Ladies’ Room?

Posted by – April 26, 2005

There are many meaningful things said about the gender divide vis a vis bathrooms, but I didn’t expect to be blogging about it. Still, a couple of recent articles – one in The New York Times, and the other in The NY Post – have brought up all the usual issues and complaints.

If we allow crossdressed men to go into a ladies room, the end of civilization is upon us. Pedophilia will occur at mind-boggling rates. Women will no longer feel safe.

    A few things have occurred to me.
    1) The reason women already go to the bathroom in pairs (other than a chance to gossip) is safety. So it’s apparent they already don’t feel safe going alone to the ladies’ room, trannies or not.
    2) One of our loyal bloggers actually did some research on the incidence of men crossdressing in order to assault children in bathrooms, and after an evening of making himself heartsick with horrible stories, found only one incidence – which turned out, after all, to be a mistake.
    3) It strikes me that the easy answer to this problem is to legislate that new buildings need to include one single-occupancy bathroom. Period. So that the transperson, or woman-raised-female, or child-and-parent (fathers take their kids to the bathroom, too) can use a room that is lockable and private. Other buildings could be required over a period of time to retrofit their own bathrooms for similar use.
    4) I wonder often at the people who spew such fear and hatred of strangers, or the unknown. I wonder how they ever feel safe in their worlds.
    5) The first time I shared a ladies’ room with a drag queen the only thing that upset me was that she’d remembered to stop at a mirror to freshen her lipstick and I hadn’t.

Not to make light of the situation: women are vulnerable to unprotected spaces, and getting stuck behind a locked door. But I don’t think crossdressers are the men who are going to be assaulting them, and I don’t think the average sex assailant would be willing to emasculate himself to that degree in order to assault women. Transpeople are usually just as scared as women are of assault from men.

Since stalls create the privacy, why aren’t ladies’ room doors transparent? I don’t have a problem with someone watching me put on lipstick or make sure there’s no toilet paper stuck on my shoe (and maybe the clear doors would shame more people into washing their hands – like they’re supposed to). Extra eyes help cut down on violence.

So the real issue is: why don’t women feel safe in restrooms?

My guess is that it’s because we don’t take crimes against women seriously enough – no matter who perpetrates them. They say you can judge a society by how well it treats its women and children, and by those standards, we’re not getting a passing grade. ABC reports an increase in child abuse that’s ‘epidemic’ and the stats on violence against women stay the same year after year. If women don’t feel safe in their own homes, why on earth would they feel safe in a public bathroom? And while you might say these are two different issues, the late Andrea Dworkin said:

By the time we are women, fear is as familiar to us as air; it is our element. We live in it, we inhale it, we exhale it, and most of the time we do not even notice it. Instead of “I am afraid,” we say, “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t know how,” or “I can’t.”

So why are women afraid of transfolks in restrooms? Because women are afraid. While they may not understand that transpeople are not the ones who will assault them, they don’t expect their boyfriends and husbands to assault them, either. And they do. They do. And as usual, what can be feared (because it is unknown, sometimes unknowable, and new) will be feared instead. Their fear is legitimate. Transpeople’s need for accomodation is legitimate. But once again, we’ve got this tiny sliver of pie, and no one’s getting enough to eat. The issue again is male violence – male violence against gay men, transpeople, and women. When we all realize that we’re in this together, maybe, maybe, we’ll take back the night.

Resources: The NY Post and NY Times articles can be found on the MHB Boards, and there’s some sensible legal consideration given to the issue by Michael C. Dore of FindLaw.com.

2 Comments on Ladies’ Room?

  1. grvsmth says:

    Just wanted to point out that the research I did on the issue of peeping toms in restrooms is more complete. You can read my report at http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/.....6061#26061

  2. [...] Have you all seen this latest iteration of trans + feminist(ing) + bathroom issues? Oy, it makes me tired. Here’s what I had to say about it four years ago. [...]

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