Posts Tagged ‘Unisex Restrooms’

ASA ended a week ago so I suppose it is time to post my 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt results. Last year I set a personal best by completing 20 of the 30 items, but this year I could not attain that level again, ending up with 17 of 30 items. For those competing at home, I completed items 3, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, and 30. I also left San Francisco with some good ideas for next year, including people sitting in the back row of an empty presentation room and “We’re going to use X as a proxy for Y.”

Regarding item number 14, I was fairly busy at ASA this year and may  have attended a record number of sessions and meetings, so I didn’t have time to check out all of the unisex restrooms. The ones that I did see, in the Hilton on the Ballroom Level were a textbook example of how not to designate unisex restrooms, and were even worse than those in the Hilton last year in New York. Although they appeared on the conference hotel map and signs were posted on the restroom doors indicating their unisex status, the door to each restroom was at the end of a 10-15 foot-long hallway, the end of which was marked for men or women and made no mention of unisex status. Thus the Hilton Union Square receives a 1 out of 10 for its unisex restrooms. Grading it felt like grading the student who puts absolutely no effort into an assignment. Hiltons of the world, you can do better!


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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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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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