April 21, 2019

Moving Towards "Potty Parity"

“In 1987, a man, a woman, and their daughter attended a Tchaikovsky concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The most notable thing about their outing, all these years later, is something that actually wasn’t the least bit unusual: The two women waited in an interminably long line for the bathroom, while the man did not.

What separates their uncomfortable experience from those of innumerable others is that the man in their party was a California state senator. After witnessing just how long his family members had to wait, he introduced legislation to guarantee the state’s women more toilets.

In the three decades since, dozens of cities and states have joined the cause of “potty parity,” the somewhat trivializing nickname for the goal of giving men and women equal access to public toilets. These legislative efforts, along with changes to plumbing codes that altered the ratio of men’s to women’s toilets, have certainly helped imbalances in wait times, but they haven’t come close to resolving them.

“It still remains a huge problem today, overall,” says Kathryn Anthony, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois who has studied the issue for more than a decade. The issue persists for many reasons: the exigencies of real estate, the building codes that govern construction, and, of course, sexism.”

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