I didn’t make up that title. “Potty parity” is a term in use to discuss public toilet facilities, particularly where the lack of women’s toilets mean they stand in long lines while men zip in, unzip, and zip out.
Note that we’re not talking equality. As in, 1:1 toilet stalls. Because 1:1, it turns out, may be way too lean for crowds of women.
The need for more potties on the feminine side is particularly keen in areas where lots of people congregate for hours at a time. No, not shopping malls. Stadiums.
In New York City, two baseball stadiums have faced potty parity questions within the past few years. Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field both had designers who dug deep to come up with the right answer to the age-old question of how much is too much. Or rather, how long is too long?
Potty parity is not measured by numbers of porcelain thrones. It’s measured by wait times. And as we all know, women generally need to wait for a toilet longer for men.
From the New York Times: “Studies show that women take about twice as long as men in the restroom. The reasons vary, from the obvious (the need to secure themselves inside a stall, shed more clothes and use toilet paper) to the not-so-obvious (menstrual cycles and the increased likelihood, compared to men, of ushering small children). Groups including the American Restroom Association and the World Toilet Organization view quick access to clean public toilets as no laughing matter. People with medical problems, including bladder or bowel dysfunction, may not be able to wait. Long waits can exacerbate other issues, including urinary-tract infections.”
The Times forgot to mention pregnancy, which accelerates the frequency with which people need to pee, especially in the last trimester. No wonder, with a 7-pound mass weighing on the bladder. They also omitted discussion of women’s “toilet etiquette”. Depending on where and when they grew up, some women believe they must never ever let any part of their body (their thighs, for example) touch the seat. They either hover over it or take time to place a protective layer of toilet paper on the seat before sitting.
(Note: Unless the backs of your thighs bear open wounds, you won’t catch anything. Relax and sit.)
Yankee Stadium now has “369 women’s toilets, and 98 toilets and 298 urinals for men, according to the buildings department. Another 78 fixtures are in unisex bathrooms, designed for families or in luxury suites”, according to the Times. At Citi Field, there are “374 women’s toilets, and 111 toilets and 240 urinals for men”.
Ah, sweet relief!
For men who scoff that women take longer because they chat, no. Just . . . no. Women talk in line (often to plead with “got to go!” children) before reaching an empty stall. They talk at the sinks. Within the stall, it’s all business – though that business might have to be repeated for each child who’s accompanied Mummy. Your date makes you wait while she applies lipstick, gentlemen, but she’s not holding up the line. The other women would be livid, and your date’s still alive, right?
The need for public toilets for women is not an exclusively US concern. The female line is longer virtually everywhere. In China, as well.
Again, the New York Times: “… national standards for public street toilets in urban China recommend a one-to-one ratio of men’s stalls, including urinals, to women’s stalls. Since sanitation workers — almost uniformly women — routinely take over at least one women’s stall for their cleaning supplies, women typically end up with even less opportunity to relieve themselves.”
What a bummer. It’s enough to make a woman become an activist.
That’s exactly what one Chinese woman has done. Li Tingting, age 22, has staged protests and loo-ins. At public buildings, she guards the men’s bathroom for three minutes at a time so women can use it. Then the men get it back for 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat. After an hour, Ms. Li moves on. In her native city of Guangzhou, a bastion of comparative liberality, Li has been successful in bringing attention to the issue of too few toilets for women. (In Hong Kong, the recommended ration is 2:3, and 1:3 in Taiwan. Lucky Taiwanese!) Working in Beijing, which takes a harder line against protest, she was temporarily whisked off by security guards.
Nonetheless, Li’s volunteer activism has borne fruit. A new focus addresses an age-old problem.
Now, if we could design a way to prevent men peeping over women’s toilet stalls. I wonder what the NRA would have to say about that tricky little problem?