Coed Bathrooms Benefit Gender Relations


By Adrian Zarif, Staff Writer

During a recent trip to Copenhagen, I quickly became aware of Denmark’s ubiquitous coed, communal bathrooms. These typically consist of a large room of stalls that both men and women can use freely. This bathroom style is so common and accepted that even the local McDonald’s sports them. The United States should also adopt the coed, communal bathroom because they are a step forward not only for feminism, but for gender relations in general. If, as a country, we are going to get anywhere near perfect gender equality, then it is important for women to be seen as equal to men, both in society’s private spaces as well as in its public ones.

After my initial awe, I became impressed with how progressive these bathrooms were. They were totally natural. Nobody made it awkward or weird. The idea of men and women needing different bathrooms is more arbitrary than we’d like to admit — it is a result of tradition than anything else. People don’t need to be shielded from each other’s bodies anymore — as a society, we’ve moved past that long ago.

Another benefit of coed bathrooms is that they would help relieve the long lines that often plague women-only bathrooms. It is a tremendous waste of space to have two nearly identical bathrooms next to each other instead of one large one. In coed restrooms, more stalls can be installed in coed bathrooms than in gender-separated bathrooms, thereby cutting the waiting time.

The coed arrangement would also eliminate the question of restroom availability for transgender and genderqueer people. In a system where everyone uses the same bathroom, there is no longer any potential for the discomfort that typically accompanies the traditionally-gendered bathroom experience. When bathrooms are communal, nobody would be forced to choose from one bathroom or the other.

Common complaints about the coed bathroom typically relate to privacy the fact that women might feel uncomfortable around men in a bathroom, or vice versa. Frankly, these complaints are not based in any sort of logic or reason. Men and women typically do not find it uncomfortable to wait behind each other in line at a store, so it doesn’t make sense for them to feel this way when they wait in line for a stall in a bathroom. The issue of privacy is ultimately moot in a bathroom where single-occupancy stalls prevail.

It is logical to want privacy, but not logical to want privacy only around one’s own sex. Ideas about gender are changing rapidly, and it is high time that bathrooms kept up. With coed bathrooms, women and men are given the opportunity to share a private space, and feminism and gender equality can finally take a meaningful step forward.

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Email Adrian Zarif at [email protected]