An environment that is usually seen to be used for doing one thing and one thing only, is being looked at a little differently. What was once presumably a simple place to pee, is now a place of chit-chat, gossip and conspiracy. I’ve been finding out where the lines in the sand lie when it comes to boys and girls and their respective lavatories.
Every man knows the ‘code’ on public toilet etiquette. Whether it’s passed down through genes, taught at a young age or just subconsciously learned in passing, every man knows what to do and how to do it. Efficiency and simplicity are the key to male toiletry success. You enter, you do your business and then you leave. Stripped down to the core, that is exactly what is done. Upon one conversation, one which would develop into an interview following certain observations and enquiries I had made, I discovered the gaping distance between the amenities in which surround going to the toilet – bare with me on this.
For starters, the codes are completely different. While a man would go about his daily business in the same sensible manner he does everything, women live by a different set of rules that accredit their survival in an completely different ambiance. George Tunnicliffe, a sixth form student at Sheldon School, described the male routine as ‘you get in, you do what you have to do and then you get out’. In the female world, things work a little differently and to a much stricter code of rules that are far more complex than the male equivalent. According to Claire Roberts, 18, a student at Sheldon School, Chippenham, ‘there are two types of visitors. You have the “wee girls”, you just want to use the toilet, and you get those who go into the toilets to chat’. But why the toilets? Why not an empty classroom, or a private corner?
“It’s somewhere private that girls can go to gossip or chat about private things. It’s just a comfortable environment”. I for one, struggle to believe, going from what I’ve seen in the boys toilets, that the toilets can be a nice place to be. Urine puddled floors, dirty porcelain and filthy sink basins don’t exactly paint a perfect picture of the stability or abundance needed for such a conversation with your same-sex companions. However, the information I have gathered from other female sources have confirmed that, unlike the males toilets, the girls lavatory is of a much, much better condition. Gender bias, surely? Why do girls get to enjoy a sufficiently sanitised and squeaky clean toiletry while boys must endure the smell of excrement and anguish that fogs the reputation of the ‘boys toilets’.
Even so, Roberts went on to tell me that girls toilets are a ‘place for company. We’re happy to have a wee and carry on a conversation. When you want to go to the toilets, your friends can kind of tell. There’s a “look of understanding”, sort of’. When asking whether this look was universal to all girls, the answer I got should have been expected, given the previous information I was given. ‘Oh yeah, every girl knows when someone else wants to go to talk in the toilets’. It all seems a little bit too familiar for my liking. The code the girls have created for themselves fits all too neatly and freely around a very vague set of aphorisms. Are there any rules that you need to stick by? Is urination the limit of toiletry needs or can one progress to the next ‘level’? As I skeptically tried to force holes through what seemed like an impenetrable idea, my attempts were soon made unjust.
‘Of course there is no pooing. Absolutely not’. Florence Millington, another 18 year old student from Sheldon School, answered my queries. Again, another difference from the boys toilets seems to have been made. When no rules virtually exist in the males premises of deification, it would seem that women live by a code that coincides with a delicate level of toilet etiquette that must be acknowledged and closely followed. Roberts and Millington further emphasised this point in regards to more ‘feminine’ procedures, and made note of those who do not fashion these rules, much to the dismay of other toilet users. ‘Some people do not put their tampons in the bin’. Even coming from the perspective from me, a bloke, that’s pretty obscene and horrible. When the rules are not met, the mess must be managed, as you would think. However, in the kingdom of men, we don’t abide to this idea. If there is mess, we leave it. Almost as if it was nothing to do with us. Donna Clapp, 17, told me that ‘You have to wipe up any mess, no matter how minimal it is’. Stereotypically, roles and obligations seem to be adopted as soon as a woman steps foot in the toilets, almost to say that ‘they’re our toilets and we have to look after them’.
One must wonder how such private conversations and secrecy is kept within the confides of a social group when you would think that the close proximity of the toilets suggest that it’s not hard to overhear someone talking. However, Millington dubbed the hand dryers as ‘weapons of privacy’ to distort any audible exchanges that may be lurked on by others. Everything seems very thought out and legitimate, but I fear that there may be certain contradictions made over the idea that the female toilets is a universal ‘safe house’ for all females. After describing the toilets as a ‘safe environment’, Roberts added that ‘you can feel very self-conscious when you’re doing your makeup and someone walks in’. How can the toilets be a secure habitat when you are made to feel uneasy by others. Maybe there is a rule of jungle and survival of the fittest concept looming over the name of the girls toilets.
Furthermore, should males feel threatened by the female fortress that seems to be the central executive of all female behaviour and conspiracy? As males, we assume that if you cannot say what you have to say in front of our face, it must be about us. Whether it’s good or bad, that remains to be seen, but we still feel agitated by this idea. However, Roberts argues with this assumption: ‘Girls don’t go to whine about boys because they’re boys, we whine about them because they’re human beings’.
I’m still not convinced. From what I’ve learnt, the female toilets is not just a simple place for self-relief, but a self proclaimed and ruled ambiguous sanctuary of gossip and tears, guarded by a code that has passed the male species by. Whether males seem to be the main target for these conversations remains to be scene, much like what truly goes on inside the minds of teenage girls and what really lies behind those doors.
As for now, ignorance is bliss.
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