Mainstreaming Menstruation

December 10, 2018

Interior toilet - careIt is evident that the architectural support for uterine carriers and their maintenance of menstruation is crucial is essential, in order to avoid further exclusion from the built environment. Puig de la Bellacasa describes the importance of fostering our surrounding, in this case the built environment and particularly the infrastructure of public sanitation access, in order to provide us with satisfactory support. The presence and participation in the public realm should not be limited to the disability of the built environment to provide uterine carriers with the proper means of supporting our menstruation management.

The lack of care for such architectural support, an unfortunate reality today, results in the maintenance of vulnerable people in vulnerable situations as well as the reaffirmation of the stigma associated with menstruation and the menstruating body. In Virginia Held’s text, many views and ideas that are applicable on the infrastructure of public sanitation access for menstruators are derived. Held describes how ‘the central focus of the ethics of care is on the compelling moral salience of attending to and meeting the needs of the particular others for whom we take responsibility.’ In order to actively challenge the stigma regarding menstruation and take responsibility for all uterine carriers, architectural support that meet the demands of these people needs to be in place.

One can begin to define which supportive design components should be incorporated into basic standards to increase the access of public sanitation, as suggested by Schmitt et al. First of all, the mere number of toilets within the centre of Stockholm should be considered equally important, and should thus be increased as well as be made more accessible by making them free of charge. Secondly, the most fundamental components of toilet and sink have to be in place and the provision of water needs to be adequate and consistent. Furthermore, the spatial design needs to include measurements considering uterine carriers requiring assistance for maintaining their menstruation, such as uterine carriers with disabilities in a wheel chair. Finally, components catering to menstrual waste disposal need to be in place for sanitation and locks and lights should be maintained and function as intended for safety. Other general maintenance, such as regular cleaning of the space as well as keeping toilet paper in stock, are necessary for sanitary reasons.

An excellent precedent is the infrastructure of public toilets in the city of Malmö, when considering the ethics of care. In Malmö, the provision of public toilets has become mainstream. These facilities are free of charge and they are cleaned twice a day. They are located considerately and caringly. If Stockholm would begin to adopt similar measures, one could imagine how the demands of menstruators within the public sphere would be met with great success.

The analysis and discussion undertaken this semester has shown that mainstreaming adequate provision of public sanitation access for uterine carriers and their management of menstruation will have significant implications on addressing gender inequality in the built environment. The infrastructural case study may be located in Stockholm, yet the implications are applicable in a far wider context.


07_Infrastructural Care_Sara Sako

Public sanitation access in Stockholm


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