Why ladies are not gents

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By I say, chaps - Prita Maitra
  • Published 5.06.05

How frightfully unfair. I’m talking of the Bill in New York which will make it mandatory that public facilities instal two loos for women for every one for men. They call it potty parity. I call it gender discrimination.

What’s worse is that the Bill leaves a loophole: if a proprietor declares lavs unisex ? as in those shameless episodes of Ally McBeal ? he does not have to conform to the ratio. How right they were to call Democrat councillor Yvette D. Clark, the Bill’s chief sponsor, a feminazi. Achtung, Clarke, and listen well: you’re a disgrace to the sex.

It’s true that men don’t really need a toilet to get going. When they do find one, they spend about as much time in it as they would behind a tree. While women are different. In pink-tiled, frilly-curtained, lavendar-scented R&R areas, euphemistically called the powder room and suchlike, they hang about in droves. Theirs is no functional desire to drop a load. In office rest rooms they redrape their saris, apply a third (but essential) coat of lipstick, criticise whichever colleague has had the misfortune of not accompanying them to the ladies’, and compare tiffins.

And that is why, friends, the gents’ room is for gents only and the ladies’ for just that. Vive le difference. And there’s no need to adjust the balance. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Even the ancient Chinese, those sticklers for propriety, knew that. There is evidence that Chinese men and women have been using separate toilets for at least 2,000 years. Archaeologists at a burial ground in Henan province dating back to the Han dynasty dug up two toilet models, clearly designated for each sex. Apparently they were built over pigpens (as in that earthly paradise Goa). The Chinese, ever realistic, didn’t believe death barred people from relieving themselves or, for that matter, eating pork.

Modern times have gone one better in maintaining exclusivity. Now you have what are called ‘traveller toilets’, little things that you tow along. I can imagine a conversation at the airport:

Airline attendant: “Do you wish to book that, sir?”

Traveller: “No, hand baggage please. I need to go frequently and public places don’t agree with me.”

And then they have what I believe are called ‘jacuzzi toilets’. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

A friend of mine remembers her father confronting her English mother who had been blamelessly bathing their dachshund in the bathroom omitting to lock the door. She recalls him roaring at the top of his voice that he didn’t care what women did in the loo, he just didn’t want to see it.

So there you are. Bathrooms at home, too, should be gender-specific. And of equal number.