“Occupy” the Men’s Room: The Fight for “Potty Parity”

Women in China have decided to mobilize against unjust public restroom queues. From The Economist:

Whereas “Occupy” movements planted themselves in financial districts around the world to protest against economic unfairness, in China a new target for occupation has emerged: men’s public toilets. The Occupiers? A group of young women who have tired of standing in long queues for the ladies’ loo only to watch their male compatriots traipsing casually in and out of the gents’. They are fighting for what their American counterparts have called “potty parity”. In an ideal state of public convenience, the thinking goes, women would not have to endure the long queues created by a simple 1:1 allocation of toilet space, female-to-male. It is waiting times, not toilet seats, that should be shared equally. The Occupiers are calling for a corrective adjustment.

The first Chinese Occupation happened in Guangzhou on February 19th. The protest’s organiser, a university student named Li Tingting, helped stage another in Beijing a week later. She has since mentioned plans to carry out a third in Shenzhen. These are just the type of attention-grabbing mass events that tend to get noticed by the country’s ruling officials, who are gathering at the opening of their annual National People’s Congress early next week.

NBC’s China-focused blog “Behind the Wall” went to Guangzhou to talk with the campaign’s organizer:

Li Maizi, the 23-year-old campaign organizer who insisted on using a pseudonym, told a local newspaper that the purpose was to raise the awareness of the public and the government.

“It seems like women and men are equal with the same amount of public bathrooms built for them. But the physical differences make them spend a different amount of time in the toilet – so it’s just not fair,” said Li.

Li, along with a few other young women, asked male passers-by who wanted to use the guy’s bathroom “do you mind waiting for a few minutes because the line in front of female toilet is too long?” They held signs reading “love women, starting with convenience” and “the more convenience, the more sexual equality.” Convenience in Chinese also means “to use a toilet.”

 […]When asked where the idea of “occupying” originated, Li said she borrowed it from “Occupy Wall Street.”“It echoes the campaign over there, although we are not connected at all,” she said.

China Daily mentions the outrage of one Beijing man, despite protester sensitivity to the natural needs of males:

The occupation is on a temporary basis out of understanding for men’s needs.

“We only occupy the men’s restroom for 3 minutes, holding it for women who are in a hurry to go to the toilet. A new round of ‘occupation’ follows 10 minutes later. Men also need to use the facilities. Volunteers explain to passers-by just what is happening,” Li said.

Li was adamant that the occupations are not anti-male.

Men also have mothers, wives and daughters, and they have to wait for their loved ones outside toilets, she said.

However, an elderly man in his 70s, who declined to be named, was angry at the occupation.

“How could you do this? Men’s toilets are built for men, not for women. What if a man wants to go to the toilet? It’s over the top,” he said.

AFP reports on the seeming effectiveness of the campaign in Guangzhou, and on one netizen’s impression of the protest:

Local media reported after the protest that provincial officials in Guangzhou had responded by agreeing to increase the number of women’s toilets by 50 percent — a pledge Li says should be taken nationwide.

The issue has sparked a debate on the Internet, although not everyone is impressed by the protest.

“The Americans occupy Wall Street, the Chinese occupy toilets. This is very different,” posted one blogger under the name huashuo xian.

For other news of recent “occupy” movements with Chinese characteristics, see Netizens Occupy Obama’s Google+ Page, via CDT.


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