About a month ago, I was eating lunch at the Sunset Café on campus with some friends. This was the first time I have ever been to this restaurant, but it is conveniently located on campus so I decided to give it a try. After I finished my food, I had to go to the bathroom. I noticed that there was a men’s bathroom and a unisex/wheelchair accessible bathroom (which was occupied). This confused me. Where do I go to the bathroom? I was always taught not to use wheelchair accessible bathrooms, as a sign of respect for those who need them. And the only remaining bathroom to use was clearly marked “Men’s.” I walked over to the woman at the cash register and I asked her where the women’s bathroom was. She told me there wasn’t one and that concerned me. I went back over to my friends and they told me to just use the men’s bathroom…
I want a bathroom where I can feel comfortable being in. It’s bad enough that most public spaces are already male dominated! What if I was on my period that day and I needed somewhere to dispose of my pad? There is no female disposal box in the men’s bathroom…and how awkward would that be if a guy seen me coming out of the stall with my dirty “sanitary napkin”? Yes – some people wouldn’t care. But most of our culture is socialized to act in specific and gendered ways every day. All it would take would be for me to walk into the men’s washroom with my pad or tampon and have someone see me and all hell would break loose.
This blew my mind. How can people walk by these two bathrooms for so long, and not be outraged? Has society taught us that able bodied men deserve these types of privileges? Why is it okay for able bodied men to have their own bathroom, while everyone else is crammed together into another bathroom?
The course of action I took was contacting the HR office at the University of Windsor. They informed the Graduate Student Society (who own the Sunset Café) of my concerns and they have contacted me since. They have fixed the problem (they made both of the bathrooms unisex), and I am satisfied with the change. This was my first time taking action by promoting equal rights by myself, and I am very happy with the outcome. I hope my actions have opened people’s eyes by showing them that things like this should not be tolerated, and not to be afraid to take some action if you don’t agree with something.
editor’s note: katie is a first year women’s studies and social work student and is the youngest member of the wssa. she likes watching hockey and eating pizza for breakfast.