who attended a college in Toronto and reported that her dorm's restrooms were all unisex (and not single rooms, either). I thought that was fascinating. I can't imagine that sort of thing going over well in the US.
Treefinger — September 2, 2010
The best toilets I've ever encountered were in a Danish furniture shop in Manchester that sadly has now closed down (at least there), Ilva. They had about 4 or 5 single stall, wheelchair-accessible toilets, each with their own sink etc. A sign outside the space where these were had all the usual male/female/diability signs on it close together, showing the toilets were for everyone. I'd have preferred a "WC" sign with no symbols, but we can't have everything.
I did see a woman being confused by the sign and eventually avoiding the toilets. But IMO the effort to help people understand them would be worth having toilets that include everyone.
Fenix — September 2, 2010
Well, one problem I have with the big gender equalizing problem (don't get me wrong, I am all for equality being genderqueer myself) is that everyone talking about it spends all their time complaining. You spend a dozen pages or so showing how all the world has it wrong, and how we are all painting the wrong pictures of how we should separate washrooms (unless your point is that we should have all washrooms for everyone - see how that one goes over) but you have no examples of what would be the right way.
Not only do you not have any examples in the real world, you do not even suggest one.
Now, if you want to go and say "I see this problem, and it is a big problem to have, but I don't see a solution, can you help?" I would be fine with that. But you come off as high and mighty and better than all those people who have these gender un-equal washroom signs, but you can't think of anything better.
And the reason you can't think of anything better? Because it is difficult. I am not going to blame these restaurant owners for their choice of washroom signs. These store owners who have degrees in business and economics do not deserve my anger or frustration when the political science major who writes about social injustice for a living cannot come up with a solution.
AlienGuardian — September 2, 2010
Has it ever occurred to you that you're looking far too deeply into these things?
I don't understand why gender-segregated restrooms and their signs are worth getting up-in-arms over.
Jess — September 2, 2010
I really love this post. I'm never quite sure what gender I'll be perceived as, so using public restrooms always results in a moment of consideration for me. I'm threatened and harassed when I use the bathroom, no matter which one I choose!
I think unisex bathrooms should be mandatory.
Katya — September 2, 2010
I've never commented before, but I read often and I had to comment this time because of an issue I had with gender-separated restrooms recently.
My friends and I went to an unfamiliar nightclub in another city. As anyone who frequents bars and nightclubs knows, there are often lots of issues with women's restrooms in these places. One of the most frequent problems is that there are insufficient stalls for the number of women waiting for them.
And, of course, more happens in the women's restroom at a bar than just peeing - fixing outfits, doing make-up, complimenting each other, gossiping about your night, comforting crying friends, etc.
The basic idea is, since bar culture caters to men and gives men so much power, the ladies' room is an oasis for women who need a bit of "girl time".
The club we were at had two restrooms. One had a bright pink W above the door. The other had no sign. And yet, when I went to the women's restroom, there were 4 or 5 guys in line with me. When I confronted them, they claimed that since the other restroom had no "M", the "W" was invalidated - both restrooms were therefore unisex.
The reason this irritated me so much is because of this idea of the ladies' room as a safe place in a bar. When you're on the floor, men can grind against you without permission. They can persistently follow you, harass you, and call you names. Other than leaving, the only place a woman can go to get away from a man who is pursuing her in a club environment is the ladies' room. Allowing men in there allows a man to follow a woman even to the bathroom in an attempt to solicit her.
I've also broken up incidences of men harassing women in bar bathroom lines before. It's not uncommon, in a place with a long restroom line, to see a man invading the personal space of a woman who is clearly uncomfortable while she waits to pee because of course if the line is long you are trapped in it until you can get inside. But the idea is once you get inside you can potentially wait in there long enough for him to leave, or at least make an escape plan with your friends. If the man gets to go inside too, there is no chance to get away.
joschmidt — September 2, 2010
We have single stall unisex toilets at my workplace. I don't know if it's do to with the design or the unisexiness, but they smell. Also, I frequently have to flip the seat down to pee. I don't mind doing this at home, but I don't like it at work, where I don't know the person who's bum was last on that seat.
I've used single stall unisex toilets at many festivals (aka portaloos). They smell BAD, and get pretty disgusting by the end of the night. I'm not saying that drunk (and otherwise affected) women wouldn't leave the toilets in a mess, but we are a BIT less likely to pee all over the floor, seats, and whatever other surfaces happen to be around.
I'm all for the unisex toilet, but in order to be a bit more pleasant, it would require many of the men, and some of the womrn, of the world (most of whom wouldn't go anywhere near this site) to get their 'shit' together a bit, especially when they've had a drink or ten.
I think the 'predatory men' argument is a red herring. Men who are predators will be predators with or without unisex toilets. (Case in point - at my work, that has the unisex toilets, there are also single sex toilets. The women's toilets recently had a 'peeping tom' lurking around on a regular basis.)
In New Zealand, the shopping malls have 'baby rooms', usually near the loos, and with toiles in them (adults and kids sizes), and also curtained off cubicles for breastfeeding, microwaves for heating bottles, and change tables. These are unisex. My husband says they're frequently full of men. Personally, I'm not a mad fan of change tables in toilets - nappies full of crap are pretty foul, and I don't like inflicting them on people who don't also deal with them on a regular basis.
T — September 2, 2010
I don't mean to take anything away from the bigger issues... and there are certainly many issues associated with a binary view etc. HOWEVER, talking about bathroom signs in such loaded language "men-are-people / women-are-people-with-X" doesn't strike me as useful, informative or have any purpose but making something out of nothing.
The male/female binary. OK. Stereotypical gendering (pants vs. skirt). OK.
This is not "men-are-people" and women are something else. Take the first image, which is by and large the most common. The male has PANTS and the female has a SKIRT. The male is not naked. The male is wearing pants. Until relatively recently in Western society, women did not wear pants in public! So the skirt becomes shorthand. Women now wear pants and men (to a much lesser extent) wear skirts. This is not a reason to discard an established shorthand based on a (dated) stereotype.
It would take A LOT of convincing to show me how this is harmful to women.
Does it reinforce a gender binary? Certainly. That's something different.
T-Rex — September 2, 2010
How about this? A multi stall, unisex bathroom for the majority of users. And one or a few (depending on the size of the venue we are talking about) non-gendered single stall rooms for folks who are uncomfortable with the larger, unisex room for whatever reason.
People who want privacy can have privacy. People who just want to get in and out quickly will have an easier time doing so. Women won't have to wait in line as long. Trans people can choose the option they are most comfortable with. And it will be more efficient that either the "segregated by sex" option, or the "all single stall" option.
And yes, let's put that diaper changing station in it's own room. Or invent a stink proof method for diaper disposal.
finette — September 2, 2010
This is great! I encountered a couple of too-trendy-by-half restroom signs in DC restaurants a few months ago, and it seemed like they just wound up confusing people. First was at Ted's Bulletin, a film noir themed diner where the restroom doors look like old-timey detectives' offices with two occupants' names stenciled on each frosted window. You're supposed to figure out the gender designations by the names--I only remember one first name from each, Helen on the women's and Perry on the men's. The Helen room was occupied when I tried the door, so I waited patiently--and was rewarded by a guy emerging from it and giving me a very strange look because he hadn't caught on and didn't know why I hadn't used the Perry room. (I should note that I would have no problem with a transgendered person using either room, but judging by him looking at me like I was an idiot, I'm pretty sure that's not what was going on here.)
Here is a review of Ted's that actually mentions the bathroom doors and also fails to catch the subtle hint: "by far the most bothersome [feature] is the lettering on the bathroom doors, which advertise a long-forgotten law office but offer no indication of there being a toilet within."
Then there was a tapas restaurant, Jaleo, that went the wordless silhouettes route: a flamenco dancer in a dress on the women's room, and a bullfighter with a cape on the men's. I was heading for the restroom at the same time as a man I'd never met--both of us hesitated in the hallway for a moment before we figured it out and then chuckled to each other.
I was already regretting I didn't get pictures of these (especially Ted's) for myself, but now I'm doubly sorry I can't send them to you to add to your post! Maybe a Washingtonian on here could get them for you.
Ramona Fuller — September 2, 2010
Many years ago, I found myself in a barbecue restaurant in Abilene, Texas. There were two doors -- one marked HEIFERS and the other STEERS. Being a big-city girl, I hesitated, trying to figure out which one I was. A man stood beside me and seemed equally perplexed. "Are you a steer or a heifer?" I asked. He replied, "Neither. Steers are castrated. Honey, I'm 100 percent bull." Then he walked away, rejecting both doors.
That's how I learned about life's basics in West Texas.
Technical Slip — September 2, 2010
Very interesting. There does seem to be a general sense in many of the comments that signage is directive of gender roles rather than reflective, which is obviously true for so many things in life, but toilet signs? I'm not so sure.
Anyway, my favourite (which I don't think has been mentioned yet) is the Mexican system whereby a pipe represents men and a fan women. This is so antiquated as to be hilarious, but also has some linguistic/slang value too.
Anonymous Janitor — September 2, 2010
Perhaps restroom signs also serve as warnings for those who clean them. They have for me. At various times over the last 20 years, I have cleaned restrooms in western US restaurants, supermarkets, office buildings, warehouses, and other locations. My observation has been that the restrooms for women consistently become very dirty, in a short period when compared to restrooms for men. No conclusions about this, just an observation and therefore warning to me.
Shae — September 2, 2010
Trans community aside, I like the signs with boobs and other bodily bits and always wondered why that wasn't more universal than the skirt (especially boobs). I like it because:
* At least it's what you ARE, rather than what you DO (like wearing a skirt)
* It shows that boobs and organs aren't dirty
Rosemary — September 2, 2010
I'm reminded of a joke on The Simpsons a few years back where they remade Moe's as a swanky place and had Lenny go into the door that said "Cool Cats" only to run out to the sound of female screams, then try the other one (don't remember what was on that door) with the same results and then look confused.
rebelleink — September 2, 2010
I wanted to add one I had seen to this rather awesome list. A seafood house on the Oregon coast has a restroom marked 'Gulls' and 'Buoyes' with pictograms of the gull and buoy. Confused the hell out of me at the time.
Guest Post: Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets » Sociological Images | 文心阁博客 — September 2, 2010
[...] original post here: Guest Post: Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets » Sociological Images 此条目发表在 未分类 分类目录，贴了 cis-women, conflation, insist-on-treating, [...]
maus — September 2, 2010
"These signs remain problematic, though, because they construct men and women as fundamentally opposite to one another."
Or yin/yang complementary. You're reading too much in.
Andrew — September 2, 2010
I don't want to add a redundant point here, but a few things that haven't been touched on regarding unisex toilets:
1. Restroom design varies greatly from country to country. In much of Europe, for example, toilet stalls are fully enclosed from floor to ceiling, protecting the user from being exposed to passersby. These strike me as reasonable candidates for unisex conversion. On the other hand, in the US, toilets are usually separated only by flimsy dividers, with huge gaps above and below as well as space around the door through which the user can be easily glimpsed. It would take expensive remodeling - not just new signs - to make these acceptable for unisex.
2. Where user volume is high, men's room urinals tend to be a good water-saving option, and we certainly can't take water for granted everywhere in the world. It's one reason that I support maintaining gender-segregated toilets but with an additional unisex option.
3. Another is the social function of toilets, which (whether we're comfortable admitting it or not) does extend beyond mere bodily functions. As Katya mentioned above, the segregation can allow safe havens relatively low on scrutiny to appear in places that aren't otherwise equipped to offer any privacy.*
4. Single-stall toilets should all be unisex by default, especially since we wind up using them that way anyway. IMO, every public facility should be obligated to provide at least one such facility; this would be a much more practical policy to implement than ordering all toilets to suddenly make themselves unisex.
5. I appreciate the respect that many here have shown to the relatively small trans/intersex minority, whose concerns about safety from harassment in such public spaces are seldom taken seriously enough. However, let's not overlook the comparatively larger numbers of people whose culture or religious beliefs would deem using mixed-gender toilet facilities highly inappropriate, no matter how much we may disagree. And let's certainly not deride people whose involuntary discomfort would make a unisex multi-stall a troubling experience, as some did in response to SP's comment. These groups are just as deserving of a comfortable place to pee (,etc.) as transfolk.
* Here I considered mentioning the important role that public toilets inadvertently play in heavily persecuted gay communities, but I decided to focus on aspects that are intentional in the bathroom's design.
Fara — September 2, 2010
... So you are angry about bathroom signs that are straightfoward, or hell even ones that are confusing but that can make sense, but then you point out how confused you are and that the signs don't make sense when they appease your want for bathroom signs that don't make any sense to anyone...
Why can't people just piss in peace without feeling like they're evil criminals? Seriously... such a small issue.
Jacob — September 2, 2010
Just put a photograph of Sarah Palin on one door and a photograph of Osama Bin Laden on the other one. That way, nobody is happy with the way they are represented, and Palinists can complain that they are being compared (accurately) to dangerous religious fundamentalists.
Brittany — September 2, 2010
I just graduated high school in a private "international" school in England and I think the school had an excellent layout of toilets. The school had 4 floors and had unisex bathrooms on every floor except for what was called the "attic" where we only had art and maybe one other classroom. The unisex bathrooms consisted of small single rooms with one toilet and one sink. and then we had some gendered toilets that were your typical large rooms with several stalls, but interestingly a good portion of the time they were locked up for kids' bad behaviour so that everyone had to use the unisex ones. I'm sure the school was like this to accommodate lack of room and not to accommodate those who reject gendered toilets, but nonetheless I think more schools should become like my old school.
Gray — September 2, 2010
You could simply divide people into those who give a shit and those who don't. Or, maybe those who take the piss, and those who simply get pissed. But then you'd have issues discerning which meaning was intended: the US meaning or the UK meaning!
Since trans-gender people are a minority, for whom there may or may not be a confusion, as opposed to a confusion for others, is this even an issue at all?
You say: "The most common type of washroom sign, pictured at the top of this post, is another example. Typically, these signs depict men as people, and women as people in skirts:"
Is that really true? Aren't those signs simply depicting the way the majority of women want to be depicted?
I would disagree that these signs depict men as people, and women as people in skirts. In fact I think that's ludicrous - unless you're suggesting a skirt in some way makes a woman anything other than a person. If that is what you're saying, effectively making the kind of political statement women's libbers were making 40 years ago, then I suggest you study history for half an hour, and see what that kind of pointless posturing actually achieved for women's rights.
In the 21st Century we should be dealing with real world issues such as education of girls in Muslim countries, freedom from genital mutilation, access to contraception, and equal legal rights. The way the genders are depicted on rest room doors is a hollow, sad waste of an intelligent person's time in my humble opinion, and a diversion from all the important issues so many people are almost professionally choosing to ignore.
I have no idea how long you've spent putting this together, and I feel more than a little bad attacking what looks like might be the result of some considerable work. But I'm a 52 year old male with no sexual axe to grind, and I've heard a minority from maybe three generations of women trying to make an issue out of this trivia, whilst studiously ignoring the plight of their sisters in what Shakespeare called less happy lands - and cultures.
We're all connected by the net now. I don't care what you believe, what your sexual orientation is, or what colour you are, or anyone is. We're all humans under one sky. What I know is that kids are orphaned in Zimbabwe and South Africa because women there [who have no access to rest rooms - with or without politically correct signage], are dying of AIDS because they had no right to say "NO!" Study that. Blog about something that actually matters, Please.
And when you become a lawyer, and someone brings you a case as trivial as the issues you've presented here, please think of them - as you pocket your fee.
anton — September 2, 2010
Wow, in a world of ecological collapse, mass starvation, economic devastation of the working class and a 1000 other things, I am glad someone somewhere has so much free time they can care about this. Oh the injustice of public restroom signs! Surely THIS is the worst injustice in our world.
Sean G — September 2, 2010
My only question is what do we have s a new sign?
I get it. Skirts are evil...ct...a lot of guys get it. But we don't have an answer. ok..no hips either? Ok...So can we have an acceptable example and not just slamming old tropes?
Danielle — September 2, 2010
Gray, I don't know where to begin with your comment. I wrote up a couple of replies and lost my faith in humanity a couple of times more.
"Blog about something that actually matters, Please."
This doesn't effect you so it isn't an issue? You self-centered person.
Daantaat — September 2, 2010
I think the ones from Jeju have more to do with something particular to the local culture there. There is a well-known group of older women who are renowned for their diving skills, and if I'm not mistaken they dive fairly deep for extended periods in their quest for certain shellfish, maybe oysters, etc. The male sign shows a statue made of volcanic rock, which is what Jeju is also famous for; you can find volcanic rock statues of this particular male figure everywhere in South Korea. In fact, at the high school where I teach there are two very large statues that are made of this rock and I've been told they are good luck symbols or something similar to that.
meggie — September 2, 2010
So I realize I'm incredibly ignorant in this sphere, and almost considered saying nothing, for fear of saying something wrong.
But I do have an honest question, and legitimately want an answer.
Academically (if not practically), I understand your argument about how these signs leave out the transgendered community. But what are we supposed to use instead? The only signs that you seemed to accept were the dog examples (and, to a smaller extent, ones that played off the same idea). But isn't the point of the bathroom signs so that you can tell which one's which without having to think about it? I legitimately had to think about the dog one for a minute before I figured out what it meant.
And when you have the later examples of other shapes -- ex. fire, water, flowers--doesn't that just create a sub-argument of why those images were chosen?
I understand that the answer to my question wasn't in the scope of the study. But it frustrates me, personally, that I can't think of anything acceptable!
John Yum — September 2, 2010
Why not just allow 男 and 女 in countries in which people can recognize these Chinese characters?
Why not try to make these two characters the universal symbols for male and female, just like red octogons have universally become the symbol for "stop sign", green signals mean "go", etc?
I mean, 男 is not the opposite of 女. Neither 男 nor 女 represent the physical form, nor does either represent the "default person" (which is 人).
Seriously, it's like this author has no knowledge of two pictograms that are used by 1.4 billion people to represent man and woman.
Edward Lee — September 2, 2010
The women of Jeju island have for centuries dived for sponges and mollusks near the shore, whereas the men went out to sea on boats to fish. Their boats were often lost at sea, and therefore there were usually more adult women than men. This is probably not the case anymore, but Jeju has always been described by Koreans as the island of beautiful women, and diving is still "women's work" in Jeju.
The carvings of "harubang", or grandfathers, who were totems that were seen as protectors of homes and villages. They are all over the island as well.
Basiorana — September 2, 2010
We need better literacy. Or to make a single, neutral symbol, like the Venus and Mars symbols or the Chinese symbols, universal ((I admit I couldn't tell which Chinese symbol meant female).
For now, I would do one with two images, a sitting stick figure on a toilet and a standing stick figure before a urinal, and the other with just a sitting stick figure (or just the toilet/urinal, and the toilet alone). Of course, that would only work in areas where squat toilets and those accustomed to them were basically nonexistent. And you'd still have to write "WOMEN" and "MEN" under them or people would get confused.
What I love are in our hospitals here, we have bathroom stalls where the wall is solid, and comes all the way to the floor, and the doors are solid and leave no gaps on the edges so you can't see in-- not even the feet. I would have zero problem if a male was in such a toilet with me. And it takes up no extra space-- it's the same schematic, just made of solid metal to the ceiling and floor. I don't care if a man watches me wash my hands, after all. Most of them also have a private handwashing station in the handicapped room, designed to let persons in wheelchairs reach better, so it's not like a woman who was truly uncomfortable couldn't use those.
According to my fiance the men's rooms have a walled off area of urinals, too.
Robz — September 2, 2010
I live in Australia and I once saw a country toilet which was labeled blokes/sheilas!
I like the White Dog's Pointers/Setters sign but it's not something that would be useful to someone who couldn't read or didn't understand the language.
As the next post up (Women and Street Harrasment) points out, most women feel threatened at some time in their life just walking down the street, I can only imagine that it would feel much more threatening in a private bathroom setting: That's why I'd prefer public restrooms to remain separated by gender even though this may be difficult for some. In smaller workplaces where there is less anonymity and people are more accountable for their behaviour unisex is fine.
I don't wear skirts at all (even at my wedding) but after seeing some of the examples of signs in this post I have a newfound respect for the "women as people in skirts" sign!
Far McKon — September 2, 2010
I'm not a fan of this post. I don't think it's up to the standards I usually expect from Soc. Image. While I appreciate the range of examples, I think the interpretation off base in a variety of ways, mostly for reasons already pointed out by other commentators.
jules — September 2, 2010
I think this was a great post, though I confess I spent most of it thinking how, were I ever to run into signs like these, I would have no idea which restroom I "should" use. (I guess I fall on the trans spectrum because I do not identify as any particular gender, but I am generally read as male so that's the bathroom I use, because it's not worth it to me to cause trouble.)
There used to be an Italian restaurant in the Kansas City area that had a picture of the David statue (wearing silly boxers) on the men's room door and a picture of the Venus de Milo on the women's.
Robz comment is interesting, because while the fear thing is valid -- the idea that a sign saying "women" (with the implication of "women only") is going to stop a predator from entering in order to trap a woman has no grounds, so split bathrooms are kind of a false sense of security, I think.
Mike — September 3, 2010
As others have pointed out, not all forms of semiotic dichotomy here insinuate such a power play or intentionally (or even incidentally) convey hidden or suggested meanings. Looking hard enough into some symbols will allow us to interpret whatever we wish. The very fact a gender dichotomy exists is enough for the creator of a sign to seek any way of distinguishing them. Implying greater reasons is not only superfluous, it risks detracting from the core issue.
I sympathise greatly with the real problem that the author seemed to be wishing to address; most cultures have strict expectations of gender based on a perception of male and female. In the western world, this is intrinsically bound to the biophysical form, or even to genetics. Male = penis (or XY), and Female = Vagina (or XX). As the author also correctly pointed out, there are strong behavioural assumptions that accompany each that are so embedded it's difficult for many of us to find ways of avoiding the discomfort that comes with getting past it. Sexual predation for males, for instant, is as deeply embedded as the idea that woman are necessarily nurturers.
Like all things in society, cultural evolution is painfully slow, nudged on by groundbreakers who push limits and take risks. Unisex toilets are a simple example of this. But the strict dichotomising of sex and gender will be with us for a long time to come; the semiotics of bathrooms has far less to say on the issue, I'm afraid, than the author is suggesting, and risks drawing the focus away from the fundamental questions and potential solutions.
Amelia — September 3, 2010
While I agree with the core idea expressed here (maleness as the standard/human idea/symbol, etc. is problematic) and appreciate the thought that apparently went into this piece, I think it's ultimately a waste of time to argue that we cast binaries to the wind and switch to unisex bathrooms.
I agree that much of what we consider male and female is constructed, and the symbols on those bathroom doors range from ridiculous and funny to downright offensive and problematic. However, the male/female binary is a reality for most people, and folks like Marissa need to respect that even as they seek to challenge the status quo. I sense a sneering disrespect on Marissa's part for anyone who has a belief, religious or otherwise, that males and females are actually essentially different categories. This kind of disprespect and intolerance clouds her thinking and makes the entire piece condescending and irrelevant to most of her audience.
If you start with this discussion about bathrooms, you are simply going to alienate people. The unisex transition is not going to happen in our lifetimes for a number of reasons. "Family" style bathrooms and unisex options can and do pop up alongside traditional restrooms, and that's great for the small group of people who don't feel comfortable in a male or female restroom. However, it shouldn't necessarily be a way of life for everyone just because a small group of people don't feel comfortable.
We should at least respect the fact that, because of how they are raised, etc., most people do not WANT to use a bathroom with strangers of the opposite sex. Moreover, many actually can't because of religious or cultural norms and rules. As a Middle Eastern-American woman, I come from a traditional Muslim family in which that will just never, ever be accepted. (I could write pages explaining why, but I'll let you use your imagination.) And if you removed "female" bathrooms from the public sphere, you'd be creating a tremendous amount of pain for many people like them.
I mean, to state the obvious, bathrooms are associated with nudity/exposure of/noises from body parts often seen as "sexual." Most people are heterosexual and see males and females as essentially differentiated categories, so this bathroom issue is connected to much deeper issues of identity and sexuality, not to mention safety. You aren't going to change this in our lifetimes.
Also, it's important to note that although most men are not violent, the vast majority of sexual violence (over 90%) is male-to-female, meaning that males are the perpetrators. Having done a great deal of work with survivors of sexual violence, I know this first hand. Survivors of sexual violence may not feel comfortable alone in a bathroom stall next to a strange man. They should also have a choice that makes them feel comfortable! Granted, same sex sexual violence happens too, but it is far less common. Marissa is basically asking the majority of people to sacrifice themselves for a minority, instead of coming up with another solution that benefits everyone (like adding some unisex restrooms, instead of replacing all the male/female ones). Also, many people today hide video cameras, etc. in women's bathrooms, invading their privacy and objectifying them. So the bathroom is sexualized in some way for many people because of the nudity, and women are often the ones who are negatively impacted by this type of thing. Inviting men into a restroom alongside women seems to me to be a recipe for disaster on many levels.
Anyway, I respect Marissa for putting together an intriguing and well supported article that got my attention. I just disagree with the argument.
Lindsey — September 3, 2010
What bothers me most about gender-segregated bathrooms is how rigorously they are enforced, even in environments where you would not expect them to be. Anectdotal evidence: I went to a weekly "ladies night" at a local gay bar with a group of friends. The crowd was perhaps 90% women, and since it is a fairly small bar, it had small gendered restrooms. There was a long line for the women's restroom, so, after checking that there was no one in the men's bathroom, a my female-identified friend walked in there and took care of business. Upon exiting, she was confronted by a male member of the security team who apparently had been called over, and who roughly told her that she wasn't allowed to do that, and had to wait in line for the women's bathroom.
Her and my responses? Fuck that. It was especially harsh coming from an environment that one would expect to be queer-friendly.
histwebber — September 3, 2010
Although I'm about 15 years out of my Lit. Crit. days in grad school, I recognize most of the arguments being presented here. As I was then, I am aware of the difficulty translating theory (which is almost always self-referential and generalizing) into the real world. And a tension within feminist theory (and most postmodernist theory for that matter) is the conflict between essentialism and universalism (this conflict, I believe, has led many theorists to pull 180s later in their careers). How are we the same? How are we different? Who decides? Do we have any control over our own identities at all? It's a mine field! I see real value in the feminist theory of language--invaluable, really. The real consequence of the institutionalization of gendered dichotomies could only be expressed through the creation of a feminist discourse--we didn't have the language to even have the conversation until people like Judith Butler came along.
But I see two problems with this thesis (BTW, I find the discussion interesting and valid). First, the confusion people are having choosing between some of the signs of male and female seems to argue against the symbolic expression of gender essentialism. Aside from the obvious stereotyping going on in some of these, we should be heartened that people are actually looking for--and finding--alternatives to the standard man-in-pants and woman-in-dress. I know that you're arguing that breasts and vaginas are a form of symbolic essentialism, but if we must denote a difference (and why shouldn't we?), basic physical markers work best. Every signifier will be loaded with gender signifieds, why not choose the sign with the most immediate signified? I'm choosing not to address the trans issue, mostly because most people identify with one gender or the other (regardless of genitalia) and recognize bathroom symbols as pertaining to that particular identity.
And two, the argument for unisex bathrooms is misplaced here. You don't start with the degendering of bathrooms in the fight against female (or trans) objectification. That's the bonus that comes later! You have women who have been raped, molested, beaten out there in the world--what is it in this country, 1 in 3 now?--and women who have been sexually harassed, passed over for a promotion, got the bad end of a divorce, etc., etc., etc.....and they all have to pee in public restrooms. Going to the bathroom makes you vulnerable as a woman, it just does. Your pants are down, you're legs are out from under you. Women's restrooms disrupt the male gaze. I'm not talking about the perverts, I'm talking about the average man who has been raised in a society that embraces the objectification of women in millions of small ways, all of which contribute to the systematic institutionalization of gender inequality (and violence against women). Making all bathrooms unisex may address the linguistic problem of gender dichotomy, but it does little else--unless you're arguing that the act or performance of ignoring gender difference in public facilities will lead to the disruption of the male-dominated narrative in society at large. Interesting. But, do you really think so? BEFORE legislative or legal equality? I don't see how it will help for men to be zipping their pants down in the same room with women dropping theirs to their ankles when they both know that men make more money than women, have more economic and political power, and are likely to get away with things like date rape. I don't mean to demonize men, of course, but I think those attitudes are more likely to translate into oppression in the unisex bathroom than the gender utopia of the unisex bathroom translating into a more enlightened society outside its doors!
Anonymous — September 3, 2010
Most of those are absolutely baffling. I have neither a pixel attached to my hip nor a pixel attached to the side of my chest but missing from the middle. I've never met anyone whose pelvis is massively concave and may have a crooked line dangling in it. The fourth one after the jump seems to depict a person in a short dress and a person in a long shirt and skirt, but I'm guessing I'm just confused.
Ziv — September 3, 2010
This post does a great job of pointing out underlying biases and assumptions in even what seems to be the most innocuous settings. However, I find myself in agreement with those who feel that the gender binary is a practical necessity, and that no realistic alternative has been proposed.
Let's look at a near-identical, neighboring case: changing rooms, at pools, gyms, etc. Bathrooms can theoretically be unisex without anybody feeling unduly exposed, but I think most will agree that unisex showers and changing rooms would be awfully uncomfortable.
Wait a second, though - male/female changing rooms are *already* awfully uncomfortable for those who don't fit into the male hetero/female hetero binary! Absolutely true. But short of private individual showers and changing rooms, which would be either prohibitively expensive or else have ridiculously long lines, I don't see any better division. "hetero/homo" obviously achieves nothing - a person wants to undress only in front of people he feels are not looking at him sexually; putting everybody heterosexual together doesn't help much for that. You can't even sub-sub-sub-divide - you don't want a "female/homosexual/non-transgendered" room, because two such people that won't want to undress in front of each other.
So male/female changing rooms are a convenient lie, true, but one with no feasible alternative. We should be aware of that, and how uncomfortable it is for those outside of the norm, but I think that bashing the norm without an alternative is a bit misplaced.
Pablo — September 3, 2010
Nice and interesting article.
I could have an explanation for the pictures of the men/women toilet picture of the Korean island of Jeju. I was living in South Korea for a year and I visited Jeju once. The island was famous for her scuba-diving women. The women used to collect pearls from the surrounding area (For commercial purposes, I guess) Also, the woman in the picture is portrayed carrying a bag to drop the collected pearls. I don't know the meaning of the man but touring the area of the first settlements of the island, the friend who was showing off the island to us commented that the "golem" was an earlier form of deity worshipped in the island. I hope it helps.
nosey — September 3, 2010
Maybe I'm missing the point, but for me the segregation isn't about gender; it's about sex. This isn't my area of expertise, but does sex fit into a binary?
And, based on the reactions of the restaurateurs I know, these signs probably weren't chosen to make a statement. It's more likely that the owner said "That's funny/cute". If you want to read into it, for example I would argue that those triangle signs aren't depicting males and females as opposing each other, but instead as complementing each other. Push them together and they line up; how heteronormative.
beth — September 3, 2010
Great project! i would add that in the only image of disability that you include (but i think you would also find is fairly universal)--to have a disability is to have NO gender at all! perhaps that is the (trans)gressive moment to explore!
Rajeev — September 3, 2010
Wow.. what a lot of heat, so little light. Good collection of images.
Question: how would you do it? Indicate which bathrooms are for whom?
Brian — September 3, 2010
Funny. Women are depicted as people, and men are depicted as people without skirts.
Travis — September 3, 2010
jfc, this sure brought out the trolls.
saniblog.org » Blog Archive » toilet signs & gender segmentation — September 3, 2010
[...] this background that I would like to forward you to this interesting post on gender and toilets (also here because of the additional comments) as there’s still a complete world full of such unsolved [...]
jcorn — September 3, 2010
I've been holding a piss this whole article and now I feel too guilty to let it out. Oh the pain!!!
new toilet id | abordarea flatulenta — September 3, 2010
[...] Posted on septembrie 3, 2010 by fuctookyfac| Lasă un comentariu dupa ce am citit postul asta: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ , m-am gandit ca as putea, urmand exemplu lui mesesan, sa propun un nou indicator al spatiului [...]
Scott Bonelli — September 3, 2010
Ok ..Not to over simplify things here, but what we are looking at is a simple sign to indicate where to pee. ( I really don't care if a "woman" wants to pee in a "men's" room or a "man" wants to pee in the "ladies" room. And yes, I have trans friends.. )
This is just a simple sign. What is the proper answer to the issue of making a sign to indicate the two choices ( and yes i know that some think there are more than 2 genders, but in this world we cant have a bathroom for everyone, so sticking with just 2 covers most of the world)
Keep in mind this sign needs to be understood by folks who either cant read , or those to blinded by a dire need to pee, so it has to rely on a simple visual image. Here we see an attempt at humor I believe, rather than jamming a binary down anyone's throat.
And lets speak to the assumption that men are represented as people, and woman as skirts. Is it possible that the simple pictogram might be showing men in pants, or men without a penis dangling..
I am truly sympathetic to the causes of those of non traditional gender, but this is a silly waste of time, attempting to make a bathroom sign a political statement is pointless. I'm sure that catering to the masses shouldn't be considered by the minority to be an insult, otherwise we would need bathrooms in a million shapes and colors.
.. And by the way, as a short male i personally feel slighted by the height depicted , comparison wise, on these signs. As if i were not a true man for not being as tall as the women depicted.. where is my "short guys piss here" sign !? :)
Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » Actually, a Victorian-era film about people in corsets and top hats not doing it *is* my idea of sexy — September 3, 2010
[...] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets. [...]
finette — September 3, 2010
I am thoroughly bewildered by all the commenters who think Marissa is angry or arguing for or against anything in this post. She's simply observing and presenting her interpretation of the ways gender is portrayed on public restroom signs around the world. This is a pretty standard pursuit in sociology, gender studies, and cultural criticism.
I hope you can take the volume of comments as a compliment, Marissa--I think it means your post was shared widely on Facebook and elsewhere.
Sarah W — September 3, 2010
I was surprised to see the beer-bottle bathroom signs in the "Do you sit or stand to pee?" section. I was in a bar in Germany and it had 2 two-stall bathrooms; each bathroom had one of those signs. I didn't notice a difference and went into the bathroom closest to the hallway where I came from. It was only when I went into a stall that I noticed a piece of paper taped to the door - it was a list of why beer was better to have than a girlfriend. It was only then that I realized I must be in the men's bathroom. (I didn't care, because the only other patrons in the bar were my 2 friends, both male, but I wouldn't have cared if they came into the bathroom). I honestly didn't notice a difference between the beer bottle pouring at an angle and the one pouring straight down.
And speaking of gender-specific bathrooms, here's a plug for St. Louis: there's an LGBT-friendly cafe/restaurant called MoKaBe's in the South Grand area that has a gender-neutral bathroom (in addition to men's and women's bathrooms). It has 2 stalls and anyone can use it. My gay friend and I used it together and we wondered why this wasn't an option in more places.
Freelance — September 3, 2010
I think people should actually be divided using the pattern: "Firemen" / "Rest of the people". And a fireman helmet is easy to represent, ain't?
Roger — September 3, 2010
What amazes me is the effort a person would put in to express their desire to change the world just for their own personal feelings, because they don't feel feminine so they are offended by being cast that way.
Well, guess what, you are the minority. I'm a gay male and have to deal with slight incongruities with society's expectations and how I feel, because I am an exception. But it is not such a big deal that I want to demand that the world change just for me.
I agree with all the people who think this is not relevant at all.
L.A.H.P — September 3, 2010
There has been a very generous response to this post, but I figured I would add my two bits as well. I have lived in many liberal-lish areas that have fought to challenge the gender binary in restrooms. Sometimes it works sometimes, it doesn't so much.
A pub at one that I used to frequent in college had four bathroom - two that just said "toilet" and then two gendered (with "male" and "female") - these were single stall rooms and no one ever paid any attention to the male or female signs. I saw men coming out of the women's all the time and women out of the men. No one ever blinked an eye. In fact, it seems kind of odd why places would attempt to categorize a single toilet room at all.
On the other hand, my partner and I went to a restaurant once in a near by town to our college which had a shared toilet - in other words a room with several toilet stalls, but open to all. My partner admitted to me that when he went in to pee (which he does sitting down in the stall), and a whole gaggle of girls came into the restroom, he felt immediately uncomfortable and froze. Despite being able to intellectually understand and support the idea of challenging the gender binary, the actual practice was quite different and found 20 years of cultural training (from parents and society)made it hard for him to do his business.
Like others have said before, the door signs themselves are interesting (and great examples)and the way we live with them on a daily basis becomes ingrained into our actions so that even ignoring them becomes not only a social taboo but often a personal one as well.
Fernando — September 3, 2010
I live in Brasil and I've never seen the flower/fire thing anywhere. Maybe its regional, though I lived in various regions of my country and I don't recall such thing anywhere. It is usually Dude/Skirt Lady.
Also, I'd like to point out something in the view of the post itself. Sometimes it is said "Women are shown as people with skirts/waists, men are shown as people". Why not "Men are shown as people without skirts/waists". I'm saying the same thing here.
Why must the analysis compare each other? I mean, why must the lady in the sign be compared to the male, and be presented as a person with skirt?
It is just that a lot of the perceived notions are completely internal to the person perceiving them in the first place.
gnipgnop — September 3, 2010
perhaps someone could do some pictograms of a scared, timid, not-sure-which-bathroom to use person and another of a scary-mean-not-caring-which-bathroom they use person.
Nachoha — September 3, 2010
So basically dozens of different signs attempting to indicate a simple concept to people without language and no matter how they do it you are offended. May I suggest you skip the whole problem all together and just go outside and use a bush?
Anna — September 3, 2010
While many would protest various ways of distinguishing men and women- genitals, body shapes, clothing, symbols representing traditional ideas of femininity/masculinity, we are still left with the problem of differentiating between the two.
Why have multiple bathrooms intended for different users? Many people may argue for unisex bathrooms and claim that this society is prudish or too focused on the idea of a gender binary if we feel a need for the separation. Many people have rightly pointed out that would-be sexual molesters would have no qualms about using bathrooms intended for the sex of intended victims even if that would require entering bathrooms for the "opposite" sex.
So why do I think it's important? Using the restroom plays a greater part in our lives then many realize. It is not simply ridding the body of wastes efficiently. This need is so universally experienced that almost all have taken part in culture surrounding it. Thus restrooms have become places with their own rules and expectations. These rules and expectations differ at least in the West! For most women, the bathroom is not simply a place in which they "do their business" with as little embarrassment as possible. Most women have no problem with interacting within the restroom- talking, leaving complimentary post-its (Operation Beautiful I think it's called), being helpful. But for most men, social interaction is offensive in the restroom. Most guys if striking up a conversation before entering the restroom will not continue while in the restroom- likely they won't even enter together! And forget striking up a conversation in the restroom. Normal male restroom behavior seems to center around relieving themselves quickly and with as little embarrassment as possible (and I think this is probably related to a dominant heterosexual expectations of men which bans any form of contact between male genitals or even suggestion of it).
If the bathrooms were to be combined, likely there would be a conflict between restroom behavioral rules, and I am afraid that in this culture, those of the men would likely dominate for the most part. Personally, I don't want to walk into a restroom and know that if I see an old friend there, I have to pretend I didn't see her or that I can not open the door for someone or offer to help a women with children. I don't want socially acceptable actions which I perform based on personal values to become socially unacceptable because of a dominating group!
Dave Nelson — September 3, 2010
Wow! Women sure do complain a lot about petty things. j/k. good article, made me think about stuff I never realized. What is women are people and I am just people in pants?
Roger — September 3, 2010
Hey, I sort of change my stance, because I began to see the signs from the perspective of "if I WERE female".
How about ... long hair = F, short hair = M. It's just as arbitrary as skirt vs no-skirt, but it's still cultural while having the minimum implications of inequality. Women DO tend to wear their hear longer, even if they wear pants 90% of the time now.
Louise — September 3, 2010
Isn't the problem simply that we feel that we need separate restrooms?
After that decision, I don't think there's really any sign that can't be problematic- it's the symbol of a problem.
Apple — September 3, 2010
Just a few thoughts:
1. Why do you assume that restrooms are separate because "men are predatory"? I always thought it was because it was rude to tend to make-up at the table, so women's restrooms were made special and more elaborate to accomodate for the need to tend to your looks privately. And thus began the separation of the toilets.
2. While we do need to disassemble the gender binary, there is the fundamental truth that men and women's bodies are different. Sexual organs aside, our skeletons are different as well. So if we are building special restrooms for women, wouldn't it make sense to denote the special restroom with symbols that reflect genetic differences?
3. I prefer genderless family bathrooms. Problems = solved.
Aaron H. — September 3, 2010
This was awesome. I really liked seeing all the various iconography.
The Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz has always had genderless bathrooms. These days it gives the options of "Robot" or "Alien" with none of the standard gender cues. http://www.flickr.com/photos/just_kendra/2769423712/
However, in the past, it used to have one door colored blue with the photo of a woman with short hair, jeans, etc. (only photo I could find http://www.queerday.com/images2/saturncafe.jpg) while the other door was colored pink and had a man at a dressing table with feather boa and so on. Since each door contained a jumble of the standard restroom and gender identifiers everyone decided based which to use based on their own criteria. If you later asked people which bathroom they used they were as likely to say one as the other regardless of of their own gender identities.
Mands — September 3, 2010
this article just proves that people worry way too much about political correct-ness. vagina = female, penis=male end of story. the pictures merely make it easier to distinguish for people. some people don't read the language or cannot so it is simpler to put a sign that is significant to the majority of people. Everyone knows that for all of the world, skirts were initially designed for women and pants for men. If you have a problem with a dumb sign that has no meaning behind it other than to label one's genitalia then go piss outside, everyone will see what a gender contorted person you are.
Anthony — September 3, 2010
I can't wait to see some naked ladies when they finally come around to making Unisex restrooms.
SWMisoAnswers — September 3, 2010
I couldn't not comment on this article. I have to agree with Gray. I read the entire article, but admittedly have not read all the comments. I am male, I am comfortable with my sexuality, and have no problem with you whether you are "normal" or if you are anything else. The fact of the matter is, you will never live in a society where you will have unisex bathrooms. You know why? Because an adult male will never be allowed in the same bathroom as an adolescent female. What I feel the author fails to do is offer any kind of resolution to the problem and that's my main beef with the article. What would she recommend in place of the currently used signs?
Furthermore, what is this gripe with the lines in the non-male (for fear of using the wrong word) bathroom? If it's an issue then dont take so long on the toilet. In a public men's room, almsot regardless of where you go in the world, the protocol is the same: wait your turn, use the toilet as quickly as possible, put your pants on and get out. There no socializing, theres very little wiping and a lot of the time you don't have to take off your pants. Do non-male bathrooms work the same way? If they do, then my apologies. But if they don't, well then maybe that's to blame. Maybe you all should develop a urinal for those with "lady parts."
Lastly, and I've always wondered this, how can non-males complain about being treated equal when there are special groups for non-males? Like the WNBA, the LPGA, awards for first woman to do this or that? Why are males expected to pay, hold open doors, let you go first and act chivalrous? Just something I've always wondered.
I eagerly await any comments or feedback.
tinyrevolution — September 3, 2010
I too found Gray's comment annoying, but since stupid grumpy men like himself are a minority, is it really an issue at all? :)
Captain Pasty — September 3, 2010
They've got the chromosomes wrong on the chromosome picture...
XX is female, and XY is male, that's correct, but some organisms have the ZZ and ZW chromosome system. But in that case, it's females who are heterogametic (ZW) and males who are homogametic (ZZ), like in birds.
Kelsey — September 3, 2010
The signs with the sex-detetrining genotypes must contain an error: the sign shows the human male sex determining chromosome pair, XY with the avian (bird) sex determining chromosome pair ZW.
HOWEVER, in birds, males are the homogametic sex, meaning that they have two similar sex chromosomes (like XX in human females).
Mike — September 3, 2010
To any and all of those saying that this is not an important issue:
I am a transsexual, female-to-male, and I am harassed on a daily basis due to public restrooms. Gender dysphoria, or the psychological reason why I am transsexual, makes it so I cannot use women's restrooms without mental and emotional damage. I have gotten suspended from school for being a biological female in the boy's bathroom, but I get reported for using the girl's bathroom because I appear physically masculine to those who don't know me. Since I don't have a physical handicap, I am not permitted to use the nurse's bathroom, which is the only gender-neutral bathroom. And that's not even mentioning using locker rooms for gym. The only time I feel safe in public is when I am near to a Thai restaurant in my town where there is a gender-neutral restroom.
This leads to me fearing drinking liquids during the day, which causes me to dehydrate myself unintentionally. Imagine sitting in a 90-degree classroom at 3 PM in June after being without some form of liquid since 6 AM. My gender dysphoria causes me to have to use chest binders, which can constrict breathing at times and cause me to sweat a bit more than other people. I have suffered from heatstroke while in class, which disrupts the learning environment. And if I'm out by myself and I pass out, who's going to be there to help me? And before you say that I should go get help, I already go to therapy for this twice a week. I've been going for the past year and a half. My family cannot afford any sort of hormone treatment for me.
This may not seem like a big issue, and it is not as big of a problem as world hunger or war or raging diseases or dying children or so many other things, but it still negatively impacts many people. This is not something that you can understand unless you have some form of gender identity disorder. All of those big problems, what can we do that's going to fix them? This is something that we can directly affect, by talking with business owners and with politicians and being more open-minded about the way things you may not take notice to during your day affect thousands of people every day. I wish that some of you could see that.
Gray — September 3, 2010
As one of the people who's been taking issue with the signage situation on here, I want to reply to your post.
You say "This may not seem like a big issue..." Well I for one can understand that it is a big issue for you, and I genuinely feel for you. All kids have a tough time at school, but you do seem to be having a much tougher one - far tougher than needs to be the case imo.
Have you tried writing to your school in the terms you have here? The issue seems to be not one of signage, or even provision of unisex restrooms, but one of tolerance and basic human understanding on their part.
Since it will take legislation, planning, interminable meetings and probably years before any real change, it seems to me you have two choices. You either address your situation to those who have the power [and responsibility] to make your life tolerable, or 'bite the bullet' and use the female rest rooms.
You've already expressed how you feel about the latter and I believe I can understand that.
So make your case and do so as you have here. I think you're very brave. I got bullied at school and more or less put up with it, only really getting free of taunts from small minded fools in my late teens. Not pretending to know how you feel, but we get through stuff and some of it helps define who we are.
Finally, I hope nothing I've said, or nothing I've failed to accurately articulate here has affected you. My only issue is with over-analysis of the signage. I actually think, where practicable, unisex rest rooms are a good idea - but don't expect society to change soon, especially in an economic downturn.
Good luck to you
Jo — September 3, 2010
First off, Marissa, excellent post. Love it.
I want to touch on the fact that sometimes, when the signs are something other than the standard man-is-a-basic-person, woman-wears-a-skirt icon (ie what is posted at the top of the article), sometimes it isn't entirely obvious which sign is supposed to be which (for the cis men and cis women who care, or at least, like myself to don't feel any great need to stir things up by going into the "wrong" bathroom).
The one about which you commented, "Unlike the previous signs, here the downwards pointing triangle identifies the women’s washroom, and the upwards pointing triangle signifies the men’s washroom. I assume that the angles are supposed to represent torpedo boobs and a pitched tent." - the fourth example under "Opposite Sexes" .... I looked at the picture first, then read the comment, and my initial assumption that the downwards pointing triangle was a man, with ridiculously comic-book superhero abs and shoulders, and the upwards pointing triangle was a pregnant woman.
Since my interpretation of the signs is the opposite of their intent, - not even a confused not knowing which is which - I think that's a pretty useless sign. I say useless, because the function of these signs is to identify visually/graphically which room is for which sex - and it fails in that function. Even leaving all the issues you raise, which are good.
Also, the Utilikilts sign is awesome. Go them. :)
Bob — September 4, 2010
... I just don't want to be sexualized while i am going to the washroom. I think everyone feels this way in public.
can't the sign just say "occupied" or "vacant"
Also... if women sit to pee, why does my partner complain about other women pissing on the toilet seat? Obviously they aren't sitting, she explains it as some sort of hover manuver...
Adam — September 4, 2010
As a male, i must admit, urinals are awesome and i want one!
As long as there is a urnial for me to use, i don't care what picture/wording is on the door...unless it's kitchen... no one should be taking a leak/shit in the kitchen
russ — September 4, 2010
In Poland, it is very common for a men's room to have an equilateral triangle (point downwards) and the women's room to have a circle. (But occasionally the men's triangle points up!) No other identifying text or representational images. Quite unclear for foreigners! I guess the idea is that women are round and soft, while men are angular.
It surprised me that some Poles assume these are universally used internationally, even some Poles who I know have traveled abroad extensively. That's especially odd since right next door, in Lithuania, they also use simple geometrical symbols unadorned by text or representational images, but a different system, simply of 2 triangles: one equilateral triangle pointing upwards and one equilateral triangle pointing downwards. Even more confusing!
Fiona — September 4, 2010
The 'football' and 'shopping' set is a reference to the book/movie Trainspotting, where the characters are at a club, the women go to the loo and talk about various things, while the men sitting back at the table also talk about various things. The women return:
Women: What are you two talking about?
Men: Football! What are you talking about?
(casi) Todos los iconos para distinguir WCs de chicos de los de chicas — September 4, 2010
[...] (casi) Todos los iconos para distinguir WCs de chicos de los de chicas thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where... por spainispain hace 2 segundos [...]
Les portes des toilettes sont-elles sexistes? | L'Atelier des icônes — September 4, 2010
[...] site Sociological Images a mis récemment en ligne un intéressant billet détaillant les stéréotypes à l’œuvre dans la signalétique des toilettes publiques. Appuyée sur une illustration fournie, la thèse est celle de l’opposition du simple et du [...]
R — September 4, 2010
This was a really interesting post, but it left me wondering what the "right" approach to gendered washroom signage is. One solution, obviously, is to have individual non-gendered rooms, as does the restaurant with the dog signs, or to just have one communal washroom for everyone. But it seems clear that neither is going to be universally feasible in the near term.
It seems like the only option that wouldn't rely on some perceived characteristic of gender or sexuality is signs with common font and color reading "MEN" and "WOMEN." But that defeats the purpose of having some illustration for people who don't read or don't speak the local language.
What do the author and others suggest as a "best practice"?
Susan Wong — September 4, 2010
Why not simply have universal washrooms/banos? Why segregate at all??? Just have a potty and a urinal in one place, a place to wash up, and put a sign on the door that simply states it is a RESTROOM? Let's EVOLVE. Period.
JV — September 4, 2010
Its interesting but I dont see what's to be critical about. I think some signs were humorous, some interesting, some difficult to follow, and some just stupid. I think what is more interesting is that we feel its necessary to have universal symbols on restrooms. Why isnt the local language acceptable? When you learn a foreign language you learn to ask, "Where is the restroom?" You also learn the words for men, women, boy, girl, car, chair, etc.
And lets not forger the local humor. I used to frequent a restaurant with a heavy nautical theme and the restrooms were labeled "Buoys" and "Gulls".
What I took away was this, Man is universal and woman is the variant. But if the symbols are identical but one has boobs, then women are just men with boobs the author isnt happy either. Its a sign on door where we piss for crying out loud. I really think you cant condense a society's view of the two sexes to how a fast food place labels the bathrooms. Its much much more complicated than that.
Hanna — September 4, 2010
I find it strange that you frequently post such poorly researched articles, requiring constant correction from readers.
Lis — September 4, 2010
Okay, I just found something which almost makes these signs worthwhile:
A little skirt you can add to the generic men's restroom icon to convert it to a women's room icon.
Lis — September 4, 2010
I have seen places which make restrooms available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Grendel's Den in Cambridge, MA, had rooms "Either" and "Or"
In fact, I always find it bizarre when I'm someplace with two lockable single-person restrooms (so no safety issues regarding the neighboring stall) and the establishment labels them "Men" and "Women" Why?
Often, the rooms are completely identical but for the door-sign. So many unnecessary waits while the "wrong" restroom sits idle...
russ — September 4, 2010
"I always find it bizarre when I’m someplace with two lockable single-person restrooms (so no safety issues regarding the neighboring stall) and the establishment labels them “Men” and “Women” Why?"
Lis: I always assumed that was partly because some men will pee standing up rather carelessly and not care if they pee on the seat, unfortunately, and some women don't want to deal with a pissed-on toilet seat, which is far less likely to happen if only women are using that toilet.
Talia Claire — September 4, 2010
There are some outdoor public toilets near where I live, sort of like a row of permanent portaloos, and they're all neutral, but the ones that have urinals in them have a symbol on the door that looks like a urinal. I think that's a good way of getting around the problem. You can have a toilet symbol and a urinal symbol - those are just as easy to understand without worded labels, and don't reinforce any kind of societal concept about who should use which.
Bonz Merlin — September 4, 2010
What about the symbol for the handicapped washroom? That appears to be a man, but I can't tell because the wheelchair is blocking his penis, if its a he and he has one. Then again the wheelchair symbol could be representing a woman who is flat chested or possibly a young girl or boy. Then again that could represent a transitioning male or female. Either way I imagine there are a lot of very confused people in wheelchairs trying to figure out where to go to the bathroom, especially if they have boobs. It appears though that if you fit into that type of look and are in a wheelchair, you can go into any washroom, no matter what the other folks look like. So perhaps if you are a flat chested, gender non-specific paraplegic then you have it made in the shade.
daiyami — September 4, 2010
There is a brewpub (Eugene City Brewery, Eugene Oregon) that uses Hops and Barley to label their bathroom doors (pretty sure Barley is women). The interior has a very gendered decoration, so it was quite easy to be sure that I was in the women's bathroom. (I think someone told me the very first time, as I hesitated and stared---the second time I linked hops to dark beer that women are not usually believed to enjoy, and picked barley)
(search did not turn up this factoid already posted in the comments)
Steve — September 4, 2010
This was a cool read, I've never seen a washroom sign other than the standard "man" and "man with skirt" (believe me, I would have remembered), but it's amazing to see how across the board it is.
It also reminds me of the case where Dean Spade was arrested for trying to use a men's washroom in Grand Central: http://www.gendertalk.com/radio/programs/350/gt354.shtml
Emily — September 4, 2010
A local restaurant where I used to live had the nude metal torsos (or something quite similar) on the doors - only, they were doors to unisex washrooms. When a large group of friends and I went out to dinner there, our queer-but-then-closeted friend pointed out the absurdity of it, and then we just started going on whatever washroom was free.
Since then, whenever I'm somewhere with two gendered, single-occupant washrooms, and there's a long line for the women's room, I'll just go ahead and use the men's room. Occasionally, I've gotten an odd look coming out of it, but as often as not someone else in the ladies' line will do the exact same thing.
Tom — September 4, 2010
The upward/downward triangles may refer to the chalice/blade, one of the oldest ways of symbolizing the male/female dichotomy. If one wanted to take a contrary tack, then, one could suggest that the message of these signs is, "yes, we're doing gender segregation, but it's a very very old thing that is hardwired into human discourse since goodness knows when, and we're just trying to give you somewhere to go so you can make room for another beer, so let's all for convenience's sake just go along with it."
I enjoyed this article just fine, though. B+ author, would read again.
T — September 4, 2010
(I couldn't find an easy place to put this... so i'll make a fresh post.)
Marissa -- I'm definitely not a "biological determinist" or whatever term expresses that idea... but you have to admit your suggestion that biology plays a *very* small role when look at something from a sociological perspective is a bit convenient at best (and totally specious at worst).
The analogy that comes to mind is Supply-based or Demand-based economic theories that don't take into account the other/opposite force.
Yes, so much that we do is socially constructed... BUT isn't much of it based on biology and biological differentiation?!
What this post seems to call for is sensitivity of and/or tolerance for those individuals that don't fall neatly into the socially constructed gender binary. THIS IN ITSELF is biological, right? Or... it's either (a) there is not biological basis for binary gender in the first place, or (b) trans-male, trans-female and ambiguous genders are simply social constructs and are choices. Neither of those sounds like very pleasant positions. Or is there a third option in which biology plays a huge determinant role?
Related... gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Born that way? (biology) Or a choice? (social construct) The call for tolerance and acceptance seems to be based on the former, right? I can reject a social construct VERY EASILY if it rubs against my own social constructs.... but I don't have a choice but to accept and be tolerant of an immutable reality that is biology. In fact, the *strongest* social constructs and conventions are based on "laws" of nature and biological realities. It shouldn't be surprising that many of these are related to those few but very significant biological differences between the male and female gender!
Dobro jutro i video dana – Black Swan | rozakoza.com — September 5, 2010
[...] jutro i video dana – Black Swan September 5th, 2010 rozakoza [m/f] Gotovo bezbroj primjera na koji sve način oznake za toalet razlikuju muškarce i [...]
Linkotipia Semanal #2 | Bruno Lacerda Blog — September 5, 2010
[...] O carimbo mais útil que você já viu ThoughtBubbler >>Visual storytelling por boas causas O que o “masculino/feminino” dos banheiros diz sobre a sociedade (via) [...]
Doyle Harcavy — September 5, 2010
Yes, so true. But so trivially true.
DrNI — September 5, 2010
As long as there are separated washrooms for men and women, there must be some way of saying which is which. There's no way around it. Except for not having separated washrooms.
Adam — September 5, 2010
considering using the bathroom is a biological thing, it should be defined biologically. Think XX or XY, this makes sense.
Also, girls do gather in the bathroom to discuss males in private, thus they wouldn't be happy to be in a bar in north america and have males hearing they conversations.
I work with all females as well. They get so nervous having a male around just discussing normal everyday things, I don't think they want guys around while they take a shit.
Also, there are lots of biological differences between males and females. You learn this in any first year physiology class, but most sociologists dont' understand physiology.
Also, who cares what your gender identity is when your taking a piss. It's more about the biological differences. Here is a basic math equation
(biology/physiology > sociology)
Adam — September 5, 2010
also, why does what i want to have sex with determine which bathroom to use?
Should bottom gay males use a female washroom because they recieve even if they identify themselves as "male". Or what about guys who like to wear dresses but are not gay and are not attracted to men at all? Which one should they use?
Sociolgy needs to stop and actually think about what they say before they pick up some stupid cause and go around telling everyone else what to do.
and when someone says transgendered, are we talking pre or post op? this would also be a huge issue.
Also, there is always a line in the womens washroom because they take a long time to go. It's nice having a guys washroom so we dont' have to wait for females to check their makeup, chat with their friends, take a nap on the sofa, smell the perfumes in the washroom and so on and so forth
Jonathan — September 5, 2010
Organisms with WZ chromosomes are female. WW is male. ZZ is a mutant that gets spontaneously aborted. Someone didn't do their homework when making those signs.
Gomushin Girl — September 5, 2010
The Korean hanyeo (female diver)/ dol hareubang (stone statue) descriptions are still a little incorrect . . . hanyeo aren't pearl divers. They collect abalone and other shellfish, along with seaweed. It's extremely difficult work, but formerly the most remunerative and part of why women on Jeju island were much more economically and socially empowered compared to their mainland counterparts. Meanwhile, dol hareubang ("stone grandfathers" in Jeju dialect) are basalt statues that are associated with fertility and protection from bad spirits, but have nothing to do with wishing the hanyeo good luck on their dives. This isn't to say that there aren't protective spirits for the hanyeo in the shaman culture of Jeju . . . but it's not the hareubang. The association/opposition of the two has to do with the fact that most contemporary hanyeo are elderly, and respectfully addressed as "grandmother." So now we have a simple "grandmother" "grandfather" set, in addition to the prominent role both play in tourist literature as symbolic representations of the island's culture.
BillNye the science guy — September 6, 2010
There are plenty of XX males and even more XY females. Gender is a social construct, not a biological one. - this is the dumbest thing i have ever heard and it made me laugh so hard i had to use the bathroom!!
XX = female
XY = male
in bird and some insects
ZZ = male
ZW = female
these are normal, triple chromosome combinations do exist. But they will be physically male or female. Their gender identity like everyone elses will develope from an interaction of their DNA and life experiences. No real difference
Also, gender is biological, gender identity and sexual orientation are biologoy interacting with experience
replace "gender" with "sex" in the above after speaking to someone who speaks this non-science language of sociology
although, gender and gender identity in science are different
DotMana » » Hommes ou Femmes ? Toute une symbolique… — September 6, 2010
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
spongefile — September 6, 2010
I have actually, as a woman who tends to wear pants 90% of the time, found myself exhausted after a long-haul flight, standing in front of the bathroom signs and hesitating, thinking, "people with pants vs. people with skirts? I'm wearing pants? Where do I go?"
BillNye the science guy — September 6, 2010
how about testicles or ovaries on the signs? If you have either removed no one will really mind if you're in the wrong one because you're still alive
Non aux toilettes machos - Bonne Nouvelle ! - Blog LeMonde.fr — September 6, 2010
[...] >>> le post de Melissa Partager et découvrir [...]
gg — September 6, 2010
You need to calm down, realise what the function of graphic symbol is (be easily understandable, which IMPLIES simplification, generalisation etc.) and propose something if you're not happy. Really, I wish people working on genders would not be so convinced they have discovered the LIGHT and feel the furious need to condemn almost everything in the world.
Mann! Frau! | Spreeblick — September 6, 2010
[...] 0Mann! Frau!Dass es kulturelle Unterschiede sind, die Männer von Frauen unterscheiden, ist ja nun eine Binse. Gleichzeitig bin ich davon überzeugt, dass die Trennung zwischen Männlein [...]
sam — September 6, 2010
I loved this post, fascinating! I found it especially interesting as I had to design some loo signs for the bar at my work a few years ago.
They went down the (i felt) cheeky route of obliquely referencing genitals in the shape of the alcohol glasses used. Some people 'get it', others don't. Bit hard to describe but I'll send you a pdf of them if you wish.
Joe — September 6, 2010
This PCness infuriates me. There is nothing 'Sad' or at all 'Wrong' with Depicting Men and Women differently.
WE ARE NOT THE SAME.
Lets rejoice in Difference.
The Average Male figure has wide shoulders and narrow hips while the opposite is true of Women.
Breasts signify Women not Men.
As Penises signify Men not Women.
Skirts/Dresses identify Women in Western Culture to a certain extent and we all know men wore skirts in the past and women wear pants too.
The signs do their job, they are fun for the most part and have no significane as regards equality or any such.
I am aware there are people who blurr these lines but they just dont come into this.
Freelance — September 6, 2010
Please, note that there's a REAL LOT of people (I mean THOUSANDS) who live of blaming inexistent "gender" problems and designing stupid and frequently freedom-breaking solutions to "solve" them. For example, a pretty large part of the UN officers. There's NO PROBLEM about symbolizing men with the silouhette of a man, and women with the silouhette of a woman. It's simply idiot stating that a woman in trousers would find real problems choosing the right door, unless this woman is idiot herself. Regarding gays, they're either men or women with a particular and fully respectable sexual inclination, but there's not a "third gender", nor the need to represent them in any other way. No, there's no social problem about this all, the interest beneath is just money: many people live of working at "gender observatories" or writing "gender equality reports", etc., everything payed with our taxes, of course. (Sorry for my gramatics, English is not my mothertongue. Maybe there's a need for a "non English-speakers writing in English-speaking blogs Observatory")
BillNye the science guy — September 6, 2010
gender has no role in science!
the only sex that matters is that which ends in life
anyother sex may feel good, but doesn't do anything beyond that so that makes it not important.
It would be the same as people having sex and marrying robots. You're all just robosexuals
also, sex with robots = no kids which also equals the downfall of society! You all should thank the straight people that pump out all those kids for gay/lebian couples to adopt
BillNye the science guy — September 6, 2010
also, just because enough sociologist complained to have the word gender defined in the dictionary doesn't mean it's true. It jst means you bitched about it enough to be added. Similar to the word D'oh. I thank the Simpsons for giving you a word to exclaime when you realize how retarded sociology and do something important with your lives like pump gas for a surgeon or work the till in a supermarket for $8/hour. Just think, one day, instead of wasting your life complaining about something so meaningless you could actually contribute to society in a meaningful way
Dunk — September 6, 2010
Not sure what everyone else saw in this post, but to me it just came across as a female with a chip on her shoulder about stereotypes. Perhaps Marissa should consider the phrase "Vive la difference". Too many times does she conclude that a picture of a human without a skirt as the artist denoting men as people and one with a skirt as somehow not denoting a woman as a person. If I were to be equally as paranoid as Marissa, I could conclude that such pictures indicate that the creator of them were denoting men as not being worthy of clothes, while women were allowed to be clothed in a skirt.
Equally, the "WO" and "MEN" doors adjacent to each other is just a slightly more interesting way of telling you which door to go through. Again, it will in no way have been intended to make the man a person and the woman just an extention of the man. Grief girl you need to chill out. LOL
Stop looking for reasons in life to complain or whine and just live it.
BillNye the science guy — September 6, 2010
just an fyi. Girls manage to pee on the toilet seat too! My partner complains all the time when she uses female only public restrooms that women pee all over the seat, but this is maginifed by the fact if it's during their period they bleed on the seat too. All the women out there must know about the hover maneuver and practice it on occasion. I am a guy, i don't pee on the seat. Aiming is easy, so is lifting the seat.
Gray — September 6, 2010
Have any of you whining feminist shit stirrers ever considered that the addition of a skirt, to what you regard as a female offensive symbol, is actually done as a warning to men?
Have you ever stopped for one moment to consider what goes through a man's mind when he sees the skirt symbol?
Okay, I'm going to make an admission. Now forgive me guys, I know this makes our gender appear a bit weak, and I'm sure one of them is going to flame me for fucking "mansplaining" - Jesus H Christ on a moped!, but someone has to put this ridiculous subject into context.
As a male, I have grown up with a healthy fear of wandering in the direction of a pisser and accidentally pushing open the wrong door. Why? Well it's certainly not for fear of seeing ladies' parts. Been there and done that. I even spent some time as a single parent to my daughter, and changed her nappies for months. No, the mysteries of femininity's visual offerings doesn't phase me.
Quite simply, it's the very real dread of being screamed at by a roomful of females who are so offended by my intrusion. I don't know if there exists any real rational [or irrational] constant fear of rape, should one lone male chance to inculcate his obviously immature and lustful presence among a crowd of women, but I hope there is not.
I do however respect women's privacy. Why? Because as an enlightened male, I am aware that a female child feels vulnerable in the presence of several men she doesn't know. So please, you trousers and sensible shoe wearing members of this forum, please explain how your unisex restrooms are going to mitigate that very rational concern.
And before you answer, please do as I did, and think laterally for a moment, apply a small amount of empathy, and picture the 10 year old you walking into a unisex restroom already occupied by a dozen males of all ages. How "PROBLEMATIC" would that be? How traumatized would that leave you?
Now compare that with the real effect these largely innocuous signs are actually having on you and anyone who isn't trying to push a wider agenda, hoping to score another grant to study gender issues, or simply has a very very narrow view of the world.
Kaitlyn — September 6, 2010
I'm not sure what the hullabaloo is regarding the depiction of genitals in the washroom signage. Urine and feces are voided through that area, making it an apt marker for bathrooms. I understand that transfolk may feel anxiety about which washroom to use in the moment, but even someone who is transitioning generally is aiming for either a penis or a vagina, not some third alternative to both. It may be binary, but it's also reality.
I know that doesn't answer the questions like, "What if you have one type of genitalia but identify as the other gender?" or "What if you look like you could be either gender?" as well as addressing the attendant safety issues, but...in terms of signage and iconography, especially as it relates to the the acts being performed (shitting and pissing, naturally), I think the signage with stylized genitalia is fairly elegant.
Queercore Dyke-Fag — September 6, 2010
Yes, heterosexual cisgendered dude, there is fucked up shit going on in the world, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't focus on issues that affect them directly. I feel like the writer of this blog did a great job, and it's an issue that speaks to me and lots of other genderqueers/gender-variant folks and trannies.
Take a minute to think about how much social privilege you have as a cisgendered male in this society (and all I can speak on is where I'm from - Chicago IL, USA)
Your gender is almost undoubtedly read the way you feel it should be.
Your identification doesn't reveal any information you might not want others to know.
Doctors every where know how to treat you in regards to your gender and how it relates to your sex, and I bet your gender has never effected your ability to even be treated by a doctor at all; if you are treated wrongly or even just disrespected by a doctor, it's likely that your concerns will be taken seriously, not laughed at.
You've most likely never been called an "it."
And I'm certain you've never been attacked in a bathroom because of your gender or presentation!
That shit is fucking real, and people like us need to fight for our lives just because we're seen as social deviants (and yes, I totally identify as a social deviant, and a proud sinner). That doesn't mean people need to treat myself and others like my like we're less than human.
So fuck the fuck right off or get with the program, cissie.
Queercore Dyke-Fag — September 6, 2010
Also, I'm just gonna say, I posted this after reading the article, a couple of gray's comments, and a few others. I just now realized there are way more comments on this thread than I care to get involved in.
Anton — September 7, 2010
Well, what is your answer to that? I am planing to open a bar, and I wonder how to organize the toilets and what signs to put? german law requires gender specific toilets, but I could have just 5 or 6 independent rooms without specifications? would that be PC?
But given if for space reasons I HAD to have two seperate washrooms, how should I picture and organize it? I a way not to hurt anyone.
marion — September 7, 2010
J'ai trouvé cette analyse plutôt intéressante. Elle amène à d'autres questions en particulier autour des toilettes pour les personnes handicapées. Si vous faites attention, vous remarquerez que ces personnes ont toujours des toilettes à part, sans distinction de genre. Les personnes handicapées n'ont-elles pas de sexe ?
MarissaAO — September 7, 2010
C'est une question intéressante. Je pense que c'il est semblable à "l'universel mâle/femelle comme spécifique" idée. Capable comme l'universel/handicapé comme spécifique. Si vous êtes un homme capable, vous êtes l'universel. Toute variation est ajouté individuellement. Donc, la femelle est capable, et la personne handicapée est un homme.
J'espère que cela a du sens. Mon français est mauvais. Je suis aide de Google Translate pour vérifier ce que j'écris.
Merci pour votre comment commentaire.
Laura Hershey — September 7, 2010
This is a very interesting post, with an amazing variety of images all designed to reinforce gender dichotomies and stereotypes. Thank you for your analysis.
I would like to suggest that you also give some thought to the bathroom signs indicating wheelchair accessibility – what these signs say about the "genders," or lack thereof, of people with disabilities.
Gray — September 7, 2010
What do you suggest?
maru barragan — September 7, 2010
PLEASE - GET A LIFE!
Overthinking restrooms « Dave Williams’ Blog — September 7, 2010
[...] ridiculously detailed look at bathroom signs has a lot of food for thought, as well as a good deal of Women’s Studies-inspired [...]
LeighAnne — September 7, 2010
Sometimes gender is in the language.
G.M. — September 7, 2010
Absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever read in my entire life. I'm actually faintly ashamed I wasted so much time reading through this garbage in its entirety.
Teal Deer — September 8, 2010
About the "alien" signs: ZZ/ZW is a real chromosome set in many species... where ZW is female and ZZ is male. Another fail point for "universalizing the gender binary".
Great article, by the way.
Karen Colon — September 8, 2010
It is society that makes us make too much of the bathroom dillema. It's idiotic. What's worse is the people who refuse to believe that not all people fit in one or the other category. The secret minority. The truth is that people all over the world have their rights violated continually for not keeping the secret.
Freelance — September 8, 2010
"It's up to women to decide what is degrading to them, not men. Just FYI."
Not really. It's up to EACH INDIVIDUAL WOMEN to decide what is degrading to them, not MarissaAO, nor the LGBT Kommintern, nor the liberal media. And to be frank, I see no riots in the streets with women in rage demanding a change in the loo's signs, because (I think), intelligent and working women have their minds busy with other, important things.
yeah — September 8, 2010
nice collection of pictures... the rest doesnt make sense...
W.C. signs and the gender issue | W-Women Globally — September 8, 2010
[...] with sex’. See the whole and deep typology and analysis of various washroom signs under this link. [...]
lorelei — September 8, 2010
Everyone who is like, "Bathroom signs aren't a real problem! This is stoopid! Write about something real!"... if you read the comments you'd see that it IS a problem for a lot of people. Also, why don't you go write an article about AIDS in Africa, or go save the world, or go do whatever you're telling Marissa she SHOULD be doing? It would be so much more productive than criticizing a post on a website called "Sociological Images" for being a semiotic analysis of images. If you think analyzing images is stupid, why are you here? I disagree with Tea Partiers, but I'm not going to seek out their blogs and tell them they should be doing something else. That would be a waste of time and it would be trolling, which is what you are doing.
ANYWAYS...if you think this article is about the evil of bathroom signs, you're missing the point.
The article is about how bathroom signs reflect how we as a society conceptualize sex and gender. It is about how bathroom signs illustrate and perpetuate commonly held ideas and stereotypes. It is NOT about how bathroom signs are bad and must be destroyed! The bathroom signs Marissa cites are the products of harmful ideas about gender that too often go unexamined, but should be questioned.
Tom M. — September 8, 2010
Never have I been so sorry I e-mail subscribed to an SI comments thread :(
Mike — September 8, 2010
I think the point of the blog entry that many of you are missing is that the bathroom sign dichotomy ignores and erases trans folk from reality by assuming all people easily fit into option one or option two. Thank you for making this Marissa.
Peter — September 8, 2010
How about a picture of a urinal or a commode? No subtext, just a label of what's behind the door. "Mens' rooms" with both would, of course, be labeled with both.
Excuse me, where’s the ladies’ room? « Harvard College Democrats — September 8, 2010
[...] Images has a great post about bathroom signs, gender, and societal expectations. Definitely worth checking [...]
Shirlei Romano — September 9, 2010
Very interesting to see the differences of the symbols in different locations at the same time I realize with some sadness the fact that most companies represent women as inferior beings who need care or fragile, this concept does not please me.
The best offices in my opinion are those where the gender gap is merely the sexual organ of the individual, which is what actually brings the censorship can not use toilets mixed ...
This post is very relevant, like for real!
Shirlei, (Brazilian and writing from Brazil)
Paul’s Thing » Paul’s Grab Bag — September 9, 2010
[...] I always wanted to write a lengthy post on restroom signage, complete with illustrations. Well, what do you know? Someone saved me the trouble! [...]
Weekly Round Up September 9 – 2010 | Personal Patterns — September 9, 2010
[...] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets – (Hat Tip Juju) – Great post. Just not sure what to take from it. [...]
Anonymous — September 10, 2010
Rouillard — September 10, 2010
Toilets in Pioneer:
Freda — September 12, 2010
It just makes me worry that someday I will make a big mistake and go into the wrong loo. Onr more thing to be anxious about!! Seriously, what a tremendous amount of research, I never realised or even thought about how many possible signs there would be.
La toilette, spia della società — September 12, 2010
[...] La diatriba rimase in sospeso e la storia non ci dice chi dei due contendenti l’ebbe vinta. La questione però della segregazione dei bagni pubblici è però diventata nel frattempo spia del grado di evoluzione della società in riferimento alla condizione della donna. E’ la tesi sostenuta da Merissa, studentessa dell’Università di Toronto, in una ricerca pubblicata in origine sul proprio blog e poi ripresa dalla serissima Sociological Images . [...]
marrrkat — September 13, 2010
Interesting post. I completely respect and value your work, Marissa.
However, I am always saddened when I read the comments on this blog. The other blogs I read have really great moderation, so I don't have to sift through the "waaaaaaah, why doesn't anyone care about meeeeeeee" from the cisgendered white males who just don't get it. Or the "why don't you write about something important" comments. Don't these people know that they've become an internet trope? Neither "perspective" adds anything to the discussion. I hope Sociological Images is considering some kind of comments policy and moderation which would block out the ignorant, privileged trolls.
Mad Professah — September 14, 2010
I love the variety of the images! It makes it very clear how gender is universally performed and the strength of the separation of the gender binary.
I'm curious that there's no discussion or depiction of gender-neutral bathrooms, which are becoming more common in public spaces.
WC signs هنا حمامات | kadmous.org — September 15, 2010
[...] signs هنا حمامات Share Loading ... 15 Sep 2010 By Lebanos Marissa has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Toronto, with minors in [...]
Thursday Links | Interrobangs Anonymous — September 16, 2010
[...] This post at Sociological Images is an impressively thorough examination of bathroom signs, and how gender is designated in visual shorthand. [...]
charlie — September 19, 2010
to back Marissa up ...
nobody is saying this is THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE in the world.
Many people have many problems, but that doesn't make the reinforcement of gender stereotypes, and the almost universal and constant projection of what it is to be a certain gender, any less important.
Bathroom signs are a small thing, yes. You COULD easily ignore them. But the point is that they are just one of the many ways that the "suggestion" of who you should be (and linking who you should be to your gender - which is completely unrelated) is reinforced.
The article points out that female is related variously (through imagery) to soft, submissive, vulnerable, coy, attractive, etc etc.
male is related to strong, able, unselfconscious and Normal.
This is a message that's repeated and perpetuated in thousands of large and small ways from every part of society, so much so that generally we just accept it, and in fact DON'T EVEN SEE IT. It takes articles like this to make us realise how saturated every aspect of our lives is with casual (EVEN if unintended) sexism.
The qualities identified above (submissive, attractive, strong, unselfconscious etc) are ONLY related to your personality, despite the huge pressure to attach a set of them to yourself or anyone else, based on gender.
This discrimination IS a problem.
It stops people form becoming who they would ideally be, places constraints and insecurities on people, and generally limits rather than encourages.
I hope the overly blase attitude of some of the comments, from people who don't understand yet, don't hold you back :)
Mannen hebben benen, vrouwen driehoeken | Derek-Jan.nl — September 20, 2010
[...] blog met veel prachtige voorbeelden laat een Canadese rechtenstudent zien hoe daar in verschillende landen mee wordt omgegaan. Mannen hebben benen, vrouwen hebben [...]
What is ‘Feminism’? Answers on a Postcard… « Uplift Magazine — October 4, 2010
[...] personal favourite is Hayden Kaye’s take on toilet door signage (always an interesting starting point when looking at social gender construction) and I’m glad to see one of my favourite [...]
photomavi — October 4, 2010
The One Guy — October 13, 2010
Not like anyone's actually going to read this over a month after it was posted, but here's my take on the issues brought up in the post and comments:
Probably the most “correct” of the signs would be those showing genital organs, as inappropriate as they may be. The fact is that toilets are separated because of, as the post itself correctly notes, “the presumed sexual interest of the opposite sex. That is, because of sexuality.” The post then goes on to say that it is specifically designed to stop the predatory male. This is incorrect. While society unfortunately does view men to be predatory, the segregation of toilets is to prevent predatory action as well as just plain sexual attraction among both sexes. Avoiding stereotyping in the symbols is nearly impossible.
Of course, the obvious response is what about homosexuals and bisexuals (the second of which most people seem to forget)? Well, the fact is, the only way to accommodate them too is to have individual bathrooms, which, in many places, is hardly practical. The best we can do is accommodate as many people as we can (and let’s face it most people are straight), and the others, well, there’s not much we can do. It’s kind of like a far less serious form of choosing to save 90% of people in a fire or to let them all burn.
And of course we come to transsexuals, but the way I see it, this is really a non issue. The separation is there because of sexuality, not personality (although the symbols may wrongly represent this). You are either attracted to the same physical sex as yourself, the opposite physical sex as yourself, or both (or for that matter neither), all of which have been addressed above, and all transsexuals must be one of these.
So the only real issue is the stereotyping of the sexes, of which you hardly need bathroom signs to notice.
Labeling Gendered Spaces | WMS 70: Theory and History of Sexuality — October 14, 2010
[...] few months ago I came across this interesting blog post – “Go Where? Sex, Gender and Toilets” - that lists the multitude of ways gendered bathrooms are marked, and analyzes the ways that [...]
Matt Jordan — October 18, 2010
At LAST we reach the point at which the Holocaust is invoked!
stat arb — October 23, 2010
I'm glad you're drawing attention to this issue! I don't know what the solution for non-binary bathrooms is (plumbing costs $$ just like handicap ramps). But at least a more inclusive attitude toward tran's etc. is called for!
stat arb — October 27, 2010
It's interesting that hair on the top of the head is gendered in these drawings -- but facial hair is not.
Men have been wearing long hair since the hippie era and women have worn short hair since the flapper era. But beards have seen no such crossover.
eszter — November 26, 2010
It's nice to see this topic being picked up again. I first posted about it back in 2006: http://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/02/dress-optional/
I see that some of my photos have been reproduced in this post. It would have been nice (and legally correct) to add attribution since the licensing under which they appear online requires that.
Objectify This » Links for 12/06/10 — December 6, 2010
[...] at Sociological Images, Marissa explores the implications of representing sex on bathroom signs for our understanding of sex and [...]
Cervixosaurus › Plath and people who wear skirts — January 25, 2011
[...] which women are seen as a freak aberration of. Thinking about this always reminds me of the sociological images post on sex, gender and toilets. Men are people, but women are people with long hair who wear skirts. As I drunkenly ranted at a [...]
Kristina — January 29, 2011
i dont like to solve riddles when picking which door to go in... i hope i never come across some of the more confusing doors :-)
Eighty-six | p. 180-181 | Debunking Serano — March 23, 2011
[...] a catlike thing with a tail on its face or a bird wearing a fox head, or am I the flower or the triangle or the inverted triangle, am I the three circles or the circle and a line, am I a knott...? This entry was posted in Anti-Feminist, False Equivalence, False Premise. Bookmark the [...]
Scènes de la lutte politique dans des toilettes publiques » OWNI, News, Augmented — April 9, 2011
[...] de bien naturels besoins. Certains y voient des signes divers d’inégalités ou de sexisme. Pour ma part, dans la continuité de ce que j’ai pu écrire récemment, j’ai vu dans [...]
Scènes de la lutte politique dans des toilettes publiques « meridianes — April 10, 2011
[...] de bien naturels besoins. Certains y voient des signes divers d’inégalités ou desexisme. Pour ma part, dans la continuité de ce que j’ai pu écrire récemment, j’ai vu dans [...]
Gender in the bathroom… « Living Social Theory — April 24, 2011
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
In quale andare? Bagni, sesso e genere | Archivio Caltari — May 8, 2011
[...] di Marissa – via Sociological Images [...]
Stephanie — June 17, 2011
OK, so I study birds for a living and I find the XX/ZZ and XY/ZW signs absolutely hysterical!! In ornithology we use the ZZ and ZW dichotomy to represent the sex-determining chromosomes of male and female birds... where the MALE is the homozygous ZZ and the FEMALE is the heterozygous ZW. So to me those signs specifically state that one bathroom allows male humans and female birds and the other bathroom allows female humans and male birds, nevermind the aliens. The assumption that homozygous sex chromosomes are always female and heterozygous sex chromosomes are male is totally false! Hell, the platypus has TEN sex chromosomes!!
B(l)og humour « Harrogate Feminists — July 11, 2011
[...] to our discussions on humour: this is an entertaining blog post, or should we say bog [...]
In quale andare? Bagni, sesso e genere | Archivio Caltari — July 15, 2011
[...] di Marissa – via Sociological Images [...]
CK — August 5, 2011
Why even have signs on the doors? Let's just not put signs on the bathrooms. Go in, do your thing, for the love of God wash your hands, and come on out. Simple.
Stephane Jourdan — August 24, 2011
I have discovered the origin of the first sign you display in this page. As I demonstrate in my paper : http://knol.google.com/k/stephane-jourdan/aphorismes-et-oeuf-au-riz/3dfvm2oyvur0n/75# it dates back to the Garden of Eden, the first place where a need for separate toilets occured. Nowadays it has been somewhat simplified and only the lower part of the symbol (attached picture, reproduction of an ancient mesopotamian hyeroglyph) is represented.
Katie Bechtold — August 28, 2011
I saw this (attached) restroom sign recently when I visited the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum. Pink/blue issue aside, apparently men can be ninjas with swords, while women can be unarmed ninjas with kerchiefs.
guest — August 31, 2011
Lee Wind — October 10, 2011
Fantastic! Posting a link to this on my blog this week - thanks very much Marissa!
Lex — October 13, 2011
Wow, you really care about restroom signs...
Moira McCauley — October 13, 2011
On the signs that confused you: German and Portuguese are both languages in which nouns are gendered. I don't speak either but I can tell from the endings of the words in Portuguese that moças is feminine and moços is masculine, so I'd imagine the German word for fire is feminine while the word for water is masculine, and that explains the symbols used in those signs.
For anyone who's interested, there was a NY Times article about the way languages with gendered nouns shape people's thoughts about objects, ascribing "masculine" or "feminine" qualities to things like bridges.
Sara — October 17, 2011
Nice article, alot of people mentioned the long line by the ladies restrooms.. we can slove that by separating those who are waiting to fix their makeup with those who need to use restrooms. Makeup ladies can go to lounge area that can be set up next door. Thats what I noticed going to restaurants and night clubs in Houston.
This comment comes to you from http://www.welcome2houston.com
Kelly Crandall — October 17, 2011
what if you had a sign on each door: one that said, "If you don't care about privacy, pee here!" and another that said, "If you want privacy, pee here!"
And then the "non-private" bathroom would still have stalls and all the functional fixtures of a bathroom, but maybe more of them. The private bathroom would just be one private room with fixtures. Anyone could choose whichever room they wanted.
Should we also include holes in the floor for those people visiting from different countries and cultures?
Would that solve the problem?
Link roundup – October 18, 2011 — October 18, 2011
[...] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets » Sociological Images- Sex, gender and toilets. Some of these signs are laughable, some are just sad http://t.co/yqHwzv2Y (via @filip) [...]
Mombian » Blog Archive » What Bathroom Signs Tell Us About Sex and Gender — October 18, 2011
[...] can bathroom signs tell us about gender, sex, and society? Plenty, according to this great article by Marissa at The Society Pages, a multidisciplinary social science project organized by the [...]
» Design Issues Flash Mob Study — October 20, 2011
[...] classmate found this fantastic blog posting with illustrations of male/female symbols around the [...]
Santoshsharma906 — December 7, 2011
mast hai yaar
Alphabet — January 14, 2012
My worst experience has been at a kink club:
(on a sign with a blue, male-sign background):
ANYONE WHO FORGETS TO PUT THE SEAT DOWN!
(NO SMOKING IN HERE YOUR FARTS WILL CATCH FIRE)(on a sign with a pink, female-sign background):
ANYONE WHO CAN REMEMBER TO PUT THE SEAT DOWN!
(NO SMOKING IN HERE THEIR FARTS WILL CATCH FIRE)I leave unpicking the assumptions about dominance, trans gender identities, bodies, performance, transitioning-is-a-kink-right etc. etc. etc. as an exercise to the reader. Note that these toilets were identical in every way shape and form. (In the end the owner, having long spouted over how great it was to see a gay [errr] couple coming, how much she wants the lgbt community to be a part of broader kink events, fobbed me off with patronising bullshit, the event organiser promised to put a sign saying 'toilets' over the club signs).
(As relabelling exercises on existing toilets, "urinals|stalls" "stalls" remains my favourite. Let's play "what is actually the difference here". Although frequently women's toilets are also just plain nicer than men's toilets, which is odd.)
Poly in Pictures - 132. Mistaken — January 19, 2012
[...] I have some links for you. This post about the symbols people choose to put on their toilet doors, and this awesome crowd-sourced map of gender-neutral toilets. (Go [...]
Bathroom Talk « That Girl, Fae — January 29, 2012
[...] by depicting the male figure simply, and the female as some kind of elaboration on the male figure. Read the rest here. Rate this: Share this:Share on TumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]
Alison — February 25, 2012
One Valentine's day in McDonald's, the sign on the women's loos said "men, come on in", and "ladies welcome" on the men's. As I was only a little kid at the time, I was just confused, but now it really annoys me that huge companies like that can get away with these things
Qual é a cor da Turma da Mônica? (Racismo e normalidade – Parte 2) | Papo de Homem – Lifestyle Magazine — February 26, 2012
[...] (Sobre bonecos-palito, confira esse artigo incrível sobre como homens e mulheres são representados nas portas dos banheiros: “Go where? Sex, gender and toilets”) [...]
Raphael Vasconcelos — February 29, 2012
Very nice post. I am from Brazil, but I lived in Germany for a year. When the Fire and Water signs were shown I was confused by the sign and the name on it. Fire to my brazilian mind was for men but my mind was also reading "Damen" from the german Ladies. On the next paragraph you commented about that.
GO WHERE? SEX, GENDER, AND TOILETS « Terrorismo Branco — March 15, 2012
[...] publicado em: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
Desi — March 15, 2012
Just visited a Schlotzky's Deli where the bathroom signs read "shapely bunz" (in script) and "MANLY BUNZ." Aside from the inherent gendered BS associated with this, my poor buns felt somewhat confused about where they belonged!
Qual é a cor da Turma da Mônica? (Racismo e normalidade – Parte 2) « Terrorismo Branco — March 21, 2012
[...] (Sobre bonecos-palito, confira esse artigo incrível sobre como homens e mulheres são representados nas portas dos banheiros: “Go where? Sex, gender and toilets”) [...]
Féminismes | Pearltrees — March 28, 2012
[...] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets » Sociological Images [...]
The Alpha Parent — April 18, 2012
Fascinating post. I have no idea why I enjoyed it so much. I'm going to view toilet signs in a whole new light. I'll see if I can find some more for your collection.
lists make things look cool | Confessions of a Buber Lover — April 24, 2012
[...] gendernormativity/heteronormativity [...]
Guest — May 22, 2012
This was a really informative post. However you fail to propose a new way of labeling restrooms to accommodate the trans and gender queer community.
Toilets and gender « Rewriting The Rules — May 30, 2012
[...] spend much time on the fascinating gender element of toilet door symbols. For that you might find this article on Sociological Images as fascinating as I did. How do toilet door symbols reflect and perpetuate [...]
Rodolfo — August 26, 2012
God the one with aliens, robots, chromosomes, etc is hilarious, almost over-kill! And they include the most common symbols used in Poland - circle for women and triangle for men.
Rodolfo — August 26, 2012
Also, it should be noted that the signs that show both male and female clothing do not only REPRESENT gender performance. According to Butler, performativity is not simply (and not even mainly) when you "do" your gender by wearing, acting, etc. but mostly by CITATION. So the signs with clothing themselves are performative of gender.
Liza — September 7, 2012
I'm sorry, what exactly do you suggest? I'd ideally like to continue to pee in a place where there are no men whipping out their penis to urinate in front of me. What kinds of signs would be deemed appropriate by you? Or should we all just pee in a bush outside?
Topolino amaranto « Sarcasmi — October 27, 2012
[...] ma qui ci sta) sulle immagini stilizzate che indicano i bagni degli uomini e quelli delle donne (il link è questo, l’articolo è in inglese ed è lungo, ma le immagini sono piuttosto chiare). Il post in [...]
Gender Neutral Toilets – Part Two « — December 21, 2012
[...] the concept of gender separation according to two strict binaries kind of ludicrous – see this article looking at the way toilet signs illustrate how we construct gender. In my ideal world all toilets [...]
Give me something new ! « where.is.my.page! — January 5, 2013
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
A Place for Everyone to Go by Rebecca Lehman | Commission for Social Justice Educators Blog — January 29, 2013
[...] attention to our bathrooms. A powerful survey of this is provided in Sociological Images’ collection of bathroom signage - we see that not only is the male-female binary reinforced, we see how colors, clothing, [...]
Signs of the (binary) times | The Revolutionary Dilettante — February 2, 2013
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
Bathroom Gender Wars: why so pee-shy? | Sluts for Socialism — February 2, 2013
[...] Sluts for Socialism Sex-positive, third wave feminists and socialists for creating a better society for all Skip to content HomeAbout ← Stripping at the Airport Posted on February 2, 2013 by glmorrison Reblogged from Pop! Culture & Politics: Originally found at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ [...]
Kimmer1235 — February 2, 2013
For me, the big issue is whether I have to endure making sure the seat (and the bowl rim) is dry before I sit down. I am offended by the splashy mess that some people make (mostly men and boys....).
Consequently, I want Sitters & Standers, or Splashers & Non Splashers. With single person rooms, this would be very easy, and I would love to see it on airplanes!! No more wet seats or floors!
Of course, multi-person rooms are more challenging, and where the main problem exists. I don't have a good solution for this. All I know is that "male bodied women" either need to use the male-body urinals, or be totally respectful of "female bodied women" preferring dry seats if they are going to use the "Ladies" room!
Charles — February 17, 2013
Impressive compilation and interpretations. She actually believes in patriarchy? I see the reverse. Men are discriminated in ways which are not recognized/defined as discrimination. That's the most difficult prejudice to counter. I went to an apparel store once and could NOT use the men's dressing rooms because women had flooded into them, trying on garments from BOTH sections! Could I have used a dressing room designated for women? Oh no; women would express outrage and demand the police be sent for! Women are incredibly discriminatory against men, "only WE can wear skirts---if you try to, we'll shoot you down by calling you a transvestite!" Male sexual anatomy is subject to surgical assault, while the law protects the female! It's men, not women, who suffer from a scarcity of rights! And many men have lost their lives across the millennia because a female brought false accusation against them to other "men," who proceeded to "protect the female," with no moral need to first hear the version of the accused! Yes, the sum total of rights enjoyed by women extremely overreaches those recognized for men!
Louisechanary — February 27, 2013
I like to have a seperate toilet, as a woman, because men do not lower seats, pee all over and stink. It does not have anything to do with that I am afraid they will assault me or anything.
It would be great if people would learn men how to go to the bathroom properly. But I don't think they learn as long as long as women are still the ones that clean them.
Guest — March 14, 2013
This "analysis" is pathetic
knotwrite — March 14, 2013
Ever consider that you might just be making mountains out of mole hills?
tumbler in action — March 15, 2013
are you retarded?
Sacka — March 15, 2013
No you dumb piece of shit. They are made that way so you don't even have to speak the language or read at all and still know where the bathroom is.
Riz — March 15, 2013
JUST GO TO THE FUCKING BATHROOM WHO CARES. I'm a woman and I've been in the men's bathroom several times, no one cares. Holy shit.
poopfart — March 16, 2013
Most of these are hilarious and very creative!
Poly in Pictures - 179. Gender — March 23, 2013
[...] Benefits to having this instead of the silly gendered people symbols: [...]
Isabelle Kia — April 29, 2013
Let's make one big washing room for all. With single cabinets with usual toilets inside and single cabinets with urinals. And then everybody can choose whether s*he wants a toilet or an urinal. And afterwards everybody can wash their hands at the same sink, with the same water.
Friv 10 — May 23, 2013
What you've through with this informational material is formed it a real thinker's article. it's not fairly typically that I understand this sort of content which i favor it.
Grow up — May 31, 2013
My personal option is someone has taken far far far to much time depicting door signs that are there for privacy. All these sort of articles do is make you look into something so much deeper than what it actually is there for. I got bored about a quarter of the way through the article and have decided that bathrooms need to have a set of sacks on one door and a vag on the other, then the author of this ridiculous article can clearly see the signs are only there to advise one toilet is there for males and the other for females. for fuck sale the only reason they are there is so men don't invade women's privacy and women don't invade men's privacy ... Get a real job rather than fantasying over a fu king door and a sign
keli138 — July 5, 2013
• If someone chooses to become two genders at once, or to 'switch' genders, then why does the rest of the world have to change to suit them?
• I agree with many feminist issues but this is a bit of a stretch in a lot of ways
Herp Derp — July 7, 2013
I had no idea that bathrooms hurt so many millions of peoples' feelings around the world. Of all the troubles people face, like poverty, starvation, sanitation, rape and murder; thank god we have you Marissa, to yell over-scrupulous nothings from your ivory tower.
The sociologic side of toilet pictograms — July 9, 2013
[...] Sociological images blog gave us an interesting overview of toilet pictograms from around the world, with some insightful commentary on the pictograms sociological [...]
How Not to Make an Infographic: The Experiments — November 13, 2013
[…] and ‘All Women’ separately? The answer is an unequivocal ‘no’. (Marissa’s article at The Society Pages is a great read about this […]
Qual é a cor da Turma da Mônica? (Racismo e normalidade – Parte 2) | Simplesmente Brasil Blog — November 13, 2013
[…] (Sobre bonecos-palito, confira esse artigo incrível sobre como homens e mulheres são representados nas portas dos banheiros: “Go where? Sex, gender and toilets”) […]
Gendering of Restrooms | LGBT 100 — December 3, 2013
[…] While researching this topic, I found this page which has tons more restroom signs: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/ […]
quick hit: Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets — January 5, 2014
[…] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets […]
Turner syndrome and feminism | Butterflies' Corner — March 27, 2014
[…] I’ve seen this following image from this page: […]
Ryder avalon — June 9, 2014
its not nice or scientifically correct to call trans women "male bodied".
mailbox yellow — June 15, 2014
The Slave of the Husband
Searching for in advance to researching added from you afterward!...
Sex Jokes Pinterest Camfrog | Camfrog — August 30, 2014
[…] File Name : Go where? sex, gender, and toilets » sociological images Source : thesocietypages.org Download : Go where? sex, gender, and toilets » sociological images […]
Sex Gender And Society Camfrog | Camfrog — August 31, 2014
[…] File Name : Go where? sex, gender, and toilets » sociological images Source : thesocietypages.org Download : Go where? sex, gender, and toilets » sociological images […]
Around the Web | TEMP Minds — October 8, 2014
[…] visual field, especially as it relates to gender and sexuality. (Two of my favorites are here and here.) The blog is updated rather frequently so by now this performance of Ben Fold’s subversive […]
Gender Technology And Society | Technology Documents — January 4, 2015
[…] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets – The Society Pages – 2/9/2010 · Women’s and men’s washrooms: we encounter them nearly every time we venture into public space. To many people the separation of the two, and the signs …… […]
Tommy — February 4, 2015
Bathroom Signs can deter vandalism and help prevent wandering eyes. Check out additional options at The Bathroom Home Guide
Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets (feimineach) — February 14, 2015
[…] Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets […]
Buoys and Gulls | A Boy and Her Dog — July 28, 2015
[…] (slightly phobic and anti-unisex restroom) article in the Boston Globe on oddball bathroom signs. Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets has an even wider array of unusual signs to categorize restrooms, including some that are […]
Universal Design Example | Kristen Koeblin: EDTECH Learning Log — September 5, 2015
[…] Marissa. (2010). Go where? Sex, gender, and toilets. Retrieved from http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/09/02/guest-post-go-where-sex-gender-and-toilets/. […]
Germany Pt 2 of Many | theartofpooping — December 6, 2015
[…] significant then I suggest you read also a post by Marissa at The Society Pages titled Go Where? Sex, Gender, and Toilets. Where she gets all up in your business about the societal implications of bathroom […]
VetTeacher — December 9, 2015
Way TF too much free time..........there are better things to be offended by. That's not the bad news. The bad news is they're on their way and you won't see them coming.
It won't matter in next life — August 22, 2016
These bathroom signs are hilarious and so fun and creative! Too bad they were gathered here by someone who badly needs a sense of humor.
Just Jinping — September 15, 2016
Why is the world biased against women?
We treat nature better than men. We get less serious prison sentences than men for the same crime. We are more adaptable to male characteristics than men are to ours. WE'RE INNOCENT.
Just Jinping — September 15, 2016
Why is the world biased against women? We treat nature better than men. We're a little less literate than our competitors, MEN. We're punished less in prison sentences than men. We're usually beautiful. But, men dominate the world with power. They got control of governments before we could, SO WE MUST DO THE SAME: WE MUST GET IN THE GOVERNMENT, EMPOWER WOMEN, TRICK MEN INTO FEMINISM, AND GET THE RIGHTS WE HAVE BEEN DENIED TO...
Toilet worries: representing gender neutrality (transculturally) - Andy Law — March 30, 2017
[…] 2 Further reading: [content warning: one potentially cisnormative statement regarding bodies by the author in an otherwise very trans-inclusive and trans-aware article; embedded sex-based images that are at least cisnormative, arguably transphobic, but with a warning right before; reference to sexual predaciousness/rape culture] this article from Sociological Images on gender and toilet signs is very interesting, also covering femininity, masculinity, sex and sexuality, with plenty of commentary on trans inclusivity: “Go where? Sex, gender and toilets”. […]
Monet Mihatsch — September 11, 2018
I'm sure this is an interesting blog that contains appealing subjects. Have you ever heard about PunchFlix? It’s this really awesome broadcasting service containing creative substance and it demonstrates other programming all over the globe. It’s planning to have several of the famed TV series and films that we all would undoubtedly enjoy. Not only that, but it is also about to provide motion pictures on demand which suggests that we are able to watch whichever program or movie anytime we want. PunchFlix is also about to include motion pictures and Shows in different languages. All we have to do is look for it on the internet or download the smart phone app.
Toilettenartikel 2.0 - Wenn das Waschbecken Frauenbeine hat - Pinkstinks Germany — May 17, 2021
[…] entsprechenden Forderungen zu erheben. Reden wir also über öffentliche (Herren)toiletten. Schon im Eingangsbereich liegt einiges im […]
Non, les dominants n’ont pas « rien à perdre » – Nonoche — March 31, 2022
[…] Il faut ici insister sur un enjeu considérable pour la domination : maintenir son statut de référent universel par lequel toute chose est mesurée, plutôt que d’être reléguée à un sous-groupe de l’humanité, ni plus ni moins légitime que les autres. La domination se conçoit comme le cas général, et les minorités comme des exceptions, des cas particuliers de l’humanité. C’est la raison pour laquelle les dominants s’opposent à ce que la domination soit désignée : on ne peut pas réfléchir ce qu’on ne nomme pas. Ce qui explique que vous verrez bien des personnes cisgenres s’opposer à ce qualificatif, lui préférant de loin des termes comme « normal »… Pour les mêmes raisons, les blancs s’opposent à être désignés comme tels, considérant que cette seule spécification serait « raciste »… Idem pour le mot « féminicide » ou encore l’écriture inclusive, et même pour ceux qui recommandent de parler « d’humanisme » en lieu et place du féminisme. On retrouve l’androcentrisme dans les détails les plus insidieux, jusque dans la signalétique des toilettes publiques. […]