November 25, 2003

The Invisible Adjunct Is Non-Plussed

The Invisible Adjunct is non-plussed, dismayed, disarrayed--but not defeated:

Invisible Adjunct: A Brief Note on Parody and Self-Parody: But damn. I was in the midst of a blog entry on Roger Kimball's caricature of the Enlightenment, but I've lost my momentum. It's not always easy to be a liberal. You want to resist the right-wing attacks on the academy, which too frequently involve grossly inaccurate caricature and grossly unfair parody. And then you come up against this sort of self-parodying gesture:

'Going to the bathroom is a moment where definition is very important in choosing a door,' said Mary Anne Case, one of the panelists.

She pointed out that many women's restrooms have a caricature of a person in a dress on it. 'Going into it implies that we are willing to be associated with that image. There are only two [images] to choose from. This moment involves an act of self-labeling.'

But I'm not so easily defeated...

Posted by DeLong at November 25, 2003 07:42 PM | TrackBack

Comments

I didn't attend the panel discussion, unfortunately, but I don't think their position is unreasonable. They want one gender-neutral bathroom in the Regenstein Library and one in Cobb Hall. Even leaving aside the issue of people uncomfortable with gendering themselves, having a non-gendered bathroom has the (theoretical, since this isn't really a problem in the Reg or Cobb Hall) ability to accept "overflow" from either type of gendered bathroom. If 40% of bathroom capacity is male, 40% female, and 20% neutral, then in times when mostly males or (more likely, given the realities of lines for women's restrooms relative to men's) mostly females want to use a the bathroom, then capacity is improved without additional resources being expended.

Well, I don't know. I do find this stuff about people with unconventional genders a bit weird, but it isn't like they're trying to abolish all gendered bathrooms (well, maybe they really WANT to, but they're not saying so, as far as I can tell). I think it's kind of hyperbolic to hold this up as academic left weirdness (well, it IS academic left weirdness, but it isn't outrageous).

Well, off to Maureen Craig for another problem in the proposal!

http://mcraig.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Julian Elson on November 25, 2003 08:13 PM

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As long as the Democrats remain the party of pristine wilderness and have penis as the main enemy, they are not going to be very sucessfull (Presidency + control of at least one chamber). In fact the only thing that keeps them from complete decline is the history in winner-takes-all system. The moment Greens commit to becoming a real European-style social-democratic party (program, organization, active membership, focus on state and federal legislature rather than just publicity tours in Presidential elections), the Democrats will have to face the music big time.

Posted by: Leopold on November 25, 2003 08:29 PM

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What Julian said.

Posted by: NBarnes on November 25, 2003 08:29 PM

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I thought that Mary Anne Case's position was that the stylized picture of someone-in-a-dress needs to be eliminated?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on November 25, 2003 08:32 PM

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As long as the Democrats remain the party of pristine wilderness and have penis as the main enemy, they are not going to be very sucessfull (Presidency + control of at least one chamber). In fact the only thing that keeps them from complete decline is the history in winner-takes-all system. The moment Greens commit to becoming a real European-style social-democratic party (program, organization, active membership, focus on state and federal legislature rather than just publicity tours in Presidential elections), the Democrats will have to face the music big time.

Posted by: Leopold on November 25, 2003 08:34 PM

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[i]As long as the Democrats ... have penis as the main enemy, they are not going to be very sucessfull[/i]

Kim du Toit couldn't have said it better.(?)

Posted by: NBarnes on November 25, 2003 08:35 PM

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Hmm... at a very, very literal level, she was saying that to go into a women's restroom with the stylized woman picture on the door is to associate oneself with that picture. I don't agree with that, but it doesn't logically follow, even if one accepts her statement, that the stylized woman thingy has to be abolished.

Not having watched the panel, so I can't vouch for Case's position there. It *does* sound to me like she finds the woman-symbol problematic, so I wouldn't be surprised if she were opposed to it generally.

BTW, what do you guys think of the issue of greater demands by women on bathrooms than men? If bathrooms are to remain gender-seperated, that means that either 1) Women's bathrooms will have to be larger than men's bathrooms, which, given that women are an equal portion of the population, raises issues of equality, since it gives women preferential treatment, 2) Women's bathrooms would be big enough, but men's too big, wasting space, or 3) Men's bathrooms would be the right size, and women's too small.

I'd tend to go with 1), myself. The case against it is that, I think studies have shown that generally women spend a lot of bathroom time doing stuff that men don't do, as far as makeup, cloth rearrangement, etc, but men are in and out, after taking care of the basics, so women's longer waits are merely a consequence of their wanting to use it more, and giving them more space because of it would be like giving someone a bigger social security check because she's a reckless spender, and hence "needs" it more. I guess this is so, but that's a free rider problem: waits in line for any particular woman are independent of her own wastefulness of efficiency in using the bathroom, so it's unfair to give women as individuals the consequences/moral responsibility for the statistical tendency of women as a group to spend more time in the bathroom.

Penis is the main enemy of the Democrats? My gosh! I don't want to have to choose between my favorite political party and one of my favorite organs! This is gonna be painful no matter what I do. Fnord.

Posted by: Julian Elson on November 25, 2003 09:28 PM

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At work, there are two facilities, one label "Men", the other "Women",-( note the alternative of semantic designations to semiotic ambiguities)-, the latter has a sink for the washing of hands, the former does not. Go figure...

Posted by: john c. halasz on November 25, 2003 09:53 PM

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More and bigger bathrooms for women. Definitely. Issues of throughput...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on November 25, 2003 09:56 PM

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So long as the venue tends to have roughly equal numbers of men and women there should be more facilities for women, no matter what they use them for.

I always wonder, though, why men are represented as triangles and women as circles. The pants/skirts distinction is an anachronistic convention, and Scotsmen may object, but why triangles and circles?

Posted by: bad Jim on November 26, 2003 12:50 AM

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♀♂ always does for me and I don't think anyone can have any great problem with it.

However I think it is a bit of a non issue, when you gotta go you gotta go!

Posted by: tadhgin on November 26, 2003 03:36 AM

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Would using the ladies room suggest that I was aligning myself with that weird Mary Tyler Moore/Marlo Thomas mid-70s hairflip? Because I am in New York, and I don't think retro is going that way.

>As long as the Democrats remain the party of pristine wilderness and have penis as the main enemy, they are not going to be very sucessfull

Are penii threatening to defile the untouched wilderness?

Well, it's probably the wilderness' fault for dressing that way.

Posted by: julia on November 26, 2003 04:41 AM

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What a non-issue! Haven't you guys got any work to do?! By abstraction of the sympathy vote above, if I was color blind, you would have to applaud me as holding a tenable position - not to say ethically and morally correct one - to ignore red or green lights at interchanges, and refuse to stop (or go?!) Get over your-selves, please, and don't vote next general election either - it will prove way too confusing for you.

Posted by: Nixon McVicar on November 26, 2003 05:48 AM

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OK, this is as good a place to repeat an old editors' rule (apparently ignored because of a too-finicky notion of verbal propriety):

"Words have gender. People, bless their hearts, have sex."

So let's have no more confusion of the two.

Posted by: K Harris on November 26, 2003 06:06 AM

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More and bigger bathrooms for men and women.

And more scientifically advanced bathrooms, too!

Posted by: Josh Narins on November 26, 2003 06:16 AM

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some sort of stylized picture likely remains necessary, illiteracy being what it is and all. I offer up a southern Pennsylvanian restaurant with pictures of dogs on the restroom doors. A Pointer for the Men's room, a Setter for the Ladie's room. Are we all happy now?

Posted by: tegwar on November 26, 2003 06:22 AM

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Is it just me, or does anyone else find it silly when single-user restrooms are assigned a sex (oh, my Victorian ears! K Harris made me do it.) Especially when it's some small business and they have to make two restrooms just to have a men's and a women's. Don't these people ever fly?

Not the most important issue in the world, but just one of those irrational aspects of our society that from time to time gets my attention. And who would ever believe there would be a thread where it fits in the discussion!

Posted by: Ben Vollmayr-Lee on November 26, 2003 07:01 AM

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I've understood there is a univerity left with all sorts of crazy ideas (and probably some good ones too). But I don't think this one is that far off. I actually got quite annoyed when having to change diapers on my then baby daughter during a (inter) European flight (with Dutch KLM). The toilet with a table for this was labelled with a symbol displaying a stylized picture of a woman changing diapers on a baby. But there was no woman there to do it. What did the symbol mean?

Posted by: Mats on November 26, 2003 07:21 AM

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Ben, it is silly but it's often mandated by state law that there be separate facilities. Here's a proposed solution -- If privacy means more to a woman than her time in line, she should use the women's room. Women who really don't want to wait can use the men's room. I've done it. Why do we have to set a society-wide solution? Of course, I didn't ask the men how they feel about THEIR privacy. It is apparently an accepted premise that men are neutral on the subject.

Posted by: Barbara on November 26, 2003 07:27 AM

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Mats: Do you mean you were annoyed with your wife for not changing the diaper ?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on November 26, 2003 07:29 AM

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In Portland I see lots of one-user unisex bathrooms. Basically these have no designation at all, so transsexuals et al are not forced to choose. These are at ordinary business establishments (Starbucks, McMenamin's taverns), not at avant-garde PC places. So I agree with Ben.

I think that there's a rule, though, that unisex bathrooms have to be clean. Someone who might be willing to go into a sort of scuzzy all-male or all-female bathroom would be less willing to go into a sort of scuzzy shared bathroom. Them old cooties we worried about so much in eighth grade.

Posted by: Zizka on November 26, 2003 07:31 AM

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Mats: Do you mean you were annoyed with your wife for not changing the diaper ?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on November 26, 2003 07:34 AM

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There's a restaurant I go to occasionally with bathroom doors featuring blown-up photos of drag queens on one, and butch dykes on the other.

Figuring out which door to use is an interesting exercise in self-labeling. My ex-girlfriend is from San Francisco, and chose the door with the crossdressing men, on the theory that they identified as female and so did she. It was the wrong door.

Posted by: neil on November 26, 2003 08:48 AM

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I prefer moon and stars symbols on bathrooms. It's more wilderness related, Democratic, and therefore left winger proper. I would definitely vote for something astronomy related.

So Democrats are the party of penii and pristine wilderness. Wow!! They have a lot going for them.

Remember the good old days, not too long ago, when we didn't have to worry about what the economy was doing, what our military was doing, but only what the president's penis was doing?

Posted by: northernLights on November 26, 2003 09:07 AM

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I think Brad is right that Case is complaining about the symbol, and the complaint is terminally silly.

As far as bathroom size is concerned, we seem to be overlooking the important issue of peak use. If the venue is such that usage is likely to be sharply peaked - consider a theater at intermission or a football stadium at halftime - then larger facilities for women are appropriate. If usage is fairly level then this may not be necessary.

It's important to define "equal facilities" not in terms of size but in terms of waiting times or probability of "blockage," so to speak.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on November 26, 2003 09:17 AM

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what about a cross, a halfmoon, a star ecc ?

Posted by: Hans Suter on November 26, 2003 09:24 AM

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It is posts like this by delong that make his blog my first stop on the way to wasting a whole day at the computer and pissing my wife off for not cleaning house.
I had the great pleasure to be on a 8 year project to rebuild a 40 year old windtunnel for NASA and one of our problems was finding enough room in the new support building design for enough johns. We assumed that the old staffing levels and proportion of male to female would hold over time. Wrong! We designed for an average historical staffing and wow did we get it wrong. We assumed a lot of improved computer productivity, less people. Another WRONG!!!! The productivity increase was there but it just got used up in an increase in instrumentation and the co-location of the computer equipment in-building and not remote.
Back on topic: Re gender neutral johns. Our signage used a triangle and a circle to desinate women and mens. This was because we had blind empoyees on site. The shower was unisex with a small movable, occupied/it is yours to use it sign.
In some of our older facilities that had inadequate johns, the johns were self desinating.
The person using it could pick, Men, Woman or Other as the mood suited them.
Thanks for making my day start on an interesting note.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on November 26, 2003 09:28 AM

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My personal favorite is a seafood restaurant I went to in Massachusetts which featured a clam on one door and an oyster on the other.

Posted by: Masaccio on November 26, 2003 09:57 AM

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of course, this all begs the question "How do men in kilts self-identify?"

The astrological symbols for Venus and Mars are pretty unambiguous, if we need something human-neutral.

Posted by: julia on November 26, 2003 10:49 AM

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I keep expecting that we'll get beyond this sex-segrated bathroom thing, and it keeps not happening.

But then, I keep expecting people to get upset about the near-slave status of women throughout much of the world, and that keeps not happening either.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on November 26, 2003 11:39 AM

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>>Mats: Do you mean you were annoyed with your wife for not changing the diaper ?>> Not really, she had done the feeding - and had a relative advantage at that (biology) - so I was happy to do the cleaning (where trade theory should say I had the "comparative advangage"). Still confused why the place for it had a women doing the cleaning on its sign:

Were I considered skilled enough to do the job at the smaller toilet without the extra facilities (table) behind that specific door?

Were I considered to lack skill altogheter - if so, were there special staff within the crew whome I could leave the job to?

Was it mandatory for my wife to do this job if it had to be done during the flight?

Did they supply protective gear looking like womens clothes so I shouldn't risk ruining my own clothes?

(in case you really wonder, I just took the sign as meaning that it was the right place to use)

Posted by: Mats on November 26, 2003 12:16 PM

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I take it that Mats is having a little fun. I've changed diapers on the plane too, and had some jokes about the dress on the symbol. The irony is that no gender identification is necessary: adult hovering over baby lying on back makes a perfectly clear symbol. It's like the sign makers just can't help themselves (but what about the baby - should we make both a blue and a pink one?)

Less of a joking matter is the lack of changing tables in men's rooms (another problem solved by the unisex restroom). Fortunately, that's getting quite a lot better in the US. Germany, as of 1.5 years ago, was a real pain in this regard.

Posted by: Ben Vollmayr-Lee on November 26, 2003 12:28 PM

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Oops. "sex identification". Sorry about that, K Harris.

Posted by: Ben Vollmayr-Lee on November 26, 2003 12:30 PM

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Go,go Brad go!

Posted by: Gnao on November 26, 2003 01:02 PM

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unless you know the language , even Men an Women can be confusing.--comment from my wife when she first arrived in England from central europe. I had a girlfriend too, who didn't realise the significance of the looking glass/shield and spear signs in a zoo. If you go to the backwoods in Hungary, better find out what ferfi, and noi mean.

Posted by: big al on November 26, 2003 01:05 PM

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Julian,

Why on earth would you estimate the number of transgendered persons at U of C at 20%?? I go to U of C, too, and I might put the number at some fraction of 1%. Does the campus bathroom situation really need to be changed in order to accommodate a few outliers?

Posted by: Hannibal on November 26, 2003 01:34 PM

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I'm not about to read through this entire string, but as a woman who has 'shared' high-usage restrooms with men I must point out that there are problems involving hygiene and toilet seats. Frankly, I'd rather relieve myself at McDonalds, than share a john with sloppy men.

Posted by: Anna on November 26, 2003 05:01 PM

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Mats, Ben,

There are roughly two genders on this planet, about 50% of each, why is a figure in a skirt representative only of women, while a figure not in a skirt (I presume this is, however light-heartedly, you think the image of adult leaning over baby should be drawn) representative of both men and women? Are you not assuming that man is the standard, while woman is the variant?

Maybe you figure that men never wear skirts, while women sometimes wear trousers, so a skirtless figure is gender-neutral while a skirted one is woman. But that excludes male kilt-wearers, Arab men in traditional dress, etc.

Why not consider yourself included by the simple fact that there is a human figure?

Tracy

Posted by: Tracy on November 26, 2003 06:24 PM

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Mats, Ben,

There are roughly two genders on this planet, about 50% of each, why is a figure in a skirt representative only of women, while a figure not in a skirt (I presume this is, however light-heartedly, you think the image of adult leaning over baby should be drawn) representative of both men and women? Are you not assuming that man is the standard, while woman is the variant?

Maybe you figure that men never wear skirts, while women sometimes wear trousers, so a skirtless figure is gender-neutral while a skirted one is woman. But that excludes male kilt-wearers, Arab men in traditional dress, etc.

Why not consider yourself included by the simple fact that there is a human figure?

Tracy

Posted by: Tracy on November 26, 2003 06:26 PM

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"but as a woman who has 'shared' high-usage restrooms with men I must point out that there are problems involving hygiene and toilet seats."

You said it, sister! I'm taking a stand against the abolition of sex-segregated bathrooms and on good feminist principles: women have enough to worry about without having to deal with those toilet seats.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct on November 26, 2003 07:47 PM

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Males may not always be the ickiest.

A woman complained that another had left (IIRC) a panty-liner draped somewhere in the bathroom. When I asked what THAT was, the response was dismissal, barely disguised hostility, or perhaps embarassment: you *don't* want to know.

Though I remain clueless, I'm certainly not missing any panty-liners.

Posted by: bad Jim on November 27, 2003 02:06 AM

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We stopped at a Walmart once to change a kid on the way through Ohio to get to the inlaws, and my husband had to change the diapers on a newspaper in the men's room. When we talked to the manager (a woman, no less), she told us it wasn't an issue, because "men don't change diapers."

Just one of those little glimpses into someone else's life that make my own seem pretty damn good by comparison.

Posted by: julia on November 28, 2003 06:21 AM

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"Frankly, I'd rather relieve myself at McDonalds, than share a john with sloppy men"

There is an immutable biological reason why men are sloppier than women in johns (or janes). Men find it physically more difficult to aim and hit the target. Even when the relevant organ is pointed in the right direction, the fluid waste product doesn't alway go where it is aimed.

Refusal by women to recognize this male handicap, is, I'm afraid, deeply sexist. :(

Posted by: rea on November 28, 2003 08:34 AM

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Posted by Brad DeLong wrote, "I thought that Mary Anne Case's position was that the stylized picture of someone-in-a-dress needs to be eliminated?"


I believe her point is that someone-in-a-dress as signifier of woman-and-not-man needs to be eliminated. I think Ms. Case's point is a fine one, and one that has crossed my mind many times as I walked into the skirt-labeled door -- i.e. the price of pissing in certain buildings is acting as if an archaic, parochial, patriarchal system of signs was somehow OK because it's so ubiquitous.

It's a minor thing, sure, but what's so bad about saying it's a minor thing that doesn't have to be this way?

Posted by: drapetomaniac on November 28, 2003 06:30 PM

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