When your rich university, which which invents things like a heart monitor woven into a shirt, can’t seem to figure out potty parity

Even the gajillionaires who built the new basketball arena (with taxpayer money) have more toilets for women than for men

The chairs are necessary why?

Mr T and I went to our college homecoming in Houston last week. Before the university president’s town hall, which was in a building that’s only a few years old, he and I both went to the restroom.

When I finally got out and found him saving a seat for me in the auditorium, I looked at my phone and discovered he had called and texted. Where was I? WHERE WAS I?

Silly man.

He thought that that because we entered our respective restrooms – each of which had two stalls – at the same time, we would leave at the same time.


When I walked out of the ladies’, I saw the university president.

I caught his eye.

“I should not have to wait twice as long as a man to use the bathroom,” I said. I was, as you might imagine, very annoyed.

“And yet that’s what just happened. Rice has the money to solve this problem. You need to fix this.”

The younger man standing next to the president said, “There are more restrooms in the next building!”

Oh bless your sweet heart.

“Yeah,” I replied. “That doesn’t really solve my problem.”

A (very smart) friend asked, “Why don’t they just make all the bathrooms unisex? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

He did not, of course, mean constructing single-unit, locked-door bathrooms. He meant converting existing multiple-stall bathrooms to unisex.

In theory, if you just do the math, this works. It’s actually a really interesting queuing theory problem: how do you minimize wait times?

In this case – by converting all the toilets to unisex, you might increase wait times for men but reduce them for women. Depending, I suppose, on the ratio of men to women, total wait time could be reduced, which is something that might matter for businesses that just want people to get back to work.

I don’t think the people who run entertainment venues care if women miss the first part of the show after intermission – they already have our money.

I, along with at least two dozen other women, was waiting for the ladies’ before the Tom Jones concert. Next to the ladies’ was a toilet for disabled persons, with a guard sitting in front of the door.

Me: May I use that toilet, please?

Guard: No.

Me: But – it’s empty. And there’s a long line. And the concert starts in a few minutes.

Guard: No.

Me: But why not?

Guard: You’re not disabled.

Me: Nobody in the line is disabled and if someone is, I gladly yield the bathroom to her.

Guard: No.

The problem with looking at potty parity as nothing more than a math problem is that you don’t include the things that can’t be quantified.

Things like high school girls not wanting to change a tampon when there is a boy in the next stall.

Things not schoolgirls not even wanting to pee if there is a boy in the next stall.

Things like boys – or men – looking under or over the stall door.

Things like men putting cameras under the partition to photograph women.

Things like women being worried that they are stuck in a stall, pants down, in a vulnerable condition, around men, who may or may not be predators. Ted Bundy was good looking and charming. We can’t tell by looking who the good men are and who the bad men are.

All we want is to pee in privacy and not miss the show.

2 thoughts on “When your rich university, which which invents things like a heart monitor woven into a shirt, can’t seem to figure out potty parity

  1. YEP.

    (my church figured this out when they renovated the main floor about two decades ago; I do not know who communicated the problem to those who were doing the plans [or maybe they made sure to have at least one woman who attended the church in the room, and maybe she said something?], but blessings on her, whoever she [possibly extremely plural] was!) (Rice has no excuse, really, in a performance space!)


  2. Just before our opera house had a major remodel a number of years ago the opera director got up in front of the audience and announced that they were going to be adding many more restrooms for women. He got a big cheer. And they did add them and I no longer had to race to them at intermission to make sure I could pee before the second act.


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