ERA and the Politics of Toilets

At various political blogs around the internets, there has been some discussion of revisiting the Equal Rights Amendment. I really don’t think that’s in the cards, but, in a very good post, Amanda discusses, among other things, one of Aspazia’s students who opposes the ERA because it would mandate unisex toilets, thereby endangering the survival of his fraternity (I’m not joking). The canard of mandated unisex toilets canard was raised the last time the ERA was proposed in 1982 before these students were born. Who taught them this rubbish?

Amanda proposes that the politics of toilets will be different this time around:

I predict here and now that if the ERA actually comes back into play, this scare tactic will make its way back into the media. And if MANDATORY UNISEX BATHROOMS works its way back into the debate, then feminists have been handed a golden opportunity to talk about the importance of equality. Every woman I know, no matter how anti-feminist, thinks the fact that men seem to have more facilities and shorter lines everywhere you go is a serious travesty of justice. If the ERA actually does mean that we can commandeer the men’s room if a public place doesn’t provide equal facilities for women, than this is the sort of amendment that could easily gain the support of every woman who’s nearly had to pee herself waiting in line while the men nearby breeze in and out. Or even every woman who is sick and tired of coming out of the restroom apologetically to find her male companion standing around looking bored yet again. MANDATORY UNISEX BATHROOMS could be the sort of majority-forming issue that few are, up there with the need to wave flags after 9/11 and the popularity of the birth control pill.

I actually think there’s a way to defeat this with some clever political jiu-jitsu. When the conservative raises this argument, here’s the response:

1) Once again, conservatives are being dishonest about what will happen (attack their ethos[link])
2) This won’t mandate unisex toilets.
3) It will mandate enough toilets for women, so that they are not unduly inconvenienced.
4) Don’t you think that’s a good thing?

This argument would undercut the mandatory toilets idiocy, as well as provide a ‘teachable moment’ about what the legislation would actually do, as opposed to what conservatives incorrectly claim it would do. What’s really pathetic is that if the ERA is raised, we’ll have to make this argument. What’s tragic is that this argument could decide the amendment’s fate.

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7 Responses to ERA and the Politics of Toilets

  1. Michael Schmidt says:

    Or we could just co-opt and be for unisex toilets. What’s so bad about a woman being in the next stall over? You afraid she might find out how small you are?

  2. The Ridger says:

    Ummmm? What? If it’s a fraternity, how will unisex toilets endanger it? Is he expecting women to rush in off the street demanding to use the facilities? I despair sometimes…

  3. John McKay says:

    Most building and/or health codes require equal facilities for men and women in public places. The kicker is that “equal” is defined as the same number of stalls. I recall a study from over ten years ago (maybe even twenty, though it seems like yesterday…mutter, mutter…darn kids) that said men only take two-thirds as much time in a public restroom as women do. Therefore, an arrangement of facilities that was equitable, rather than numerically equal, would provide fifty percent more stalls for women.
    I goota admit, hearing the old unisex bathroom nonesense does take me back. Heck, hearing the word “unisex” is a blast from the past.

  4. Jianying says:

    Most small restrauants, small establishments, and most homes, have no separate facility for man or woman. Just bathroom that is either being in use or not. So more or less UNISEX. And my dorm in colledge had unisex bathroom. I never understood people that gets worked up over these things.

  5. The Ridger says:

    It occurs to me that most HOUSES have unisex bathrooms…

  6. Heratclitus says:

    Lets pass the ERA!
    When they introduce the new draft, and they WILL because they will HAVE to to maintain the empire, they will have to draft women!
    That will lessen my chances of going.

  7. anordinaryperson says:

    You guys need to go to and read the ERA Myths and Facts.

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