There was an interesting discussion on Crescat Sententia last week about unisex bathrooms, which evidently have started to spring up at some universities (even in the dorms, which sounds like a risky proposition at best). Many of the commenters who posted to the sites referred to at Crescat seemed to be in favor of keeping the status quo, mostly either because of concerns for women's safety or out of a strong desire not to have the opposite sex around when they were doing their "bathroom stuff."
One thing that many people pointed out was the existence of single-user unisex bathrooms; these guarantee even more privacy for the user and also deals with another problem that was mentioned, that of not forcing transgendered people to have to make a public choice of which room to use (which never would have occurred to me in a million years, but hey, you can learn a lot via the blogosphere). That got me to wondering why, in some of the schools where I teach, the single-user bathrooms are still segregated.
This situation actually came up a few days ago, when I needed to make a quick "pit stop" between lessons at a middle school. The hallway nearest to where I teach has two seemingly identical single-user faculty restrooms, one for each gender. I reached the men's room only to find the door locked, so I waited in the hallway (taking up lesson time as I did so, since my teaching continues uninterruptedly at most schools). Next door, a woman walked out of the ladies' room. Knowing of the single-occupancy nature of these rooms, the thought occurred to me that, if I actually knew more people here (since I am rarely acquainted with anyone other than the band directors at any given school), I might be daring enough to use the now-open ladies' room, rather than continue to wait for the men's room. After all, it's not as if anyone could walk in on me, unless I was stupid enough to not lock the door. While I was pondering this idea, the men's room door finally opened...
...and out walked a woman. Wait a minute...
This seemed right there to be a good argument in favor of gender-neutralizing these two rooms, because an obvious double standard exists: I would have likely been reprimanded for using the ladies' room, but the lady in question faced no such censure for using the men's. I can understand the possible objections from women who don't want to use the same facilities that guys do (either for safety/privacy concerns or due to the "eww" factor, as Ann Althouse notes here), but is there really any other reason that a single-user facility needs to be gender-labeled? (Incidentally, a similar situation came up that same night at dinner, when I had to wait quite some time for the one-seater "men's" room to be freed up, while its female counterpart sat unused.)
If I've missed any good reasons to keep these rooms as they are, please point this out to me in the comments. Also, do any of my readers think that completely unisex multi-user bathrooms are a good idea, especially in college dorms? I'm still not sure that the world at large is ready for that...
UPDATE: I remembered a post from last year where it appears that I took a guy to task (in the blog, not in person) for using a single-seater women's room, although my main objection seems to be that he was also talking on his cell phone in there--very loudly. I may have warmed to the idea of unisex single-seaters (especially since, evidently, women can already get away with using the "wrong" one), but my stance on cell phones in the bathroom hasn't changed: Eww.
Oh yeah, and I was going to mention before that an activist group cited in the Althouse post linked above is called People In Search of Safe Restrooms. Anyone think they didn't know what the acronym for that would be when they founded the group?
And this could partially solve the problem of under- or unemployed musicians, too: Also from Althouse, a link to an interesting story from India:
The authorities in southern Rajahmundry have hired groups of drummers to play nonstop outside the homes of property tax evaders until they pay up. The city took the action after other incentives, like waiving interest and penalties, failed. After a week of the incessant drumming, 18 percent of the overdue backlog has already been cleared.I would think this would be especially effective if they had the drummers play something like the "Sing, Sing, Sing" intro (a great work in its time, but way overplayed now) or, even better, "Wipe Out."