Back in May, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation requiring that “new or renovated city-owned buildings include gender-neutral bathrooms in addition to traditional men’s and women’s restrooms.” It is nice to see steps being taken to promote equality and I hope that other new buildings will follow suit. The Sheraton in New York, where this year’s ASA was held, demonstrated how effective this can be.
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Posted in Conference Attendance, Gender, Meeting Expectations, tagged American Sociological Association, ASA 2013, ASA Scavenger Hunt, Bill O'Reilly, Ceasars Palace, Hilton, Memoirs of a SLACer, Sheraton, Unisex Restrooms on August 15, 2013 |
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Although I missed them in Denver last year, I’ve been chronicling the ASA’s attempts to provide unisex restrooms since 2010 when I noticed the
women’s unisex restrooms in Atlanta. With two conference hotels this year, the ASA saw two implementations of unisex restrooms.
At the Hilton, the unisex restrooms were similar to those at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with a unisex sign in front of men’s and women’s restrooms that were right next to each other. While better than nothing, this implementation makes me wonder whether conference attendees actually treat the restrooms as unisex, stick to the gendered bathroom that they would usually use, or avoid them altogether.
Over at the Sheraton, the situation was different. In addition to men’s and women’s restrooms, the Sheraton also had restrooms that were designated as unisex and restrooms that were designated as accessible/family. These rooms were part of the hotel design and not an attempt by the ASA to impose its progressive attitudes toward gender on a gender-binary space.
If I were rating them, as I did for this year’s scavenger hunt, I would give the Hilton a 3 out of 10 and the Sheraton a 7 out of 10. While the Sheraton gains points for having preexisting unisex restrooms, these restrooms were designed for a single person (or a family). This is certainly better than providing no space for a person who does not feel comfortable in a gender-binary restroom but seems less progressive than offering a multiple-person restroom that can be used by everybody.
It turns out that I am not the only person interested in restrooms, since Bill O’Reilly is very concerned about a law in California that allows transgender teens to use the restrooms for the gender they identify with. If all restrooms were unisex, neither Bill nor I would have anything to complain about!
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In Atlanta last year, the ASA attempted to provide unisex restrooms. The only problem that I saw with this was that all of the unisex restrooms I saw had originally been women’s restrooms. In Las Vegas, the ASA tried unisex restrooms again, as seen below:
Again, I appreciate the attempt at progressiveness, and I realize that this is sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, but I wonder if anybody actually treated these restrooms as unisex since they were right next to each other. Did anybody use the restroom (or see somebody using the restroom) that was originally designated for the opposite sex? If not, I wonder if people would have been more likely to treat the restrooms as unisex if the original signs had been covered.
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One of the things that struck me about this year’s ASA conference was the bizarre attempt to demonstrate how progressive sociologists are by designating some of the restrooms in the Marriott as unisex. On the surface, this seems like a case of sociologists walking the walk, and a friend of mine even remarked how cool this was when he saw them for the first time, but the execution of this idea was severely lacking. The main problem was that the restrooms designated as unisex were the women’s restrooms. On some level this makes sense because the Marriott restrooms featured fully enclosed rooms with toilets rather than the partial walls of a typical bathroom stall. The men’s rooms, however, featured urinals (as men’s rooms typically do), which would have opened up anybody using them to exposure to the opposite sex. I assume this is the reason that only women’s rooms were designated as unisex, but by doing this the ASA created a situation in which men could use the men’s restrooms, check themselves out in the mirror, etc. without the potential for this backstage behavior to be seen by women, but women who wanted to use a restroom in the same area could not. Despite his initial excitement, my friend later admitted that he had not used the unisex restrooms, opting for the nearby men’s rooms instead. Whether or not many men used the unisex restrooms, the ASA denied women some measure of privacy that it did not deny men. I guess this is another example of the ASA’s good work.
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