rule-breaking women scorned by men having to wait in longer lines
By Abby Sophir
Lauren Anderson waits patiently in line for the bathroom. She counts to 50 in her head in an attempt to distract herself from the growing sensation in her abdomen. She counts the women and girls in front of her in line: 28.
The New York Public Restroom Service’s recent announcement of the nearly fourfold increase in women who report frequently using men’s restrooms since the last survey in January 2010 has driven the country to chaos.
As bathrooms deteriorate due to a lack of state funding for their upkeep, facilities simply cannot keep up with the demand for stalls. Lines for women’s bathrooms have become unbearable, often spanning lengths comparable to popular amusement park roller coasters. Women are forced to resort to using men’s rooms, where lines are significantly shorter.
Upon this televised announcement on Tuesday, over 3,000 protesters stormed the capital building in Albany holding signs that read, “Make Bathrooms, not War.” Speculators predict the problem will only get worse if substantial changes aren’t made.
As the statistics continue to rise, public anxiety is also skyrocketing. In a recent survey of 500 middle-aged New Yorkers who were asked their biggest concern over the next six months, the bathroom issue ranked second, just behind the economy and just above children’s education.
Twenty minutes later Lauren Anderson remains far from the stall. She stands, legs crossed, violently rocking back and forth. She breaks out in a nervous swear.
While men worry that their access to toilets will be jeopardized if the trend continues, women currently face serious emotional and social consequences.
“It’s as though we are stuck in a box. We have no place to go– literally and figuratively,” 47-year-old Ithaca resident Maria Jacobs said.
Two months ago, while at a Cornell Basketball game, Jacobs had to use the restroom. After waiting in line for the women’s room for 25 minutes, she conceded to the men’s room.
“My bladder was about to explode. I had no other option or I was going to miss the entire second half,” Jacobs said.
Public security spotted her exiting the restroom and had her immediately removed from the building. Since this incident, her life has taken a turn for the worse.
“I used to be the kind of person that everyone wanted to be around,” Jacobs said. “Now even my friends don’t want to talk to me. Our family name was ruined. My husband recently filed for divorce, and you know what, I don’t blame him.”
Jacobs is not alone. Hundreds of women struggle to balance the need to urinate with the stigma of using the men’s room.
Lauren Anderson cannot take it any longer. From where she stands in line, she notices the men’s room is vacant. She knows the other women in line will judge. She knows there will be consequences if she is caught. But she cannot resist the temptation. She takes off for the men’s room.
To detect this severely frowned upon act, public buildings have begun to install video cameras outside of bathrooms to track who enters. In efforts to avoid embarrassment, women are going so far so to dress up as men before entering the men’s room.
“I make sure to take with me a baggy sweatshirt and a pair of men’s slacks everywhere I go, just incase I have to go to use the restroom,” Melissa Torno said. “It’s a pain but it far outweighs the consequences of getting caught.”
Mark Simpson, owner of Party Land, said sales of Groucho glasses have skyrocketed. He has seen a 600 percent increase in the purchase of these concealing accessories since the beginning of the year.
“Women have been buying those things like crazy,” Simpson said. “Apparently they’re the new hot item to have.”
As Lauren finally relieves herself, she is reassured that she has made right choice, until there is a knock at the door. Her heart begins to race. She remains silent, praying the person will go away.
Women sympathizers encourage a nationwide switch to co-ed bathrooms, which would open up more stalls to women. However, many men are not as understanding of the issue.
Men Against Women Peeing, a radical grassroots organization from Cortland, recently proposed an amendment to the New York State constitution requiring some sort of “proof of gender” prior to entering a male-designated restroom. Talk of this amendment has made its way to the political arena.
“Governor Cuomo and congressional Democrats, heavily endorsed by the National Organization of Women, strongly oppose such an Amendment. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that such a law would pass,” political analyst Henry Balachek said. Regardless, just the very idea of this proposal is enough to send researchers to their notebooks to think of solutions to this growing problem.
MAWP now supports offering workshops to teach women to urinate less. Research is currently being conducted to determine the effectiveness of such classes.
At local levels, governments have proposed “bathroom taxes.” If this were to be implemented, individuals would be required to swipe an identification card when entering a public restroom and would later be charged a small fee for its use. However, this measure would be costly and would likely encounter great resistance. Lawyers are currently looking into whether this requirement would count as a hate crime towards individuals with weak bladders.
Lauren looks both ways as she exits, the coast is clear. She casually walks past the line of women waiting for the women’s room. This time she is safe, but next time she may not be as lucky.
Gabriella Sophir is a freshman TV-R major who thinks this is a problem Obama needs to address on a national level. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.