Potty Parity

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A bill introduced yesterday in NYC would require more restrooms to be set aside for women than men in most buildings.

The bill would apply to arenas, auditoriums, drinking places, meeting halls, theaters, public dance halls and stadiums. New facilities and buildings undergoing substantial renovations would have to comply to the 2:1 ratio. And other buildings would be required to adhere to the ratio as best possible.

At least a dozen other jurisdictions have passed similar laws. Anti-tobacco, anti-fast-food, anti-ladies-night crusader John Banzhaf is behind it all.

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  1. Jesus, Tom, will you cool it with all the qualifications? Just admit you like quilting. Everybody’s cool with that.

  2. Or just cut out ingesting the diuretics.

    Why the concern about women having to go to the bathroom? Why not concern about men who have to take a shit? No matter how many urinals are available, if there’s a line guys will piss in the standard toilets. Or rather ON the toilets, and the floors, etc. Womens’s johns may smell bad at times, but how many women have to sit ON wet toilet seats like guys have to?

    Next thing you know, they’ll fine places for not having enough toilet paper.

  3. Okay, Tim, I like quilting. My main criteria for a good quilt is, does it keep my fat ass warm on a cold night? If it does, it can look like the dog barfed on it for all I care.

    “Quilting” has evolved beyond using leftover fabric scraps to make a bedcover into an “art” form that I’m just too plain Neanderthal to appreciate.

    Anyway, being married to a quilter means never being able to walk barefoot around the house because of all the “oopsie” pins and needles that have fallen out of the fucking things during production.

  4. Why not just make unisex bathrooms and put stalls around everything?

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen any posts by women in this thread.

    I know, I know, this is a bad regulation. Not denying that. But since discussion has shifted to the why/whether/how of the bathroom time discrepancy, and to what a good (non-coercive) solution would be, it strikes me as strange that a bunch of men think we can solve this without female input.

  6. I take the standard libertarian position that it’s none of the government’s business to dictate this, but I think there’s one question that’s even more interesting here. Why is it that the “equal rights crowd” — which is SO eager to enforce numerical equality in every other area — so willing to legislate INequality when it comes to the number of restrooms?

    When it comes to allegedly unequal pay, the sort of people supporting more restrooms for women won’t take into consideration such rational things as the fact that women many times take several years off work to raise children (or cut back on their commitment to a career if they continue working). In THAT case, all they can see is the numerical differences without looking at the real reasons which cause it. But in THIS case, we’re supposed to be sensitive to the real needs and ignore the numerical inequality they’re proposing.

    Why the difference?

  7. i’ll venture that it’s because they’re blithering shitheads.

    and that there is nothing more near and dear to the western tradition, religious and secular, than vengence.

  8. I’m for letting the market handle this one. (I’m pretty much for letting the market handle everything.)

    I think the unisex is the answer.

  9. There will never be unisex bathrooms because men will leave the seat up.

  10. thoreau – I take it to mean that the male contributers to this thread believe that we are capable of rationally “fair” policy-making and are not bound to seeking only the interest of other men. That is, do you think that men are just trying to (figuratively) screw over all women and that without a woman’s voice they’ll never get representation?

    I think the real reason that only men have replied is that only men have jobs that are so easy that we can kill time surfing the Internet a work.

  11. Thoreau,

    Has anything ever been solved WITH female input?

  12. Citizen-

    I just think that if one wants to understand the reasons why women take longer in the bathroom, maybe we should ask women. It would sure make for a better solution to the bathroom problem, regardless of whether that solution is accomplished by the private or public sectors.

  13. Did I miss something or did the laws prohibiting public policy from discriminating on the basis of gender get revoked?

    Seriously, let the market decide. This is just a perfect example of how common sense gets tossed aside in the endless chase for “equality”.

    Got three daughters….they take more time and need more room…naturally. But why is a LAW needed to COERCE business to comply when (most) will see it as an advantage over time to make concessions in this regard. Duh, that’s how the market works.

    Pathetic

  14. If we want to see true equality in restrooms, then we need to start legislating equal cleanliness. As a security guard for many years, I had a chance to see exactly how great the difference was. I have never been to a place where the women’s bathroom was anywhere near as bad as the men’s. There have been a few places where they’re both clean, but any number of places where the women’s room had a nice [if feminine] paint scheme, flowers, chairs to sit in, and clean toilets. This is a serious need that needs to be addressed now!

  15. Grylliade: That’s because men shit more than women. You think you’re soooo superior. Stop trying to keep us down! We need more government regulation! ^_^

  16. I hope they don’t mind a little pissing on the sidewalk…

    …but I guess it wouldn’t be New York without that!

  17. Most of the city already smells like urine, why not make the whole thing smell that way. Pure genius. What are they planning to do with all the money they get from public urination fines?

  18. I know that most of the people reading this are opposed, on principle, to even the existance of building codes and plumbing codes, and will oppose the regulation on those grounds. But, for kicks, pretend that such regulations are legitimate, and the only question at hand was whether this is good or bad policy. On the merits, in having more bathroom space for women a good thing or a bad thing?

  19. joe:

    There is only one way to find out. Have a business voluntarily create more bathroom space for women and let them figure out if the benefits in customer satisfaction are worth the costs in renovation and decreased space for customers.

    My guess is that in most places, it won’t be worth it.

  20. having more bathroom space for women a good thing or a bad thing?

    Via a building code? In principle, sure, more bathroom space for broads, whoo hoo. It does not belong in policy, however. This is big government wrapped in a little issue. Building codes are to keep the building from falling on your head. Not to protect your God-given, Constitutionally protected right (that your grandfather died protecting from those evil Krauts in Normandy) not to wait in line before taking a piss.

    Please.

  21. joe –

    I haven’t seen conclusive evidence that women need to use the restroom more frequently than men.

    When my girlfriend goes to the bathroom, she’s often outside the mens room waiting for me after a quick trip to the urinal (and we both wash our hands) so I don’t think it takes more time to urinate.

    One should factor in that a little more time is probably required to deal with menstration related equipment and proceedures.

    One might even factor in makeup/preening activities.

    Of course, men and women should have equal baby-care facilities.

    On vacation last summer, my girlfriend and her female cousin were forced to use the mens room at a highway rest area. They were appalled at the unsanitary conditions, stench, and urine everywhere. It seemed about normal to me.

    …the moral is, I’m not sure that women are interested in equality.

    Maybe unisex bathrooms aren’t a bad idea. I mean, nothing is really stopping the opposite sex from going in the opposite bathroom anyway. I see women do it all the time when their line is long for whatever reason (usually at sports stadiums and large public events).

    I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of some urologists on this matter.

  22. I should probably clarify that my girlfriend does not use a urinal. 😉

  23. Joe, I think this goes beyond building and plumbing codes. Does having more bathrooms for women than men make good business sense? Yes, sometimes. I know a few women who have a slight preference for certain theaters or clubs based on their bathrooms availability. But I’ve also been to places like stadiums during sporting events where the male:female ratio is quite high and long male lines or bathroom appropriation resulted (I’ve also seen women do the same sort of appropriation at other times/places). It seems to me that a blanket law requiring 2:1 f:m bathrooms sounds good but isn’t practical enough in a variety of places. The business owner will have a better grasp of their customers, and different situations are different.

    The other problem that came to mind is the cost to small businesses. The article mentions that many places will simply have to relabel existing bathrooms. But some of the best bars I know (granted, I’m not in NYC) are small and have nothing more than 1 men’s room and 1 women’s room. Should one of these places renovate or should a new one pop up, would they be required to have three restrooms?

    Banzhaf makes the analogy of what would happen if it took longer to process blood. But there’s already a real life medical analogy. Women visit the doctor far more frequently than men on average because in addition to there general health care, they go to see gynocologist. By Banzhaf’s reasoning (I’m starting to get nervous about giving out new ideas, but I doubt he’s reading this) there should be legal requirements to regulate the proportion of ob/gyn’s that all med schools graduate and all hospitals employ.

    For the women who have to refrain from drinking things when going places, there’s several solutions. Refrain from going to those places, complain (not just bitching to husband or employee, but writing a letter) or invest in adult diapers. They do wonders on road trips, too.

  24. Joe, you’ve been here for a while, so why do you persist in creating the wrong thought experiments? Don’t ask us to imagine that building codes are somehow legitimate (you might as well ask us to imagine that women have penises), ask us to consider whether it would be a good policy for free enterprise to pick up on. While the former scenario just does not compute (irrational premises can’t be logically analyzed:), the latter sounds absolutely reasonable. Women probably should have larger/more bathroom facilities.

  25. I’m wondering if businesses will counter with a Title IX-type solution by eliminating mens’ restroom space to reach the desired quota, as opposed to creating more space for women.

  26. Andy D. – Why should women have larger/more bathroom facilities?

    As I said earlier – I only see lines at sporting events and other large gatherings – and in those cases, the lines seem to be just as long for men as for women.

    Maybe I’m lucky – or maybe I’m blind. But my GF doesn’t complain about such things, and if there is a problem she usually does complain. 🙂

  27. we don’t need new building codes. What women need is this. I believe that would solve the problem nicely

  28. “The business owner will have a better grasp of their customers, and different situations are different.”

    The thing is, the business owner is almost never the person who designs or constructs the building. Usually, it’s a developer who never operates out the space he puts up. This is why building codes are necessary in the first place: to protect the poor bastard who buys or leases 30 years after it’s built, and the paper corporation who got the financing and put up the heap in long gone.

  29. Whether you think it’s a good idea or not, I was under the impression that most places already had building codes that addressed this. We actually had a lawyer sue the University of Michigan under title IX last year over the # of restrooms in a rennovated auditorium (there were more women’s bathrooms than men’s already, but she wanted even more).

  30. Of course this is good business. Every event I’ve been to that has drawn a large crowd has always had longer lines for the ladies. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen women defect to the men’s restroom. 2:1 seems just about right.

  31. Neb, I haven’t done any real research into this, but it just seems to me that when lines form at bathrooms, those at women’s bathrooms tend to be longer. Plus, women usually take longer in the bathroom (though there are exceptions) and so it would make sense to have more ladies rooms in places that get about a 1:1 male/female ratio.

    Anyway, it seems our impressions of the lengths of the lines differs and this is affecting the policies we’d advocate. At least we can both agree that a sweeping enforced policy any direction is a horrible idea; best to let the market decide on a case-by-case basis.

    BTW, does this Banzhaf nut want this 2:1 ratio applied everywhere? Even places like strip clubs?

  32. Even if you support some building code regulations, you can still oppose using codes to enforce the latest diktats of the social engineers. The usual rationale for building codes is that they ensure a building is safely and soundly constructed and does not pose a danger to its neighbors– i.e. it will not suddenly fall down on you, or catch fire at the slightest spark. Restroom parity has absolutely nothing to do with this.

    But then, many sorts of regulation originally justified on public-safety grounds have morphed into tools for social engineering; Richard Epstein, for example, wrote in _Mortal Peril_ (IIRC) about the way physician licensing is used to try and force doctors to accept Medicare patients.

  33. BP- I had the same idea. Just take out some tiolets from the mens room.

  34. joe, your last argument makes it sound like its a business protection policy than a public/consumer issue.

    “the poor bastard who buys or leases 30 years after it’s built,”

    If the “poor” bastard can only find space with inadequate restroom facilities at a cost structure that makes it profitable for him to operate, any law that requires the building to have more bathrooms will only make the costs go up, thus pricing the poor bastard out of business in the first place. This policy then helps the rich bastard keep a poor bastard out of his market.

  35. I have direct and practical experience with this issue having been the manager of two major and one minor performance venues in the Boston area and having participated in the re-design and renovation of one of those major facilities. It is an observable fact that on average, women take longer to pee, etc. in rest rooms than men – even when you eliminate the excess of “primping time’ that women supposedly succumb to every time they enter a rest room facility. Therefore it makes sense form a customer service point of view that a public faciltiy would have more toilet stalls for women than men. My own personal experience has show that when there is a 2 to 1 ratio of ladies’ toilets to mens’ toilets/urinals, the “throughput” of women and men using the restrooms during an intermission comes out about equal. It is, therefore desirable to constuct your facility this way if you care about your audience.

    All snickering aside, this is a very real issue.

    That being said, one could argue that government should not be mandating the 2:1 ratio and leave it to private businesses to decided if it’s important enough to them to make the changes. Unlike other issues addressed by building codes, I don’t see that the restroom code addresses any public SAFETY issue and therefore I don’t see why the government should be involved (but then again, how is this issue different from ADA-type issues? If the gov’t. can get away with the ADA, why not this?) In any case, this is where the debate properly lies.

  36. I thought this was already the case where the number of women’s toilets had to equal the number of men’s toilets plus urinals.

    Maybe they should enforce parity by having a number of women’s toilets with minimal privacy screens like they have at men’s urinals.

  37. IP, if the law is requiring additional bathrooms to be built, then yes, it will add cost. Especially if we’re talking about renovating existing buildings.

    However, requiring the builder of a new building to install toilets instead of urinals in four of his six restrooms instead of three is not going to have a noticeable impact on his development cost.

    There should be a waiver for buildings below a minimum number of restrooms, and a waiver of existing buildings not undergoing substantial renovations.

  38. Joe,

    I’ve heard that lines at women’s rooms at football games can get much longer than those for the men’s rooms, which could be a factor of the greater number of motions women must employ to pee. However, for this to be an issue, there must be enough volume to produce, or potentiallly produce, lines, which simply does not apply for most buildings or most situations. If you limited the law to buildings hosting huge public gatherings (like the 50k at a football game), then I would go along with your hypothetical.

  39. Just take the mirrors out of the Ladies Room.

  40. “Just take the mirrors out of the Ladies Room.”

    Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences …

  41. The fact is that men take about HALF the time in the loo that women do on average, so the women’s lines are always longer. This has been true in EVERY airport, concert, amusement park, conference, or other large event that I have ever been to.

    Believe me, when you are standing in a line waiting for your turn, you really notice all the men who can so easily get into and back out of the bathroom.

    If we agree that the building code should require a reasonable number of bathrooms for a large building (and I know this is a reach for some of you), doesn’t it make sense to provide equally for both halves of the race and simply factor in the difference in average time spent?!!!

  42. For those who don’t want to view anarcismo’s animation, here’s a similar device.

  43. Normally I would blow off any call for more potties for women than for men as total PC bullshit, except for the fact that I once attended a large event that drew more women than men.

    The annual International Quilt Show in Houston naturally draws more females than males (the males tend to be husbands/boyfriends necessary to drop the babes off at the front door and then go park the car five miles away, or else those few “guys” who really, really like quilting). Having dutifully parked the car one year after a bouncy 90-mile drive and a couple of bottles of Diet Pepsi, I ventured into the cavernous convention center and made a beeline for the john, located downstairs.

    Unfortunately, as I learned, when you gather thousands of women together early in the morning and start pouring coffee into them, they all soon have to take their morning poopy (sorry, I still have little kids at home). They also apparently feel the need to carry their own cans of air “freshener” with them to mask any nasty odors, so as I descended the stairs to the restrooms I waded into a miasma of rose-scented, patchouli-flavored fecal aroma wafting through the doors to the women’s room. Gulping a breath, I made a dive into the men’s room….and was greeted by an absolutely bracing rush of fresh air, slightly tinted with pine. Never have I been so glad to go into a public men’s room.

    My wife later offered that her one venture to the little girl’s room was truly an olfactory nightmare, as she never believed anything would ever top the few experiences she has had in men’s restrooms.

    SO please, build more potties for the ladies, by all means.

  44. Tom’s post makes the point that perhaps the ratio should depend on the percentages of males/females that attend events in a public building. If’s it’s a sport or concert event with about a 50/50 ratio then OK, more johns for th girls.

    If it’s a neighborhood bar with a 10 to 1 guy to girl ratio, then one for each soulds about right.

    And if it’s the Texas Quilting Show: Yikes!

  45. And for those of you who are worried about the government mandating additional more space for bathrooms, here’s a thought.

    If you have X square feet in your plan allowed for bathrooms, and you were formerly planning on splitting that half and half, just split it one-third, two-thirds.

    But that probably didn’t occur to any of you because you wouldn’t want to give up any stalls and maybe have to WAIT like your women friends ALWAYS DO.

  46. Joe wrote: “I know that most of the people reading this are opposed, on principle, to even the existance of building codes and plumbing codes, and will oppose the regulation on those grounds. But, for kicks, pretend that such regulations are legitimate, and the only question at hand was whether this is good or bad policy. On the merits, in having more bathroom space for women a good thing or a bad thing?”

    Gee, Joe, did ya ever think that some establishments might just cut costs by reducing the number of male bathrooms rather than increasing the number of female bathrooms?

  47. Amy wins the prize as the first poster to use the, “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is my own,” theory of equality to the discussion. If you want equality, fine. If not, at least be honest enough to admit it.

  48. That annoyed woman wrote: “But that probably didn’t occur to any of you because you wouldn’t want to give up any stalls and maybe have to WAIT like your women friends ALWAYS DO.”

    Why should men have to wait just because women are slow?

  49. Don-

    Good point. In the name of fairness they could close down some of the men’s bathrooms or (in place with only 1 men’s bathroom) remove some of the toilets and urinals. Women would still have just as long of a line as before, men would have a longer line than before, and we would all be equally annoyed.

    Just like people in Soviet bread lines: They were all equally starved…

    (No, I’m not saying this idea is anywhere near as bad as the Soviet Union, I’m not one of those libertarians with no sense of perspective. But the same general principles often apply to big things and little things: When micromanagement is used to promote “equality”, the resulting inefficiences may bring everybody down to the lowest common denominator rather than raise everybody up to the highest common standard.)

  50. “If we agree that the building code should require a reasonable number of bathrooms for a large building (and I know this is a reach for some of you), doesn’t it make sense to provide equally for both halves of the race and simply factor in the difference in average time spent?!!!”

    As with all else, that space isn’t free. What you are saying is that currently, the government dictates that buildings set aside 2X sq ft for restrooms, and you want them to be required to set aside 3X sq ft for the same purpose. Is it better to have the government dictate the use of that X space, or to let the market decide what to do with it?

    It seems obvious to you that we should just ‘factor in the time spent’, but not that we should ‘factor in’ relative female use of the building.

  51. Hmmm, how much genius does it take to figure out that men are much better designed for restroom speed? That’s why the line for the ladies room is sooo long, and the line for the men’s moves pretty quickly. That said, building more rest rooms for women shouldn’t be mandated by the state. PS Regarding “equality” — seems a very good idea in terms of equal pay for equal work, and the right to a fair trial — being sensible about differences between men and women seems a much better idea than applying blanket “equality.”

  52. Jason, my comment was intended for people who accept that it is legitimate for building code to mandate the presence of bathrooms.

    Yes, space costs something. Nothing comes for free, and it’s all about trade-offs. I am myself a strong believer in market forces. But I look around and I see bathroom lines for women, and no lines for men, and I cannot help but conclude that market forces are exerting no pressure here.

    And really, how would that work? Is there a competing ampitheature down the street with more stalls for women? No, there bloody well isn’t. Is there a different movie theatre with more stalls for women? Nope. Is there a different airport I could choose to fly through, where I know I won’t have to stand in line in a restroom for half my layover? No, there really isn’t.

    If there were such choices, you’d better believe I’d be out there, voting with my feet. BUT THERE AREN’T.

  53. If women are the equal of men in every way – then by God, they can piss standing up like we do. Ooops, sorry, didn’t mean to go all politically correct.

    What I meant to say is we could even things out by just mandating that men pee sitting down. That’d fix up those troglodytes.

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