Washroom Justice: A Call to Arms

I just got back from a week in New York City with my wife, in which, among other things, we went to see five Broadway shows (I know the best way to get cheap tickets now). It was during the intermission to Rent that it finally hit me that something must be done about a fundamental injustice in our society. It’s a small one to be sure, but I see victory easily at hand.

The injustice: the horribly unfair treatment of women at large events when it comes to washroom space. You’ve seen it before, too, and if you are female have probably grumbled many a time about it. Ostensibly the set-up is fair: there is equal space dedicated to men’s and women’s washrooms. But the men’s usually has no or a very fast-moving line, compared to the women’s, because, well, you know why. With a fifteen-minute intermission at a Broadway show, the inevitable result is that many women have to return to their seats in the dark after the second act has started.

I polled some of the others at the show, and men and women alike were in agreement that women’s bathrooms deserve roughly three times the space as men’s in order for things to be fair. So we shouldn’t stand (or sit?) for this any longer.

We need a campaign, and I think the outlines of that campaign go something like this. We launch a boycott of operations of large theatres and other venues until they guarantee that they will expand their washroom space for women, taking from the men’s if necessary. This is a big project so in the interim, women should have full rights to use the stalls in the men’s room (at last year’s CEA meetings, I stayed in the Dalhousie student dorm and found that the unisex bathrooms worked quite well). If that is not in your comfort zone, perhaps women-only porta-potties should be installed in a convenient location.

Perhaps this campaign needs its own Rosa Parks, a women who just is not going to take it any more. But I’m an economist not an organizer, so gentle readers, who is willing to take up the cause?


  • No, Marc, I’m an advocate of strict gender parity on this one. 🙂

  • I totally agree. The lineup is totally unfair.

    Actually, my understanding is that in the States, new physical plants or renovations to older ones need to have more stalls for women than men for that very reason — but everything else including most places on Broadway is grandfathered, which I think is stupid.

    Some newer stadiums actually have moveable walls between the mens and womens rooms which are adjusted based on the kind of concert or event — obviously, a Miley Cyrus concert requires 95% of the spaces available for females rather than just 50% so the flexibility is there.

  • This brought a TV show to mind. TV Nation, back in the 90’s. A Michael Moore show.
    Karen Duffy used to appear in some segments.
    She did one called the “Johns of Justice”. Where she took a flatbed truck loaded with port a potties to places where women were experiencing line ups at the ladies rooms. Very funny bit.

  • Andrew Jackson

    Dual use of the male facilities seems to be an emerging cultural norm – including at the Shaw Festival; strange that it has not spread to Broadway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *