The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

How Many Hours Of Your Life Are Spent Queueing For The Loo?

Posted by Cate on September 23, 2008

I recently read in the UK’s Guardian newspaper about the gender issues of urban design as The Royal Geography Society’s recent annual conference found that UK cities are still being designed for the benefit of men.

This is despite the Gender Equality Duty [GED], a legal obligation which came into force in April 2007 in the UK through the 2006 Equality Act.  The GED requires public authorities to promote gender equality and eliminate sex discrimination.  Instead of depending on individuals making complaints about sex discrimination, the duty places the legal responsibility on public authorities to demonstrate that they treat men and women fairly.  The duty affects policy making, public services, such as transport, and employment practices such as recruitment and flexible working.

Researchers at the conference found that urban cities are most commonly designed by men with a male’s perspective, failing to accommodate the differing needs of those who communte without a care, have a physical disability, care for children.  I was surprised to read that almost all public spaces still accord the same number of square metres to male and female toilets, and because women can’t use urinals, they end up with half as many toilets in the allocated space. So why not double the allocation?

“If you want to know the true position of women in society look at the queue for the ladies’ loo,” says Clara Greed, professor of inclusive urban planning at the University of the West of England.

I’ve noticed myself that ladies loos are often furthest away from the central space of a shopping centre, which can mean walking down a dingy hall alone. it’s not necessarily scary, but it is a pain. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve waited in line for the loo, or struggled to hold onto the strap on a tram (I’m a bit short). And I don’t drive and like many cyclists am reluctant to cycle in city traffic – the latter issues are not solely women’s issues i hasten to add.

But how can we change all these things?  One suggestion is that it is about architects, whether male or female, being open to these issues. More women in the industry would help too, because at least some of them would design in their own image.

“Designers see themselves at the end of their pencil – or their mouse,” says Davis. “Until about 15 years ago most architects and planners were men. They saw themselves moving through this environment. Because they were men and they were car drivers, they were interested in keeping commuters moving. It’s the same issue as with disability. They didn’t understand how a 15mm lip on a kerb could upset a buggy or a wheelchair. Not that they were being sexist – it just didn’t occur to them.”

So how do you think Melbourne fares?  Besides our loos, is our city accessible in all senses of the word? I’m not an expert, so I’m interested in other people’s thoughts.


4 Responses to “How Many Hours Of Your Life Are Spent Queueing For The Loo?”

  1. blu-k said

    As a medium height, medium build (fairly strong) femail cyclist, I’m always irritated by bike parking that doesn’t seem to take the shorter members of society (who are mostly women) into account.

    I have a fairly light bike and can only just lift it high enough to place it on the bike racks. Any petite woman with a heavier bike would find it impossible – indeed, at my last workplace a number of colleagues did, and had to leave their bikes inside until they were told off for that too and gave up riding altogether.

  2. […] at the Dawn Chorus asks how many hours of your life are spent queuing up for the loo? Sophie at 2 B Sophora has uncovered the evil plan of the patriarchy. Andra at Andragy thinks that […]

  3. Rayedish said

    I good friend of mine blogs about all things toilet and she has a good post about some stuff that’s ‘going down’ in the UK

  4. hendo said

    Don’t live in Melbourne, but my constant peeve is hanging straps on buses – umm hello I am 5’2″. Sure I can reach the damn strap – just – but if I hung onto it for my 15 minute bus ride, my arm would just go numb. argh.

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