A Call For Gender-Neutral Restrooms at the University of Chicago

The Chicago Maroon — the student newspaper at the University of Chicago — reported in November on a panel at which University of Chicago Law professor Mary Case presented the case for an issue near and dear to her — the need for gender-neutral bathrooms on the university’s campus.

In October 2001, Case made her mark at the University of Chicago with a presentation on “Toilet Paper: Toilets as Gendered Spaces” which, according to the University of Chicago’s Center for Gender Studies, was well-received by the more than 100 people who turned up to hear the presentation.

At a November panel discussion organized by the Center for gender studies, Case complained about the iconography associated with men and women’s restrooms, noting that women’s restrooms are frequently marked with a drawing of a stick figure in a dress. According to Case,

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.

According to the Chicago Maroon, Case favors leaving the iconography alone, but allowing either sex to choose to use either bathroom.

The administration at the University of Chicago is taking this very seriously. Bill Michel, deputy dean at the University of Chicago, told the Maroon,

I was pleased that the students organized [sic] on open panel discussion to highlight the issues and encourage community discussion on the topic. If we are to make this change it would be in order to meet the needs of members of our community.

In fact, it turns out that the lack of gender-neutral bathroom facilities may present a public health problem. According to the Maroon,

Nate Claxton, another panelist, knew people who had contracted bladder infections because choosing a [sic] gender bathroom bothered them so much that they did not got to the bathroom all day.


Panel calls for neutral bathrooms. Robert Katz, Chicago Maroon, November 21, 2003.

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