Girls and boys can’t share loos
WHAT do teenage girls need in public lavs? Roughly what all women of any age require – privacy, cleanliness, a feeling that their hormonal bodies are treated with sympathy by other women using the loos. Dignity, I suppose.
So what has the headmaster of a Cardiff secondary school, where pupils are aged 11-18, provided for his charges? What else but a gender-neutral lavatory block for boys and girls.
The students hate it so much that they’ve already staged a quiet revolution – the boys all use the left hand side of the toilets, the girls gravitate to the right. Marc Belli, the head of Bishop of Llandaff School, tries to laugh this voluntary segregation off.
“It’s as we anticipated… if this is how children use them, this is fine,” he jovially tells the press. And of course he denies that the loos were designed to be “genderneutral” (like gender-fluid, the new PC kid on the block), but that’s exactly how he described them in his original proud tweet to parents.
So, back to toilets. We all need them and we don’t especially like visiting public loos. There’s something deep in the psyche that demands this most private yet essential function, for centuries deemed too shameful to perform in public, should be discreet; almost anonymous. Now imagine if you are a 13-year-old girl at the Bishop of Llandaff School. You’ve just started your first period. You need the loo. I have no idea if sanitary towels or tampon vending machines are available but if they SO, you can talk the talk… but can you walk the walk? So went the annoying and largely idiotic 1980s rhyming corporate conundrum. But 30 years on, the watercooler wisecrack has turned into something more solid.
So-called “walking meetings” are being given the thumbs-up by Public Health England. They say that instead of sitting around tables, office workers should go for a stroll to discuss ideas. I couldn’t agree more.
Walking is a wonderful way to concentrate the mind and problemsolve. I get some of my best ideas are, and you have to use them, and there are boys hanging about (because yes, there is a shared open area which all pupils must cross to get to the cubicles) can you honestly imagine the blush-inducing shame of sharing your monthly problems with a gaggle of sniggering boys?
Or, you need to do a number two, as we delicately put it. And you have an upset tummy. You make – er – noises. Cue lumpen youths outside your cubicle bursting into raucous laughter and pointing at you when you return to the classroom.
No. Like mixed wards, mixed toilets are an abomination. Even for grown-ups. I’ve worked in many offices and I cannot remember the number of times the Ladies has played hostess to a sobbing secretary whose boyfriend has just dumped her, while sympathetic friends pat her back, offer tissues and soothing words.
No man should be allowed to witness that. And actually, no decent man would want to.
These peculiarly private female aspects of women’s lives, whether they’re linked to periods, menopause (swabbing your face with cold water to cool a hot flush), or rushing to the loo because you’re pregnant and have to pee every five minutes, are all in deepest women’s territory.
I’ve nothing against lads but as so many girls will be quick to tell you, in Lavatoryland they are messy, loud and smelly.
So remember, headmaster – men are from Mars, and women from Venus. Especially in public toilets.
walking the walk and talking the talk
when I’m on the move, whether it’s crossing a Cornish cliff-path or pacing a London park. A friend calls it “walking your way to wisdom”. Keeps the pounds off, too.