Toilet-seat feminism

“Women can do marvelous things with a house, but they do need the house to be there in the first place.” — Kenneth Minogue

Once upon a time, a gentleman could simply tip his hat when a lady curtsied, turning to make her way through snow or rain or gloom of night and find relief in what was politely called a “backhouse.”

A basic social duty of any proper lady — to get there in style, and to get there on time — this was no easy task. Long ago, biology, that weapon of the patriarchy, condemned the fairer sex to the fate of needing to go more often than the unfair sex with the luxury, and the pleasure, of standing most anywhere and tending to business quickly and informally, at least for tinkling.

A lady had no such advantage. Not forgetting all those other problems particular to the female, even if she only needed to pee, prior to indoor seating, in cold months she had to bundle up and prepare for quite a journey. As if this weren’t inequity enough, once safely ensconced inside the small structure, she had to remove as many layers before plopping her derrière over a hole carved into freezing, splintery wood. An emergency evacuator didn’t fare well on a path that was iced and slippery. Rains or thaws meant she had no choice but to drag herself knee-deep in mud before relief, and respectability, were hers.

The warmer months brought their own challenges, and unpleasantness, to any woman hoping to be called a lady. The tiny refuge she sought could be swelteringly hot, swarming with flies, thick with spider webs. The stench, it was said, was enough to faint over. Wiping her bottom with whatever was available, putting herself back together as best she could, returning to the company of good society as fresh as a summer’s eve — none of this was obvious. A desperate resort for some Victorian ladies was to avoid the toilet altogether by staying right where they were, hoopskirts on, and peeing while standing. Not very ladylike.

Providing females with opportunities to be ladies, then leaving them to figure things out for themselves, has long been considered a bare minimum by any civilized society, though options haven’t always been pretty. If only the fairer sex knew how good they have it today. Outhouses were very late improvements, though small huts with stone seating, rare though these were, were around since ancient times. But for most humans and throughout history, there have been either holes in the ground or chamber pots. Only the wealthy have been able to rely on servants to clean up their messes. Nobles once slipped away to private indoor chambers called, euphemistically, garderobes, or clothing closets, where lords and ladies alike could keep up appearances by squatting and spraying anonymously out sides of castle towers (hoping no one who mattered was passing below).

From the chivalrous invention presented to Queen Elizabeth I in 1596, a crude flushing device, to present-day bowls, bidets, sinks, and tubs — luxurious and color-coordinated, crafted in fine porcelain in the latest styles to suit feminine tastes — the goal, apart from sanitary, has been to maximize the comfort of the fairer sex, to appeal to its sense of esthetics, to distract from its unattractive bodily functions. Her Majesty, unimpressed by the gift a man had made to women, never lowered herself to squatting over the strange, seatless gizmo, and over the centuries making restrooms into throne rooms for demanding dames has been an endless and thankless task. It seems the more the unfair sex does to accommodate the fairer, the more they’re shat upon for not doing enough.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, at the height of the Victorian era, with the rise of the middle class and the extension of the title “lady” with all its attendant duties, modern, flush toilets finally made their way indoors — thankless, once again, to the kindness of male inventors who also set up women with modern indoor plumbing and underground sewage systems. The hinged, flip seat, another gift to Victorian ladies made by gentlemen, was yet another distinct improvement to ladylike lavatory leverage, affording as it did more opportunities to be demanding. Tipping one’s hat would no longer do. Thus began the curious custom of expecting males of all ages to summon their full mental powers to remember, without fail, to tip the seat up before whizzing, only to trouble themselves again by tipping it back down when done, or get a real ragging when they forget. The assumptions being that the next user will likely be female, females using toilets more than males, and that females are unable to remember much themselves.

Toilet equity … or privy privilege? Hat-tipping aside, the modern feminist claim that gallantry is sexist, that women should be treated no differently from men, not placed on pedestals — and in the same breath, demands to be placed on comfy crappers with seats perpetually pristine, perfectly positioned for their convenience in ever more elegant settings resembling boudoirs, to be doted on and accommodated at every turn — all this has sent mixed signals to men who can’t seem to win no matter how much they aim to please, or simply to avoid so much bitching. In fact the history of the toilet is in many ways the history of feminism, certain key dates intersecting and leaving the dispassionate observer wondering what will be demanded next.

From water closet to voting booth, a pattern emerges. The American suffragette movement began with a rally of women held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. That same year, across the pond, this, and another kind of movement were stirring. England, slowly on its own way toward giving women the vote, also declared by some strange coincidence that every new house must have an indoor facility. As with so many waste advances, and wasted efforts to please them, females reaped most of the benefits. In 1920, U.S. building codes likewise required all new single-family residences to have indoor toilets, or “bathrooms,” as they’d soon be called to confirm female dominance of these domains. That same year, Americans extended the vote. England then did the same.

Social progress … or international feminist conspiracy? Soft toilet paper went on sale in the U.S. for the first time in 1942, mainly for the pampered females who would use the stuff in reams. While women sat comfortably at home, bottoms unscathed, their men were roughing it overseas with neither toilets nor paper, for they were too busy fighting and dying on the field of battle. Three years later, the unfair sex returned damaged or dead from keeping the fairer sex steeped in comfort and freedom, and Congress introduced the first piece of legislation aimed at outlawing discrimination in pay based on sex, leading to the Equal Pay Act in 1963.

Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973, not long after similar legislation passed in England. That same year, (though the practice of “flushing” babies was on the way out), U.S. cities began bans on pay toilets, yet again catering to women more than men who could still, at least unofficially, pee against the nearest wall unmolested. As if having free facilities were not enough, 1973 became a watershed year for feminists when the Uniform Plumbing Code required a new kind of open-front seat on all public toilets in the U.S. Now the fairer sex could not only pee on the house, but wipe itself more freely, and with free soft paper. The unfair sex didn’t fare as well. As is known by any member of the patriarchy ever to defecate in a public toilet since 1973, seats open at the front expose male genitals more easily to unsanitary matter left on rims, and it could be said, in all fairness, that open-front toilet seats discriminate against the unfair sex.

Manspreading aside … If rights are to be balanced with responsibilities, and neither sex, fairer or unfair, is to enjoy biological catering in a gender-blind society, then it’s hard not to wonder if the balance hasn’t been tipped a bit too far in favor of females and their overblown bodily functions. Forests of free tissue, and olive branches, have been offered on silver platters, grandiose claims to discomfort have been met with heroic efforts from men, and yet complaints keep pouring in for the offense of leaving the seat down prior to piddling, or up thereafter, capital crimes, judging from the violent reactions. Slaves to female whim might just stop working one day and wonder if progress has ever been the ladies’ goal, or if the only point to so much accommodation has been to keep the gentlemen perpetually off-balance.

However cushy our coddled Western feminists have it, whether from force of habit or fear of losing leverage, they simply will not stop trying to make the world into their own private powder room where they reign supremely and uncontradicted. Now that they’ve been treated to more unnatural luxuries than any reasonable person should ever expect to enjoy, latter-day ladies have turned their ambitions to faraway and exotic lands where women really do suffer from inequities, and far worse than wet toilet seats. Most of humanity, male and female, hasn’t a pot to piss in, much less a seat on which to luxuriate. This doesn’t stop the self-appointed equalizers from sitting at their vanities, leaning into their mirrors, and allying their trivial complaints to someone else’s real problems. All in the cause of spreading their vision of a universal and unending war between the sexes where women are good, and men are bad.

Today’s boutique-issue feminists are calling their latest rebellion a global fight for “potty parity,” a phrase no less loaded than “gender equity” has become in recent years. Noting the fact that in wealthy Western countries lines are longer to ladies’ rooms than men’s, they demand this “hidden bias” be rectified and right away. So says CityLab magazine, casting every design or public policy issue into a matter of gendered, or racialized, victimhood (like that bizarre boutique issue of “trans toilets” that eclipsed even health care reform for several years). Not once have the new, inconvenienced feminists factored in the amount of waiting time added by some prior female’s primping, or the notorious state, according to women I know, in which many a sister leaves the toilet for the next, a lengthy clean-up required before relief is possible. Women, many of these women I know have said, are “total pigs” who leave restrooms in much worse shape than do men.

Do women in India answer this battle cry against longer lines? Most anywhere they go, they have no long waits, because they have no facilities in which to go, but must slip away to fields or woods, risking rape and murder. Not to mention that much of humanity, regardless of gender, still balances over a hole in the floor, if they’re lucky enough to have a hole, or a floor. Precious few souls have the mean pleasure of fussing over seat position, or the good fortune to become connoisseurs of toilet-paper quality. Only as recently as 2015 has an ancient fatwa, inscribed in sacred Muslim texts, been lifted by Turkish authorities who, after holding out for generations, now say it’s okay to use paper, rather than water alone, to clean one’s bum. For those who can afford toilet paper, you can bet it’s not as soft as Charmin.

Navel-gazing over one’s own perceived “oppression” assumes the unfair sex still has it so much better than the fairer, in and out of the can, everywhere in the world. Despite the endless gestures made to correct the bad hand nature has dealt them, still unwilling to face the facts and accept their condition, overindulged Western feminists are more pissed off than ever over biology they can’t overcome. Possessed by penis envy, they squat bitterly, secretly wishing to stand tall and pee like men, but they frankly don’t have the hardware. Yearn though they may, they’ll never know the intense and satisfying primal pleasure, a combined effect of eons of evolution and boyish mischief, of making one’s mark against the nearest tree, bush, wall or snow bank, then getting on with business — which could be just drinking. So the feminists seek to punish males for being male, to make it a disadvantage not to be female.

Here’s how the new “equity” works: If everyone can’t have something, then no one can. “Social justice,” on the pretense of raising the lowly, takes anyone who stands tall and drags him to the level of the lowest common denominator. Upright elimination, free from molestation, may have been an easy option for males at one time, but those golden days are ending and answering nature’s call as nature intended is increasingly frowned upon. Bans on even standing to go in toilets have captured imaginations in strongholds like Vancouver where one restaurant has a sitting-room-only policy forbidding males from peeing standing, and whether or not they plan to lift and lower the seat. Even little boys, proud of having finally mastered the art of aiming, are told to crawl back into the womb and pee girly-style. It might be unsurprising that Canadians, who’ve also mandated gender-free passports and the use of “nonbinary” pronouns in the military, would take a haughty stance on a petty matter. But in a number of places around the world, including Germany, Sweden, Japan, and Taiwan, similar efforts are underway.

Harsher campaigns have been waged in public places from Ohio to the Subcontinent, wherever feminist overreach has reached, and men must now watch their backs whilst whizzing or face serious consequences, even bodily harm. Prowling city streets of India, in search of acts of illicit micturation, is a “piss tanker,” a large yellow truck resembling an oil tanker with a male crew and a load of water for hosing down, at high pressure with a fireman’s hose, unsuspecting offenders caught going in forbidden spots. Victims are blown off their feet, tossed into the air, thrown to the pavement, dicks dangling, then left to deal with their injuries. Videos of these violent attacks are posted for public shaming. But do such harsh punishments fit the crime? Is it, indeed, a crime to relieve oneself when proper facilities are as rare for males as they are for females? And have the Western feminists perhaps been whispering in the ears of their Eastern sisters, and the latter into their men’s, turning brother against brother (then shaming them for having the “toxic masculinity” to defend their honor)?

Feminism’s regression, in recent years, to a neo-Victorian regard for primness, propriety, and taking offense — such as criminalizing the most innocent sexual advance, calling the slightest tip of the hat “rape culture” — is also behind this drive to call out and correct toilet imbalances by putting a thumb on the scales of justice. “How DARE you?” scream ladylike legions to voice their outrage at some poor bloke caught red-handed offending their sense of decorum. He meant no perversion by peeing where he shouldn’t, but in at least thirteen U.S. states, a man’s life can be ruined because it’s now considered a “sex crime.” In Ohio he faces two years of imprisonment for a first offense. “Sex offenders” have their offending behavior put on permanent public record, effectively banning them from employment and housing. Overreactions to public peeing are couched in high-minded talk of sanitation, public health, and property damage — so then why bring sex into it?

Are these new feminists really such fragile vessels … or cast-iron c — ts? Despite professions of universal causes and noble ideals, public policy and design flaws, nothing enrages a foam-at-the-mouth feminista quite like finding she’s just lowered her big bottom onto a toilet seat that’s wet and sticky. Someone must pay for this injustice, she raves silently, (dabbing herself with tissue which clings and tears), and she will scorch the earth to find him! Anyone who questions the gravity of the offense is treading on dangerous ground, though some men have lately risked their manhood by wondering aloud: If gentlemen are nice enough to put the lid down, then why can’t the ladies lift it up for them? So what if the next user might happen to be female? What’s wrong with sharing responsibilities? What’s the worst that could happen but some poor slob, male or female, takes an unplanned plunge? Why not call the offender a self-hating male for letting such a fate befall the next manspreader? And whose fault would it be but a female’s for not looking before leaking? To the dispassionate observer, all good questions these are — assuming equity is the goal — but enough to send feminists screaming and running for the nearest safe space, because the bathroom’s no longer it.

Recent attempts have been made to address claims of toilet-seat imbalances by injecting calm, reasonable, rational, scientific, male method — the same that gave us toilet technology in the first place — into an ongoing and over-heated debate. Two male economists have tempted the wrath of the goddesses by asking the heretical question: “What’s the best toilet seat policy?” Their mathematical calculations offer ways to achieve, once and for all, true, bias-free equity in the john.

The goals of the two studies are decent and straightforward in the manliest way: to minimize the number of times a seat must be touched (for obvious sanitary reasons) by anyone; and to assign a fair share of tipping duties to each sex so neither is unfairly inconvenienced or exposed. Taken into account, among other factors, are the varying frequency in toilet use by women versus men, and the fact that men also require the seat down, albeit a smaller percentage of the time.

The most elegant solution is for everyone to simply leave the seat where it is, up or down, when he or she is done — compensation to males, provocation to females used to favoritism.

The second solution is for men to put the seat down only half the time (one can already hear the feminist cries of “Discrimination!” for not having it all). But the only reason for offering women any help whatsoever is based on the old and bold assumption that they are being inconvenienced by having to share a toilet with the unfair sex, that the bathroom belongs, essentially, to the fairer, because if no men were around, women wouldn’t need to do a thing. As we’ve seen, history does not bear out this narrative. Men provided women with places to go in the first place. Men have since made all the improvements. Women have kept complaining.

And yet for reasons that defy reason, leaving the dispassionate observer dumbfounded and drooling, the unfair sex continues to labor thanklessly toward a toilet utopia. Men, not being women, dare not try to understand the expanding universe of female problems, but must be happy to go on groveling at entries to throne rooms and scratching their heads. Progressive accommodations have included temperature-controlled toilet seats, bespoke Italian wash basins, jewel-encrusted bidets, and heart-shaped bathtubs. Solid-gold toilets, and solid-gold toilet paper, are no longer beyond the call of duty. It’s only a matter of time before men abandon what’s left of their pride … and start wiping women’s asses.



…writes on society, the arts, and canine culture. His latest book is GONE WALKABOUT: Confessions of a NYC Dog Walker.

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Michael Brandow

…writes on society, the arts, and canine culture. His latest book is GONE WALKABOUT: Confessions of a NYC Dog Walker.