In the hallway of the two floors hosting most of the BlogHer10 conference are four bathrooms. Two are women's rooms, one is a men's room, and the fourth is a men's room that has been converted into a women's room. The sign perpendicular to the wall that said MEN is covered by an official-looking sign that says WOMEN. It has the international sign for women, the stick figure with the triangle skirt. There is a piece of paper taped on the door that says WOMEN. The urinals are hidden behind a curtain, which cracks me up. (Maren quipped, "Ignore the man behind the curtain," which made me laugh even harder.) It is obviously a bathroom that has been set aside for women. Yet the lines in the two non-converted women's rooms are long, and there is never a wait in the converted women's room. What gives?
I've pondered the insanity of gendered bathroom politics before, but usually it involved people not wanting to share a public bathroom with a member of the opposite sex. It did not occur to me that women are so ingrained to not want to use public bathrooms that men use that we would rather stand in line in a women's women's room than breeze in and out of a women's room that used to be a men's room. I suppose there is a sacredness or safety of being a "female only" space, however "female" is defined. This is very strange to me, but I also sort of understand.
When I was a wee lass, I believed that the girls bathroom offered some sort of magical protection from boys. If I wanted to get away from them, all I had to do was slip behind the door marked GIRLS and I would be free from boys and their cooties. It took me a long time to realize that this sense of security was false. If someone was really intent on doing me harm, he would not stop at a door indicating that this was only for females. In fact, a few months ago, a woman was sexually assaulted in a bar in Manhattan while she used the women's room.
I'm probably over analyzing this (although part of me wants to go even further and take the lack of comfort over a bathroom sex change and apply it to people), but it does strike me as worthy of discussion. Then again, I'm also the person who hates when single bathrooms are marked "men" and "women," and I'll just use whichever room is empty. Why wait?