…it’s been a bit of a heavy week in the radfem blogoshpere. What with juvenile MRA-in-the-making trolls (I’m convinced they’re fourteen year olds) insisting that feminism should address the ever-present issue of the oppression of straight white males – I kid you not, look – and an eight year old girl trying to hang on to her underwear in the playground whilst being asaulted by her male peers and I think we’re all a bit too stunned to write anything about this yet. In all of this Kat is still missing and people are getting seriously worried about her….all in all, it’s been a helluva week.But tonight is Friday night and my beloved and I have been out for dinner together. We’ve had a few bevvies and I’m a tad squiffy so I’m not feeling particularly serious (actually, I’m feeling quite fine). One thing we talked about at the dinner table was toilets. Yes, yes…I know….polite conversation and all that…but, harrumph, this is toilets from a feminist perspective.
‘But what brought this on?’ you might ask, believing that a meal out with one’s beloved at the end of the working week would be an ideal opportunity for…oooh, I dunno…romance, maybe…reconnection…affirmation of the regard in which we hold one another? Nah. We do all that stuff every day – but we don’t talk about toilets from a feminist perspective every day. Oh no.
Last weekend we went out to a gig at a local venue that we both used to frequent as teenagers but haven’t ever been to together before. Most of the audience were people of a similar age to us. In the queue for the ‘ladies’ during the interval my queue companions and I were discussing how much things don’t ever change. We were reminiscing about having to queue for the loo at the very same venue all those years ago when we were teenagers; how the queues then stretched out of the door and round the lobby – and our queue still did that!
Why are there never enough toilets for women at entertainment venues?
Think of the circle at the Hammy Odeon (or whatever it’s called these days) four toilets for women! Aren’t women supposed to need the loo? Or are we not supposed to go out in numbers? Or are these buildings designed by men who have no idea about women’s toiletting requirements? You’d think they could ask, wouldn’t you?
This venue last weekend – masses and masses of unused ‘mirror space’ (well, maybe not totally unused – several of us adopted that ‘if I scrutinise myself for long enough maybe it’ll distract my thoughts away from how much I need to pee’ approach while we were queuing) but not enough cubicles! It was like that when I was a teenager and it’s still like that now. Why??
My beloved and I talked about various scenarios….like the seated audience for the second half of every gig at the Hammy Odeon being predominantly male while all the women rushed around and used every available toilet. He came up with some practical solutions for the women’s loos that, I felt, would have women saying “ah, forget the gig – I’m staying here”. But, underlying all our jokes, was a recognition of the fact that women’s needs often (usually?) aren’t considered by architects and planners. I mean, the huge amount of mirror-space compared to the laughable amount of pee space was soooo telling! It said ‘what you look like is more important than what you need’ in such an ‘in yer bladder’ kind of way – totally male oriented.
This particular building we were at last weekend went up in the sixties – a time when the humanity of women was supposedly starting to be recognised. It so wasn’t. That was a lie that so many of us believed. Ok, the Hammy Odeon is an elderly building but, even so, you’d think that any architect worth his [ha!] salt would know that women need many, many more toilets than men who, maybe, are happy with the communal peeing thing. But why have they still not recognised our needs? Why do women still have to waste all the interval queuing to pee but the men get time enough to sink a couple of beers while they’re waiting for us? Crikey, it’s not as though we preen ourselves for them in front of the mirrors anymore – there’s no time left to do anything like that! Anyway, given the choice, I’d take the beers, personally.
Best venue I’ve been to for adequate provision of women’s loos is the Barbican, I think. There’s still always a queue but it moves quite fast and my companion only has to wait five minutes at the top of the stairs for me to emerge, empty bladdered, from the foray. It’s the best of a bad bunch – but it’s still not good enough.
Squiffy Friday night dinners. Don’t you just love ’em?