That’s the question I’m asking in response to TIME’s “Why Do We Have Men’s and Women’s Bathrooms Anyway?”. The question they ask is a mostly historical one. The question I’m asking is a philosophical one, although I will talk about the history by way of a starting point.
America instituted sex-segregated restrooms during the 1800’s. Their reasoning, according to professor Terry Kogan, was rooted in a deep-seated sexism.
Women, policymakers argued, were inherently weaker and still in need of protection from the harsh realities of the public sphere….with the advent of indoor bathrooms that were then in the process of replacing single-person outhouses, separate loos soon followed….[Ladies’ rooms] were adopted to create this protected haven in this dangerous public realm
According to Maya Rhodan, separate facilities persist due primarily to building codes. That doesn’t mean, however, that philosophical reasons are never given for their persistence. When confronted with the idea of eliminating sex-segregated bathrooms, two North Carolina lawmakers worried about the impact such a decision would have on women’s safety and privacy.
This sounds suspiciously similar to the reasoning of the 1800’s, but let’s leave that alone for now. The question we’re concerned with is whether or not we have any good philosophical reason to keep sex-specific bathrooms around. Let’s consider some.