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.

3 thoughts on “How unisex toilets helped me win at the internet

  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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