When is a bathroom not a bathroom?


This is a bathroom

When it’s in Coopers Union, New York, that’s when. At that particular college they haven’t yet worked out what to call simple basic spaces.

What is a Restroom, come to that?  Or a Half Bath, which for some reason is just that, never a Half Bathroom? No wonder they are getting their knickers in a twist.

The picture above is a photo of a bathroom, in which there is a water closet, a bathtub, a wash hand basin and a shower. If there were neither water closet nor shower it would still be a bathroom. If there were no bathtub and only a shower it would be a shower room. If it had a lock on the door to ensure privacy it would be available for anyone who wished to use it. Before we went mad for “en suites” that was how it was in any hotel that I can remember and still is in many B & Bs.

For some reason in the USA they like to make things more complicated by using very loose nomenclature.

As reported in The Guardian this morning “the Cooper Union administration this month moved to remove the gender designations from all the bathrooms on campus by taking down the rest of the men’s and women’s signage from bathrooms.”

“A public facility shouldn’t have to ask if you’re a man or a woman,” said Rio Sofia, one of the students. “It should just ask, do you need to pee or poop?”

I’ve lived in the States and I can’t remember a public facility ever asking me anything at all let alone anything quite so intimate.

The interim President of Cooper Union lamented that he couldn’t change the way the world treats transgender and gender non-conforming people but he said “I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings.” Mind you, he calls these talkative public facilities “Restrooms”. That might imply that they are for rest and relaxation—they’re not. They are loos. Bathrooms, in this context, are loos. Half Baths—no baths; just a loo. You think that’s complicated? Just wait.

Cooper Union has ordered new signs to save students any confusion. Some will read “restroom with urinal and stalls” and others will read “restroom with only stalls”, which at least makes it clear you can’t have a bath in any of them! Students can also now use “single-occupancy bathrooms” that were formerly set aside for faculty of whatever gender, though not for bathing. Activist students began this protest by tearing down the existing signs and writing “Degendered” on the doors, which at least didn’t say it was a bathroom when it wasn’t.

The encouraging thing is that The Guardian reports that most of the students haven’t even noticed. They are more concerned about a tuition crisis in the college, which indicates that common sense still prevails amongst the majority.


Universal Sign to enable American Tourists to feel safe

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