I have puzzled over bathroom stall design in the US since I was a small child. Back then, I didn’t know that there was anything different everywhere else. All I knew was, the design had obvious flaws. Why all the gaps?
The first opportunity I had to puzzle over this was when I was in second grade. Someone had locked the door to each stall, and then crawled out of the stall under the door. This left every stall locked, even while they were empty. Tiny me had a choice: crawl on the disgusting bathroom floor, or poop in my pants. Being innovative, I created a third option and pooped in the urinal.
It got me thinking: Why are those gaps there? It allows people to look in while you are pooping. It allows people to lock the door and then crawl out, leaving the stall locked and empty. It allows people to hear/smell each other pooping. That’s just gross. Why can’t we have fully enclosed stalls? Seriously?
When I went overseas later in life, perhaps one of the most impressive things was the enclosed stalls. The door went down to the floor. There was no gap for someone to peak through. And finally, at long last, I could poop in peace.
As in a home toilet, there was a vent above me to provide airflow. As in a home toilet, no one could see me or smell me. It was perfect.
Now of course, I still had to share the sink area with other guys, and the urinals were still upsettingly public (don’t pretend you’re cool with it- none of us are.) But thankfully, the stalls with toilets were fully enclosed.
Then, when I moved to South Korea, I went to a club with a friend and discovered gender neutral bathrooms. It turns out, if the stalls are fully enclosed, it really doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or girl next to you. Many buildings have the bathrooms out in the common area between businesses. Rather than designating that a specific bathroom is for boys and specific bathroom is for girls, it was a lot like in my house. There is a bathroom. You can use it. So can anyone else. And you know what? It’s not a big deal.
That made me start thinking about two things:
1. Why did the US ever evolve bathroom stalls with gaps?
2. Why did gender-specific bathrooms evolve?
I was meant to be making handouts for a class (ironically) on pronouns. Instead, I searched the Internet for an answer. And after a solid hour of Googling, I found no satisfactory answer. It’s just a defect of American culture, and it seems to be largely inexplicable.
So US, get your act together. No one wants to be exposed while they are pooping, so put a stop to that right away. And while you are at it, rethink gendered bathrooms. I assume that if you have two bathrooms in your home, you do not force male guests to use one and female guests to use another (because that would make you really weird.) So just realize that you can apply that to life outside your house.
This will really help with people who are transgender, because they won’t have to agonize about if they “pass” well enough to use the bathroom they identify with. They can just poop in peace like everyone else. And really, I think that’s not too much to ask for. We should all be able to poop in peace.
On an unrelated side note: both bathrooms in homes and public bathrooms in Korea have floor drains. This way you can hook up a hose and spray the bathroom clean. The power outlets have covers. The bathroom cabinets are water-tight. The toilet paper lives under a cover where it is nice and safe. So, you can just go nuts and spray your whole bathroom with a hose to clean it.
This. Is. Brilliant.
Get on that as well, America.