Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scandi Stupidity on Stilts - Unisex Toilets

If anything captures the 'forced equality at the cost of anything resembling efficiency' aspect of Scandinavia, it's unisex public toilets.

Unisex toilets stem from two desires, one completely stupid, one mostly stupid. The first is a desire to deny that there are any important biological differences between men and women, outside of the purely reproductive aspects (and even those ought to be overcome with technology). The second is a desire to ensure rigid equality between the sexes in all matters, large and small, consequential and trivial.

In matters of bathroom logistics, men have some clear biological advantages. Mechanical aspects of their appendages allow them to pee standing up, and direct the flow with reasonable accuracy. Both of these allow for the urinal, that great time-saving device of the water-closet world. They're not pretty, they offer limited privacy, but damn can they get people in and out of the bathroom quickly.

This has produced the well-known side effect that women end up waiting in line for bathrooms much longer than men. Scandal! Oppressive patriarchy conspires to keep women waiting while men get smug privileges! Stop the bathroom apartheid!

Hence, the brainwave of unisex toilets. Let's do away with urinals altogether, and make everyone use the stalls. That way men can feel the irritation of waiting in line for the bathroom just as much as women. It gets worse, because we can also engineer non-stop friction in public, as well as private, over the clearly demarked gender preferences over whether the toilet seat should be up or down afterwards. It can create irritation by also exploiting gender-based differences in how clean the seat must be afterwards (if the next guy is peeing into the stall as well, does it really matter? Not saying that's my view, but just saying that seems to be a prevalent male view, at least by revealed preference) Instead, we'll create a vibrant community of conversations in line at the unisex toilets as men can express their grumbling during the interminable, unnecessary minutes of delay.

In classic Scandinavian style, this isn't even an efficient way to achieve equality of bathroom waiting time, if for some strange reason that's a big social priority. It's as if somehow only men were biologically capable of driving cars, so they decided that we'd all have to use the horse and buggy instead.

If you want efficient bathroom equality, you'd retain the separate toilets, but just build more space for women's toilets than men's, knowing that they operate with longer time delays. This may be a strange goal, but it's at least pareto efficient. Pure unisex toilets are not. There's no cosmic rule that says men and women must be allocated equal floor space for their bathrooms.

But that would still allow for the chance that men might wait less time than women, and would reinforce the fact that men and women aren't literally, biologically identical. Hence the stupidity must go on.

I think if I had to reflect on these facts for two minutes a day while waiting in an unnecessary line at the toilets, my head might explode.

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