Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’ (Annotated Bibliography Four)

Bazelon, Emily. “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

In the article Making Bathrooms More ‘Accomodating’ by Emily Bazelon, there are a number of arguments made in favor of unisex (i.e. all-gender) bathrooms. Bazelon argues that the root cause of sex-segregated bathrooms occurred in the 19th century when women began entering into previously male-dominated areas like factories and libraries. At the time, people believed women were prone to fainting and so they required special rooms they could rest in. The sex-segregated bathrooms were also created to address privacy and sanitation concerns. In contrast, the modern-day woman isn’t concerned by such matters. Another argument by Bazelon is that sex should no longer be determined by biology, but by how people feel and express themselves. This is because a person who is biologically female may feel she is male—or express that she is male–and because there are other sex-chromosome combinations besides XY and XX. The third main argument of this article has to do with accommodation and feelings; the entire article is about accommodation, but Bazelon provides examples of US schools already accommodating the transgendered by using their preferred names and pronouns, so the question she raises are why not go further and shouldn’t we make everyone feel welcome?

This article is interesting in the sense that it introduces the reader to new ideas, especially if the reader is conservative; however, I don’t consider The New York Times to be obejctive. Take for instance this article. A strong opposing argument is never offered (against unisex bathrooms or the idea of transgenderism), although Bazelon does bring up the Houston campaign against unisex bathrooms–which made use of the commonly perpetuated belief that all men are potential assailants. Interestingly enough, she never mentioned that the “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” campaign was sexist against men. Instead, she quoted a self-proclaimed liberal woman who opined that this unisex bathroom movement was yet another example of women having to accommodate men, despite the fact that if the movement were successful, then women would be allowed to use the men’s room too.

Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’ (Reading Summary Four)



“Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’” by Emily Bazelon is an article arguing in favor of unisex or all-gender bathrooms. I believe her main argument can be summed up in the following way: male and female bathrooms are regulatory in that they permit or prohibit certain groups of people from entering bathrooms based upon their biological sex, but this notion is being challenged by transgender people. The author views this as a good thing because she believes the policies and laws that prohibit people who act and dress like the opposite sex from entering the bathrooms of the sex contrary to their own are unaccommodating and psychologically hurtful. She sees this as contrary to how a civil society should function.

According to Bazelon, many people are against the convention of unisex bathrooms, especially the idea of men sharing the same bathroom as women. She then goes on to cite a case in Houston, Texas where an ordinance which would have allowed men to use the women’s bathroom and vice-versa. However, it was struck down by voters because the opponents of the ordinance aired commercials depicting men attacking women in bathrooms, exploiting the notion that some people possess: that all men are potential rapists or are violent. The campaign seemed to have worked. She also notes that even some liberal women are against the idea of unisex bathrooms because they see this as yet another example of women being forced to accommodate men.

Moreover, Bazelon holds the belief that the beginnings of segregating bathrooms by sex are found in the Victoria era and it was mainly done for privacy and hygienic reasons. Because up until that point it was mainly men who visited libraries, parks, factories–and so these places didn’t accommodate women by giving them their own bathroom. She goes on to cite a law professor by the name of Terry Kogan who explains in an article dealing with bathroom segregation that “shopgirls” were given retiring rooms where they could rest, because the people of that time period felt that women were predisposed to fainting. Bazelon contrasts the origin of segregating bathrooms by sex with what she thinks most modern-day women are now concerned about: not waiting in line for the bathroom. That’s not entirely true though because she also points out in her article that women view the bathroom as a place where they can get away from men, or congregate with their lady friends, which could possibly be another reason why some women are against the idea of men encroaching upon their bathrooms.

Additionally, the author makes the point in her article that some are too dismissive of transgender people. That the people who see a biological woman dressing, acting, or going through sex-reassignment surgery, as still a woman because of her sex chromosomes, are wrong. Her reasoning is that because there are other sex chromosome combinations besides XY and XX we should therefore not solely rely on them for making the determination that a person is a man or woman. Instead, the author seems to want us to focus on what people feel they are and how they express themselves.