Public facilities that handle crowds should have more women’s toilets than men’s. This is not fair, but it is just.
Well-known class action lawyer John Banzhaff III made the case for “potty parity” in 1990. Since then, 20 states and many cities have adopted ordinances that require anywhere from a 60/40 split of women’s to men’s toilets, to a 2:1 ratio. This past summer New York City passed the Women’s Restroom Equity Act requiring twice as many women’s toilets in arenas, bars, concert halls, convention halls, motion picture theatres, public dance halls, stadiums, and theatres.
Why is this necessary? Because women take longer in the restroom. They take longer because they have more clothes to manage. They take longer because they are more likely to have kids to manage. They take longer because they Just Do. Everyone would be better off if women did not have to wait longer to get into a restroom. This is pretty much a win-win rule.
So who is against it?
Critics on the left say that the law should be sex-blind, treating men and women exactly the same. Any different treatment, they say, even those that benefit women, reinforce stereotypes that women are weaker and in need of help. This reminds me of a lawyer I once heard of who argued that if the town had a dog leash license, the equal protection clause of the Constitution required that there also be a cat leash license. But this is a silly argument: recognizing real differences is sensible, not sexist. Equity does not require strict equality.
Critics on the right say this is an absurd example of overreaching and over-regulating by the “nanny state.” But this ignores the fact that the state has already shaped public facilities in a hundred ways to insure health, safety, and equal access. You would have to have a very strong stomach for mob panics and crowded collapses to be willing to let a big sports stadium or concert arena be built without any regulation at all.
Potty parity is a common-sense compromise that recognizes that men and women have different bodies and that they have different cultural customs and responsibilities.