The brouhaha over Hillary Clinton's bathroom break during the third Democratic debate in December 2015 brings together two interrelated themes: the obstacles surrounding women's access to bathrooms and the broader cultural discomfort with elimination that makes inequities in access difficult to address. This article first describes some of the ways that public toilets perpetuate the subordination of women within a framework in which everyone must identify either as a woman or a man. Public bathrooms help socialize women into acceptance of inferiority while constantly communicating to transgender people their outsiderness and difference. Such discrimination is difficult to remedy because the topic of toilets makes many people embarrassed and uncomfortable, and human waste, especially feces, engenders strong feelings of disgust. Thinking through and implementing adequate toilet provision for everyone thus necessarily entails rethinking attitudes toward elimination as an aspect of our embodiment.
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Judith Plaskow; Taking a Break: Toilets, Gender, and Disgust. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2016; 115 (4): 748–754. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3656147
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