The politics of potties


Federal employees are all too aware of the importance of pay parity. But Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., has set his sights on ending a different inequality: Potty parity.

Towns on March 17 introduced the Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act — or as he called it, the Potty Parity Act — which seeks to ensure men and women have equal access to toilets in federal buildings. Towns’ bill, HR 4869, would require any newly constructed, purchased or renovated federal building to have at least a one-to-one ratio of toilets in women’s and men’s restrooms. It would allow buildings to have more women’s toilets than men’s toilets.

The bill counts urinals as toilets too, so a building can’t get away with installing a token toilet bowl in each gender’s restroom and then adding a slew of urinals for the guys.

If passed, the bill would also require an agency trying to rent a building to give preference to a building with potty parity.

Towns, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said many federal buildings lack enough women’s rooms because they were constructed decades ago, when fewer women traveled and worked outside of their home.

“Our nation’s history shows that the structure and accessibility of American public restrooms have served as manifestations of more deeply rooted problems of discrimination, among race, physical ability and gender,” Towns said. “In 2010, we must move the clock forward by finally addressing an overdue problem of unequal, inadequate and inaccessible public restrooms for women.”

Potty parity isn’t just an issue for American federal buildings. In 2008, the World Toilet Organization hosted a World Toilet Summit and Expo that discussed, among other issues, the lack of women’s toilets in buildings around the world.

And toilet equality knows no political boundaries: Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on Towns’ committee, is one of the bill’s cosponsors.

UPDATE: A hat tip to FedLine reader Robin Cole, who posted a great solution to the problem on our Facebook page:

I think we’re all missing the unspoken solution to this parity: unisex restrooms a la “Ally McBeal.” Soooo much hilarity ensued in there with Ally and the Biscuit, that guy from “Ned and Stacey.”

…hilarity, might I add, that the government lacks. Now THAT would make the Fed cool.


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  1. Until the issue is forced nothing changes. So I say yes, this is necessary and should pass without wasting time in debate. I have an all female office with 2 potties for the men and 1 for the women. Fair?? No, but if I bring it up I doubt I will be taken seriously.

  2. corinne wilson on

    when did this become a problem? did Mr. Towns receive mountains of complaints demanding this problem be resolved? shouldn’t facility management be responsible for maintaining their buildings and determining the needs of the employees?

  3. I understand this appears to be a trite issue, and it’s too easy to poke fun, but look at it realistically–this is a universal problem in public facilities. In general, women outnumber men, which equates to longer wait lines just to use a toilet. Some women have tossed aside convention to “step out of line” and use the male bathrooms simply because there was a shorter line–or no line at all. My guess is that Mr. Towns has a wife and/or other female relatives–which would make him a SNAG in my book.

  4. Our major issue in this country is our two political parties. Our forefathers knew that a two party system would be our downfall and took steps to try to stop this type of politics, and thus anyone who seriously thinks that politics isn’t corrupt or slaves to Corporate America hasn’t not been paying attention. George Jr. will go down in History as one of the worst administrations in history and I could go on for hours showing why, but my point is that the Obama administration has offered nothing different (besides health reform, granted) and has in fact continued nearly every single Bush program. Obama has almost the same political donors and thus has the same pressures as Bush did. Health reform will turn out to be the most expensive and destructive waste of tax payer money ever. I just wish I could offer a better alternative for other frustrated people, but I can’t and those that think that the tea partiers are the future, remember that Sarah Palin is an important figure to them.

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