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

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