Monday, March 27, 2006

Civil Rights in an Unlikely Place

While searching for something interesting related to employment law, I happened across this article in Slate by Ian Ayres (incidentally, he's the Yale professor whose FE mark we discussed last week): Looking Out for No. 2. Once I was done giggling at the incongruity of claiming single-use, gendered toilets was discrimination: ("Yale is discriminating on the basis of sex in the conditions of my employment. I can't use this women's bathroom because I'm a man.") I realized there might be some validity in this argument, particularly when considering ways to make the employment world more friendly to groups such as transgendered individuals.

What are your thoughts? Is this something to be taken seriously? Bathroom revolution: ready, go!


Blogger Professor Prenkert said...

Relatedly: Professor John Banzhaf III of GWU Law School is called the "father of potty parity." See his website here. He has, for many years, championed the cause of cutting down on the lines in women's restrooms as a matter of civil rights. He also was one of the early advocates of holding fast food restaurants liable for their alleged part in creating the obesity epidemic.

Of course, Ayres's claim and Banzhaf's crusade may be in a bit of tension. Ayres is using single-use toilets as an example of how we simply accept overly-general stereotypes as innocuous or as Truth. He is urging us to see how that tendency is affecting not only the single-use restrooms, but other parts of the workplace (and elsewhere) as well. Banzhaf is focused on unfairness that results from generalized differences (mostly biological/physical) that lead to the need for greater numbers of women's restrooms in order not to saddle women with longer waiting times.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Jessica Walker said...

I think the tension that exists between these two toilet crusaders serves as a microcosm for one of the major debates relating to gender issues...what exactly is gender equality? Is it being completely gender-blind, or is it making accomadations for recognized differences to level the playing field? I don't think either is a complete answer--being gender blind overlooks, at the very least, biological differences, and accounting for differences has the potential to lead to stereotypes.

With the toilet issue, maybe both can be addressed by having enough gender-neutral, single-use toilets to handle large amounts of traffic, be it male or female. (But then again, that could be overly expensive.)

10:49 AM  

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