By Abby N. Virio, Staff Writer
In the hurricane of bedding-stuffed hampers and ramen-filled suitcases that is move-in day, I dotingly packed a pink shower bag with a plethora of hygiene products—shampoo, conditioner, rubber-ducky-themed washrag, etc. But it was not until I grabbed my tote and headed towards the refuge of a much-needed shower that I first encountered my dorm’s gender neutral bathrooms.
The Villa North living community has two such bathrooms on the third floor—a shower room and a toilet room.
I was startled when, at first glance, I could not find that red or blue stick figure above the bathroom door which had always indicated which tiled room belonged to fellow XX-chromosomers. Instead, this bathroom had a sign that read “Villa North Gender Neutral Showers” atop a happy little shower icon.
I was not shocked because of any previous aversion to gender neutral bathrooms I might have had; rather, I was surprised that—especially in a state as conservative as Missouri—this unassuming but progressive symbol had been approved. Today you can even find gender neutral bathrooms elsewhere on campus. Three single-style bathrooms can be found behind the Nosh next to TritonCard. While those bathrooms are notoriously places for visitors to find a private moment of bowel-relief, the bathrooms on my floor are not single-style at all—in fact, there is nothing different about them at all, except the fact that any person can do their business there regardless of what genitals they have.
Now, I think I speak for many women when I say we have long assumed that ladies’ rooms are cleaner, fresher, and overall better places to plop a squat. There may be longer lines at high-traffic events for our rosey-scented haven, but why would we ever desire to use a men’s room—what with their lack of potpourri and those inedible cakes in their pee-sinks? But I am here to tell you that the gender neutral bathrooms that I share with my male dorm-neighbors are just as clean and just as dirty as any ladies’ room. In fact, in my experience, I find many more long, thick, lady-hairs clogged in the shower drain than any of the boys’. The messy stereotype simply does not hold water.
But what about safety, you may be asking. True, the bathrooms I share are not quite the same as a gender neutral shower would be at a gym or a gender neutral toilet would be in a cafeteria. Aside from my hallmates’ guests, I know everyone who uses those bathrooms. However, I would point out that according to RAINN, only 20 percent of sexual assaults are committed by strangers. The other 80 percent are committed by people known to the victim, making my restrooms hypothetically more dangerous. Yet I feel completely comfortable.
It is funny that what was undoubtedly a money-saving move by ResLife is something I am so proud of my university for doing. All the same, I am happy to know that my dorm is more efficient, inclusive, and welcoming to people of all gender identities through this one simple act. Are there drawbacks? Sure. The discreet boxes for feminine hygiene products are markedly missing from our bathrooms. If you have a cultural or religious prerogative for a more private toilette experience, you may require other accommodations. And if showering in uninhibited locker-room style is your thing, that will not be happening anytime soon. But as far as performing your average hygienic tasks, gender neutral bathrooms are actually much more logical than our society, hard-wired for gender segregation, has led us to believe. After all, when your stall runs out of toilet paper, do you really care what the genitals are of the person passing you an extra roll?