I work as a communications intern on our campus, and, as writing and coffee consumption go hand in hand, I’ll need to visit the little boy’s room. I head over to the office floor’s bathroom and I see high heels under the stall and a purse by the sink. This is no longer the little boy’s room: this is a shared space.
At any bathroom you would see a sign depicting the white silhouettes of a man and a woman. On college campuses you might see a third icon joins the pair: a hybrid of the two. Halves splitting the middle. A skirt tucking out on one side and blockish straight-lines on the other.
Gender neutral restrooms are becoming the new thing at colleges.
The separation of bathrooms is a culturally constructed phenomenon, even though we can all agree men and women have different body functions. Still, according to an article by The Atlantic, men find bathrooms anxiety-inducing, while women find them liberating. No where else do we see such strict gender segregation, and the social norms between the two are telling.
In the men’s bathroom the code is to never speak to another person in the bathroom, unless you know him—and even still, make it short. For men, conversation stops once you enter a stall, and you never talk to strangers. Sight may cease at the stall, but ignore anybody’s natural sounds, because they’ll have to do the same to you.
A gender neutral bathroom, on the other hand, is a shared space to emphasize our commonalities, instead of our differences. Still, they are a new phenomenon that raises questions about proper bathroom etiquette.
For instance, I want to know: If there is a urinal, am I supposed to feel strange peeing standing up while a woman enters to sit down at a stall?
After reading up on the different norms between men and women while in bathrooms, the social norms around gender neutral bathrooms will be telling of our culture. Nonetheless, they prioritize safe spaces for everyone, and especially for non-binary students who want more than two options.
Excuse me, I got to go to the
little boy’s room bathroom.