How unisex toilets helped me win at the internet

I won at the internet last month. They emailed to tell me. ‘They’ being a company called metr.ic and the email said that from among 150,000 daily news articles, mine was one of the top 100 most commented on. It was clearly a slow news day.

That said, the topic of the piece was gendered school uniforms and gendered toilets. My view: why not have unisex versions of both?

People didn’t agree.

guardian loos

Commentors typically liked one and not the other – but then struggled to explain why. Most looked to be proving Jonathan Haidt’s well-worn theory that people react emotionally to an idea and then post-rationalise the feelings with any spurious claim they can muster. My favourites were the people who said unisex toilets were a bad idea because they would cause bullying – as if same-sex bullying hasn’t happened for years in single sex toilets. (The idea, I guess, being that cross-gender bullying is worse but without any real reason of why this is the case. Also, the layout of toilet I described reduces bullying because the washrooms are open to public view).

On uniforms I was annoyed not to have mentioned that the school where I taught also stopped girls from wearing trousers. I believe they still do. So to all the commentors who said “NO SCHOOLS MAKE GIRLS WEAR SKIRTS” – you are wrong.

There was the fair question of whether non-gendered uniforms simply means “let’s make everyone dress like men”. Although I liked Sandra Leaton Gray’s suggestion, via twitter, of a uniform consisting of a choice between t-shirt, collared shirt, trousers and kilts. Uni-sex, all the way!

It’s a topic to keep pondering though. Arbitrary gender divides are everywhere. I constantly hear people of my own generation, who are now parents, making unthinking remarks such as “he’s a boy, of course he’s going to be naught”, or “girls are just so sensitive”, blah blah. These comments horrify me because they’re lazy thinking. Being a boy doesn’t make you naughty, being a girl doesn’t make you sensitive.

Still, shouldn’t say that too loud. Wouldn’t want to break the internet with all the angry howls.



Categories: UK Education Policy

3 replies

  1. No uniform at all is the easiest solution for me.

    The toilets issue is for me an question of design. I don’t beleieve it is reasonable to have inner cubicles and an outer waiting area with a door onto the corriidor that wasn’t watched by teachers, and I think it is unreasonable to have teachers watching the cubicle doors.

    Boys urinals are much more convenient and take less space I think.Having females in the same area would not be appropriate. No matter how much it is suggested that boys and girls are the same, I am afraid it isn’t true.

    I suspect that to enforce a girls must wear skirts rule would be illegal but I am sure there are some legal eagles out there whi actually know.

  2. “Being a boy doesn’t make you naughty”

    Not automatically, but on average, compared to girls, it does – very much so. Citation: crime by gender statistics.

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