THE DEAL WITH
How did genderspecific bathrooms come to be? And why aren’t there any in our homes?
UNISEX toilets are popping up in restaurants in the West and have created heated debates in distinguished newspapers, globally. All the while, when many Malaysian eateries don’t even have restrooms, let alone gender specific ones.
This fact leads me to wonder: are the local outlets more progressive than their Western counterparts or have we missed the boat long enough to be fashionably ahead of the game despite being ourselves?
During a recent virtual stroll through my hometown’s newspaper breaking news section, I came upon a passionate discussion about a restaurant owner resenting the city council for fining him over his hip outlet’s unlawful unisex toilets. The epitome of first world problems, you say? I beg to differ.
How did gender-specific bathrooms come to be, anyway? And why aren’t there any in our homes? Historically, in the Victorian era of the 19th century, women started to leave their traditional place of competence, their homes, to join men in theirs, textile mills and other factories.
In the then predominant spirit of separate spheres ideology, the delicate, so-called weaker sex had to be protected from the crude public world of men. Or did they? Segregated work places ensued, as well as separated train sections, library reading rooms, photography studios, hotels, banks and department stores.
The fact that ladies don’t need this level of protection in the civic realm has long been established.
Restrooms, however, have somehow escaped this development.
Women are still victims of many gender-based injustices, most of them no laughing matter. But, one we generally agree to clench our teeth and smile about is the fact that, be it at the movies, at the airport or even during school recess, the queues in front of the ladies’ is always so much longer than at the gents’.
This fact has led the more adventurous, or more desperate ones, among us to throw caution to the wind and step through the wrong door. These carefree ladies usually re-emerge unharmed and quite relieved from the “Lelaki” section.
Restrooms often have a very bad reputation, worse than
So, I plead for genderneutral washrooms. The benefits are countless. For example, it would eradicate at least one instance of great gender-based favouritism in the world.
Unisex toilets popping up in restaurants in the West have created heated debates in newspapers globally.