Bloody Machinery

November 4, 2018

Interior toilet

Women’s presence in the public realm only arose as they were gradually enrolled to the labour market and department stores simultaneously became increasingly popular. Prior to this, women’s access to the public sphere was limited as the only participation deemed as appropriate for women was within the domestic realm. This attitude resonated in the building of public toilets, ‘as it was considered improper for women to use public facilities,’ according to Dr Clara Greed, emerita professor of inclusive urban planning at the University of the West of England in Bristol. She further explains how ‘public institutions, including educational buildings, workplaces and recreational spaces, were designed around the needs of men.’ Public toilets for women only became acceptable once women gained access to these public institutions.

Yet, according to Leslie K Weisman, a feminist architect and theorist, our built environment is arguably a male prerogative, meaning that most designers, engineers, constructers, decision-makers and so forth, tend to be men. As a result, Dr Greed maintains that there is ‘very little understanding of the sociological aspects of toilets.’ With the example of the public toilets in Stockholm, it is evident that much of what Dr Greed describes is reflected in the architecture of the infrastructure. Many of these characteristic structures have two sanitation facilities with an entrance from either side, one with a standard toilet and one with a urinal. As often recognised, urinals are not appropriate for uterine carriers, particularly those who menstruate. One might even suggest that the toilet to urinal ratio is annoyingly skewed in favour of urinals in many public sanitation facilities, due to, according to Greed urinals being less space consuming. Consequently, many are familiar with the long queues to the female toilets.

The interior of the public sanitation facilities perhaps also contributes to these long queues. The way each component operates in relation to each other is crucial and could either facilitate or impede menstruation management. One could suggest that there is a hierarchy of the components according to their extent they fulfil the demand of menstruators. The arguably most fundamental elements are the toilet and the sink as well as light and a lock. Following are the sanitary disposal, toilet paper and bin and finally the hand dryer and soap. Unfortunately, many public sanitation facilities fail to meet all of these demands. Toilet cubicles physically separate toilets from sinks, leaving the menstruator to the challenge of emptying their moon cup or taking out their tampon. The lack of light not only impedes menstruation management, but also can also contribute to menstruators feeling unsafe, especially at night time. Similarly, the ability to lock the door behind is essential for safety in such a vulnerable situation. Sanitary disposals are often sparsely placed, and many would rather flush their sanitary products in the toilet and risk to block them, than carry their tampon or pad out to the nearest bin. Toilets with no paper or soap compromises the hygiene and sanitation of menstruation management.

These examples above are just a few of many potential issues that arise with inadequate public sanitation access. As a result, uterine carriers tend to seek the accessible toilets where one will have better luck with finding all element necessary for menstruation management, rendering menstruation to a disability?


03_Infrastructural Instrument_Sara Sako

Public sanitation access in Stockholm

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