Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Divide [the Toilets] and Conquer [One of a Multitude of Aspects of Women's Subjugation to Male Violence]

Zut, alors! Sacre bleu! Quel fromage! We've been on holiday in the south of France, and our high-school French has come back with rather more force than we are quite comfortable with. If we end up gesticulating in a Gallic fashion, brandishing a large baguette in public places, or insisting on imbibing a pastis in the shade under the plane trees while laconically making ironic remarks about the latest train delays, you will have to bear with us.

Let us symbolically trouver la gare together! Alors, the first toilet in today's continental blog post is from Montpellier Airport, and illustrates that what appears progressive may turn out to be, if one only reflects a moment, horrifyingly regressive.

There were, as far as we could tell, three toilets in the departures hall at Montpellier Airport: one gents', one ladies', and one unisex. Since the ladies' toilet was out of order, we were relegated to the unisex one. Making toilets unisex ticks the "inclusive" box, and makes everyone feel virtuous. We all want to be inclusive, right? God forbid anyone should feel left out! Intuitively, unisex toilets seem like the only progressive option for modern people. Men and women are equal, and there is no reason to segregate the sexes. But stop and think. For instance, think about these questions:

  • Do men commit the majority of sexual-violence crimes?
  • Are sexual predators opportunists?
  • Are women safe in an enclosed space with strange men?

The answers are, respectively, Yes, Yes, and No. There is no lack of evidence of women being at risk from sexual and physical violence from men in unisex toilets. Before the loud manspreader scratching his balls in the back starts yabbering the "Not all men" mantra, no, not all men. But too damn many, and they don't, unfortunately, have a sign attached to them saying "abuser", or it would be easy to weed the bad ones out. Once you designate an enclosed space where women have no choice but to go, unisex, you are leaving them at the mercy of predatory men. There is a reason women want and need women-only spaces, and that reason is to exclude male violence.

On the left is the women's toilet...

...and on the right is the men's. In between is a narrow space with a sink, in which we found ourselves trapped uncomfortably with no fewer than three men, one of whom was wearing chinos.

The coat hooks, to be fair to this execrably bad toilet, are great.

The toilet itself is tiny, and not something you want to shout from the rooftops about.

Incidentally we were, as you can see if you go back through our Unisex Toilets label and read older posts (for instance this one), originally in favour of trans inclusivity. Being inclusive seemed to be a matter of human rights; both men and women are at risk of male violence, and if some men who look like women are at an even higher risk of violence, then surely letting them share a toilet with the women makes perfect sense? Unfortunately, however, it's not that simple. It turns out that there are plenty of men (again, not all men) who are prepared to argue that they are trans women in order to gain access to spaces where women are vulnerable, for instance rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters, changing rooms and, yes, toilets. Robbing women of the right to banish men from women-only spaces renders them powerless to protect themselves against male violence.

In one of our first posts about unisex toilets, we gave expression to our fear of being trapped in an enclosed space with strange men by flippantly describing the bearded hipsters crowding the sink. We have since had cause to drop the flippancy. We empathise with trans women and -men, but fail to see why supporting them must endanger women. 

Luckily the internet is, just about, a place where women can talk about things that affect them, and there are many brave radfems (or, as some people label them, TERFs) out there conducting an intellectual debate about the difference between sex and gender. Some of our favourites are Jean Hatchet, Lily Maynard and, of course, gender-critical transwoman (oh, that this epithet even exists) Miranda Yardley (who, incidentally, has been permanently banned from Twitter for saying abusive things like "an adult human male is a man").

We shall no doubt keep talking about the screaming bloody horror that is unisex toilets, but let us for now move on to something potentially more festive - French public toilets!

Strolling along a promenade in the charming southern French town of Sète, we were delighted to spot a sign pointing to a public WC! Our disappointment was in proportion to our initial excitement: the door was locked. Two friendly French dudes relaxing on a bench informed us that c'est fermez, and our French companions explained that since nobody in their right mind goes out in the middle of the day, everything including the toilets is shut until 3 pm. This seemed fair enough considering the blistering heat, and the fact that the toilets were still closed at 4 pm was surely just an anomaly.

A resolutely closed door

A supremely exciting sign!

To be honest, we weren't brave enough to ring the bell - maybe if we had, a friendly toilet attendant would have let us in?

Here's what the public toilets in Sète look like as you are walking away from them in disappointment.

The public toilets may have been shut, but fear not! we stop at nothing to procure pictures of toilets, and ventured into the bar next to the local hôtel de ville in order to satisfy our readers' voracious hunger for images of French facilities.

So far so good

This charming sign says "Laissez les WC dans l'état où vous souhaiteriez les trouver en entrant", which we can all agree with!

This toilet is rich in signage; this one says "Ne jetez pas vos lingettes et autre au les toilettes! Une pubelle est prévue à cet effet"

"Respectez ce lieu propre comme vous le trouvez quand vou rentrez. Merci." Ah! Gallic gallantry!

Here by the sink, which has no soap, is the poubelle in which one is supposed to deposit one's lingettes et autre.

We naturally didn't spend our entire holiday lounging around Sète, guzzling pastis and ogling athletic French men engaged in nautical jousting. No, indeed! We made sure to attend the Le Corum concert hall in Montpellier, where we found the facilities unproblematic and reasonably cultured. Hurrah!

Last but not least we visited, for our readers' delight and edification, the toilets in the Galeries Lafayette in Montpellier. This was not without difficulty - on following the signs pointing towards the WC, one was led first along the entire gallery, then down the stairs and finally up a minuscule lift. We are nothing if not dedicated to our cause of describing toilets in an obscure and mildly amusing bog blog!

The hand dryer, we suppose, could have been worse.

The coat hook was the best thing about this toilet. Have we identified a trend?

There is no toilet seat, but the toilet roll is all present and correct so that is, presumably, something to be grateful for.

The soap supply is adequate and so is that of lukewarm water.

Readers, we have reached the end of the road: this is where we stop ranting. We hope that your hypothetical question Où est la gare, s'il vous plaît? was answered. Festive Video? You bet!

Festive Video: Time,
"Swedish Woman Stops Plane To Temporarily Halt Asylum Seeking Man's Deportation To Afghanistan".  
(Incidentally, Elin Ersson did not succeed in stopping the deportation of Ismail Khawari, but this does not lessen her bravery.)

Related Reading

All posts featuring Unisex Toilets

One distressing unisex toilet in particular is described here: Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

An excellent public toilet in Athens that we enjoyed immensely but where we also had occasion to ponder the safety issues that being a woman (a calamity affecting roughly 50 % of the population) in public spaces necessitates pondering: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts, But Totally Trust the Toilet Attendant

A blog critiquing gender ideology, including documented harm to women brought on by a lack of women-only spaces: The New Backlash

Some gender-critical bloggers who argue intelligently (there are many more):
Jean Hatchet
Lily Maynard
Miranda Yardley

Also, don't miss the festive heroes at Man Friday

Last but not least, if you prefer your radical feminism served French, there is Féministes radicales

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Marsupials! Politeness! Hand Sanitizer!; or, Deconstructed Ranting; or, We're Fucked If We Can Find a Theme

It is important, in these dark times, to remember the things that bring light and joy: decent plumbing, handwashing, human rights, wine, babe parades. We reminisced recently, on our Facebook page, about that time when we realised that Father Ted is kind of a babe! The Jonny Babe Parade is obviously immensely fulfilling, but we reckon the more babes that are highlighted, the merrier!

The post in which we weirdly perv on poor Ted happens to contain an example of unwelcome creatures that infest Australian toilets. We are grateful that our friend Maureen took the opportunity of mentioning many more critters that lurk in the dunnies Down Under:
The Privy Counsel What a pity you forgot other unwanted guests in Australian toilets: frogs, gekkos, (little lizards with pads on their feet) snakes and cane toads appear with regularity in the north of Australia. As a young woman I shared toilets with many quokkas (marsupials) at Rottnest Island (just off the coast near Perth in Western Australia). Sadly for the quokkas, toilets moved inside the cottages where they can no longer go.
We never thought we'd find cause to regret the advent of indoor plumbing, but clearly a quokka would be a delightful companion to have in one's outhouse!

Speaking of outhouses, a very dear friend of ours was kind enough to take us along to this one, which is charmingly situated on an islet in lake Orsasjön.

How charming! And how reassuring to know that one can heed the call of nature in a hygienic manner when having one's barbecue in the middle of a lake.

On opening the door, one finds these beautiful prints featuring views of the lake.

(According to a reliable source, if hand sanitizer - which consists of at least 60 per cent alcohol - was left here it would be drunk by the people frequenting the bog quicker than you could say "twenty boozehounds on an island in the rain".)

All present and correct: It is traditional, in Sweden, to put pictures of the royal family in the outdoors bog (you can interpret this any way you want. Also, you can view more royal privy pictures here).

Another interesting bog we've come across recently is at the Falu Fängelse youth hostel in Falun. This friendly hostel, located in a 19th-century prison, offers cool (the walls are very thick), noise-insulated (the doors are very thick) rooms; a friendly atmosphere; and a museum in the basement! We've rarely come across a more festive lodging! The toilets are simple yet satisfying.

Plenty of reliable coat hooks.
A gratifyingly prison-like light fixture.
There is nothing lacking here.

We adore clear signage!

An old-fashioned Swedish mixer tap, good soap, and recycled paper towels. All thoroughly fulfilling.
Speaking of prisons we've had occasion to note, recently, that there are too many dudes out there being arseheads on Twitter. If you are guilty of having spent your time being insolent to, for example, a young woman who is fighting for her own life, and the lives of other people, we have one word for you: FUCKING WELL DESIST. Obviously all our readers are highly civilised and would never dream of doing such a thing, but nonetheless, we would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of politeness. As Caitlin Moran so wisely says,
Being polite is possibly the greatest daily contribution everyone can make to life on Earth.
(How to Be a Woman, 2011)
All you achieve, when being deliberately rude, is revealing your own insecurity. You don't like immigrants / women having rights / amusing pictures of ducks? Fine. That's no reason to act boorishly to someone trying to help people in a difficult situation. Instead of sitting around on your arse on Twitter, get the fuck out there and do something constructive. Volunteer for a women's shelter. Help the neighbours paint the fence. Plant sunflowers. Get your tools out and build a bird house, or a beehive. LITERALLY ANYTHING. And when voicing your opinions, do so in a constructive and civilised manner.

Naturally, not everyone being abusive, online or in real life, is a man. Women are rude, too. But it is a statistically proven fact that most violent crimes and most acts of aggression are committed by men. And you need only do a quick scan of rude messages on Twitter to conclude that most of them are from males with apparently nothing better to do than shout abuse at strangers. If you don't like us saying that, fine. It's still true. Here are some facts to ponder before you start shouting, and/or beating your chest like a drum, causing chest-hair to fly in all directions (we hope you get the hoover out occasionally).

We found an amusing sticker on a bog-standard, half-arsed train toilet that said, simply, "Leif!" We thought it illustrated rather nicely the fact that not only most of the violence in this world, but also most of the urine on toilet seats, emanates from men. Most of you are all right - great, even - but dudes. As a sex, you've got some work to do. Leif! Whether that's your name or not! Fucking well remember to aim!


During a trying and difficult time in our life recently, Shewee Fiend Friend, showing true solidarity and sisterhood, sent us this glittery toilet the minute she finished taking 1) the piss and 2) obvious delight in her rather vibrant schadenfreude. We are forever grateful.

Hurrah! A festive, glittery toilet seat!


These are, to quote Shewee Fiend Friend's actual words, "Hideous taps in my [English] hotel room". The noise you heard just then was caused by the vast amount of air molecules that were displaced on us shuddering massively. (Note how these taps are eerily reminiscent of the ones in our Toilet Tale Terminator Toilet?)
In order not to lose our minds completely, what with all the fascism being dished out left, right, and centre, lets have not one but TWO Jonny Babe Parade toilet selfies! The first one was accompanied, fitting rather nicely into our earlier prison theme, by the words "Fighting criminals in the urinals":

"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me" - let's bloody well hope, dudes, that what you are doing is not piddling on toilet seats!

On receiving the second picture, one fairly average Sunday at 00:03 am, we asked, reasonably we thought, what was in the many pictures on the wall. The reply the next day read, "Not sure. Was very drunk". You can't say fairer than that!


Today's Festive Video comes from a charming gentleman we happened to run into at the eminent musical event Orsayran. It's called "Kvinnor är smartast", which translates as "Women are the smartest". We are rather inclined to agree.

Festive Video: Sigge Hill, Kvinnor är smartast

Related Reading

Join us in weirdly perving on Father Ted: Theme: "Unwanted Guests". Also, A Surprising Pin-Up!

All posts featuring the semi-weird concept "Privy Counsel Pin-Ups"

Have a read of Maureen's evocative musings on her website

All posts featuring Jonny

Another toilet we enjoyed in the environs of Orsasjön: Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

Another charming example of pictures of the royal family serving as toilet decorations: By the Sea - A Toilet Blogger's Holiday

All posts featuring Royal Toilets

A constructive rant from our friends at the Out of Lines blog: From Random Dudes on the Internet Deliver Us, O Lord

Ignorance is no excuse - check out the Feminism 101 site for information on all the many ways the world is fucked up!

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend

Terminator Toilet 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

"The Best Thing About Football Is Seeing Grown Men Cry"

Reader, we're in a pub, ostensibly watching the Sweden-England football game. Spirits are high, the beer is plentiful, and the nationalism is loud and in places rather crude. The English contingent of our party is warily eyeing the emergency exits. 

Although supposedly here to watch the match, we are evidently in reality spending our time engaged in two of our favourite activities: necking beer and writing a bog blog post.
While we're at it, let us revisit our favourite Bridget Jones football moments, shall we? We'll start with the bit in The Edge of Reason (Helen Fielding, 1999) where there had been a misunderstanding between Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, and Bridget had finally got Mark on the phone to sort things out.
'Got back to remorseful message from Mark saying he had tried to ring straight after the match but phone was permanently engaged and now I was out. Was just wondering whether to call him back when he rang.
"Sorry about earlier," he said. "I'm just really down about it, aren't you?"
"I know," I said tenderly, "I feel exactly the same."
"I just keep thinking: why?"
"Exactly!" I beamed, huge rush of love and relief washing over me.
"So stupid and unnecessary," he said, anguished. "A pointless outburst with devastating consequences."
"I know," I nodded, thinking, blimey, he's taking it even more dramatically than me.
"How can a man live with that?"
"Well, everyone is only human," I said thoughtfully. "People have to forgive each other and ... themselves."
"Chuh! It's easy to say that," he said. "But if he hadn't been sent off we'd never have been subjected to the tyranny of the penalty shoot-out. We fought like kings amongst lions, but it cost us the game!"
I gave a strangled cry, mind reeling. Surely it cannot be true that men have football instead of emotions? Realize football is exciting and binds nations together with common goals and hatreds but surely wholesale anguish, depression and mourning hours later is taking ...
"Bridget, what's the matter? It's only a game. Even I can see that. When you called me during the match I was so caught up in my own feelings that ... But it's only a game."
"Right, right," I said, staring around the room crazily.'

Next, let's fondly remember the time, in Bridget Jones' s Diary (Helen Fielding, 1996), when Bridget was watching a football match with her best friends Sharon and Jude. 

'"That's exactly why the whole thing is so objectionable. Now come on, we're supposed to be watching the match."
"Mmm. They've got lovely big thighs, haven't they?" said Jude.
"Mmmm," I agreed, distractedly wondering if Shaz would go mad if brought up Rebecca during the match.
"I knew someone who slept with a Turk once," said Jude. "And he had a penis that was so enormous he couldn't sleep with anyone."
"What? I thought you said she slept with him," said Shazzer, keeping one eye on the television.
"She slept with him but she didn't do it," explained Jude.
"Because she couldn't because his thing was too big," I said supportively of Jude's anecdote. "What a terrible thing. Do you think it goes by nationality? I mean do you think the Turks ... ?"
"Look, shut up," said Shazzer.
For a while we all fell silent, imagining the many penises tucked neatly into shorts and thinking of all the games of many different nationalities in the past. Was just about to open my mouth, but then Jude, who seemed to have become rather fixated for some reason, piped up, "It must be very weird having a penis."
"Yes," I agreed, "very weird to have an active appendage. If I had one I would think about it all the time."
"Well, yes, you'd worry about what it would do next," said Jude.
"Well, exactly," I agreed. "You might suddenly get a gigantic erection in the middle of a football match."
"Oh for God's sake!" yelled Sharon.
"OK, keep your hair on," said Jude. "Bridge? Are you all right? You seem a bit down about something."

After this delightful burst of reminiscence, let us quickly look at some toilets. Below are pictures taken in the café at the copper mine in Falun, Sweden. The café was charming and so was the toilet, enriched with not just a hygienic toilet roll holder but a piece of metallic rock from the mine.

Reader, Sweden isn't doing well in this football game. Let us perhaps enjoy some pictures that Jonny sent us ages ago, in order to promote Anglo-Swedish friendship and understanding.

You may revisit the Keira Knightley spa toilets, if you wish, here.

Whatever happens, we are serene in the knowledge that, though England may have beat Sweden in the football, they also have to spend their lives on a damp island that doesn't have functioning heating or mixer taps. Also, remember that time they got their arses kicked by Iceland?

Let's have a Festive Video to cheer ourselves up, shall we?

Festive Video: Kasey Tyndall, Bar That's Open

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Moral Resolve and Wishful Thinking: A Stiff Upper Lip, A Sturdy Coat Hook, Hair Conditioner, A Cup of Tea

As our hero Bertie Wooster so wisely notes, the ability to keep one's lip stiff and upper in challenging times can mean the difference between hope and despair. This is not easy when, to paraphrase ourselves, a shitstorm of racism, sexism, and every kind of -ism you can think of, including nazism, has been unleashed upon the world. Still, we keep aiming for facial rigidity.

We have already mentioned P. G. Wodehouse's searingly intelligent sarcasm on the topic of fascist dictators, and shall not go off on that tangent again just now. Instead, let us remember Bertie Wooster's musings on labial elevation which, if we haven't got this completely arse-backwards, are as follows:
It has been well said of Bertram Wooster by those who enjoy his close acquaintance that if there is one quality more than another that distinguishes him, it is his ability to keep the lip stiff and upper and make the best of things. Though crushed to earth, as the expression is, he rises again - not absolutely in mid-season form, perhaps, but perkier than you would expect and with an eye alert for silver linings.
(Wodehouse, P. G. Joy in the Morning. London: Penguin, 1999)
Another person who promotes the idea of hope is of course Rebecca Solnit. We exhort you to read her writings at every opportunity, and to continue fighting fascism. At the Privy Counsel, we are stiff in our resolve to keep our lip stiff and upper (and mercifully free of the frighteningly unflattering Hitler moustache), possibly aided by a stiff gin and tonic or four.

We reckon we could all do with some encouragement in our lip-stiffening and general hardening the fuck up, which is why we are delighted to have many spiffing pictures to show you today!

First of all we have this excellent coat hook, photographed by Shewee Fiend Friend at LaGuardia Airport. It is sturdy and reassuring, offering strength and solidity without showing a trace of megalomaniac or homicidal tendencies. This is what we all crave - reliability and a steadfast adherence to principles. This coat hook is not shiny and golden; it doesn't sparkle alluringly, play golf, or make empty boasts on Twitter. It is prudent, tactful and considerate. It offers support, not judgement. It is, simply, a decent coat hook.

 Continuing the coat hook theme, here is another one which we're pretty sure is from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. When visiting Amsterdam recently, we were impressed not just by the quality of the plumbing, but by the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and helpful locals. The city is of course also home to the Anne Frank Museum, and if that is not a chilling reminder of the result of fascism, we don't know what it is a chilling reminder of.

Like the coat hook above, this one isn't flashy, but functional. It keeps its promises. It wouldn't dream of inveigling and insinuating, but speaks clearly, keeping its facts straight and its moral compass aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (This is really not hard, people.)

Remember when we almost started a competition between everyone's favourite toilet-posing piece of hunka-hunka-burning-love, Jonny, and Shewee Fiend Friend? This exciting drama was played out in three fiercely flippant bog blog updates in 2016 and 2017, entitled Oh, Jonny - Losing Our Hearts to a Loose Cannon; In Which the Privy Counsel Goes Ballistic  (don't worry, we don't charge anything for the clever puns - they are completely free!); and Nothing Is Certain But Death, Taxes, and Knees

We hereby have the honour of presenting yet another contribution to what must probably henceforth be known as the Privy Counsel Cannon Babe Parade! This cannon stands outside the lighthouse Långe Jan, on the southern tip of the island Öland, off the coast of Sweden. The lighthouse was erected during the reign of King Gustav III, who incidentally granted freedom of religion, enabling Jews to live in Sweden without converting, in the 1770s. Parts of the Privy Counsel can boast Jewish ancestry thanks to this festive and reasonably enlightened monarch - hurrah!

Staying on Öland, we found a refuge in the shape of a very safe and comforting toilet at Hotel Skansen, a favourite haunt of ours in the summer. Note the beautiful floor tiles, sensible hygiene arrangements and thoughtful décor.

The excitement does not end there! Our room at the above-mentioned hotel had not only soap and shampoo but hand lotion and actual, bona fide conditioner! We have been complaining about the lack of hair conditioner in hotels since at least 2012, and find the provision of it a boon!

The shower: Shampoo and conditioner!
The sink: Soap and hand lotion!
Last but definitely not least, let us feast our eyes on this toilet at the friendly Persian restaurant Khatoon, in Lund, Sweden! The name, according to the menu blurb, means "queen" or similar, and is representative of the historically strong position of women in north-western Iran. Isn't that an encouraging factoid!

The best of both worlds: combining beauty and hygiene!
A hefty and helpful coat hook
Paper towels and a decorative door
Today's Festive Video is a song that's been playing rather a lot at the Privy Counsel of late. We heartily wish all our readers the kind of love that makes a cup of tea.

Festive Video: Gretchen Peters, Love That Makes a Cup of Tea

Related Reading

All posts featuring Shewee Fiend Friend
All posts featuring Jonny

Previous posts in what we must now probably refer to as the Privy Counsel Cannon Babe Parade:
Oh, Jonny - Losing Our Hearts to a Loose Cannon
In Which the Privy Counsel Goes Ballistic 
Nothing Is Certain But Death, Taxes, and Knees

Another of the many posts in which we rant about Nazis: 2016 in Summary: Holding on to Hope, or, We're Really Cunting Angry, or, Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

The earliest recorded instance of us complaining about the lack of hair conditioner in hotels: Villa Ingrid: Toilet Paper and Loveliness 

Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark is available as a free e-book

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is available online or as a PDF, and has been translated into over 500 languages
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