Toddlers, toilets and incomplete people: reflections on a bathroom near you!

I go the loo a lot.

I’m 40 years old and I have spent all of those 40 years making some sort of substantive use of varying toilet facilities. Either by myself (in the later years) or with my Mum in the earlier years. And I’d not paid that much attention to loos, until I did and then I got cross. Sociology has ruined me and a few trips out over Easter ruined me, got me all grumpy and then turned into exercises in sociology.

At Easter, me and Mr Dr Ross went out for a day in Dorset with the Small Human and a my beautiful friend Sarah, and her girls. We have a ‘standard loo break’ place in Shaftesbury that is a good place for a stop, so we did. And I saw the sign on the top of the picture here. I got cross and properly seethed. Went back to the car and had a good old grump to Mr Dr Ross. We had a good day out but quietly(ish) in the background my grump about the loos was seething away.

Then me and Mr Dr Ross were on the road to Cirencester at Easter with the Small Human, to noone’s surprise, I needed the loo. So I went and I was confronted by the picture at the bottom of the one here and I got really cross. Had a rant to Mr Dr Ross and the Small Human was confused so I told him my beef.

My beef was this (and there is a WHOLE chapter on it in my PhD and sections in pretty much every other academic paper I’ve written too):

Women, children and those with physical impairments (in this context I address physical) are lumped together, expected to use the same spaces.

This physical manifestation of so much of the systemic, structural and social barriers constraining people in these groups just proper got my goat.

Then sociology kicked in- particularly on the way about and around with Cirencester. Mr Dr Ross was very patient that day!

Women, children and disabled people are so often viewed as incomplete, incapable at times, not worthy of voice. Incomplete because they’re not men, not grown or have an impairment that makes certain elements of life more challenging, Incapable because they’re not as physically strong as men, not yet fully engaged with society and are legally minors, not able to do some things without social/structural adjustments. Voices are not heard or sought because women can’t think things through rationally, right? Kids don’t understand and disabled people need to have people speaking for them, because physical impairment, obviously correlates to learning difficulties…

BUT IT DOESN’T!!!!

I feel like there are two ways to look at this thought process in me: either sociology has ruined me and made me grumpy, or it has clarified and galvanised me to give me words and frameworks to say what I wanted to say.

I work with children in various areas of my life and those children, their voices and experiences are vital to understanding the world they inhabit and their journeys through it. I work with people who have hidden disabilities and they are more than capable of navigating the world.

The element of this that chimed most with the loo signs was the ‘woman’ thing.

I am a woman- not a shock to those who know me. I am a vocal, gobby and stroppy woman- again not a shock to me now.

But 12 years ago, when I worked at a school after a very challenging and turbulent journey in another setting, I was built up by a team of strong, powerful women. Coached and mentored, supported and edified- those people are my friends still now and one happens to live not far away, despite us meeting 5 hours’ drive away. I work with a team from Swansea University, headed up by an amazing, strong woman whose voice is stellar and who I love dearly. The team edifies and supports each other to produce amazing, pioneering work. I adore that project and my colleagues.

I’ve just finished working with an amazing colleague who is possibly one of strongest women I’ve known for a long time- she can put me back in my box and I adore her! Her voice (and Friday afternoon chocolate supplies) is worth listening to, experienced and so important!

I’m working on a tech project at the moment too- they’re not UK based so there is an awful lot socially/culturally that I don’t know or understand, purely because I’ve never been where the organisation is based. But as a woman, my voice is valued and I’m most definitely seen as able and a whole person. I work with a man who is respectful, properly has my back and has actually got a team of really strong women working with him, globally. The project is fab, we giggle and are insanely productive with it!

Where I have been most built up and performed my best is often with women, or where there are teams of strong women. Our voices are worthy. We are competent and we are strong. Children and disabled people are not incomplete people, incapable of acting and representing themselves. We shouldn’t be lumped together and considered an amorphous blob of lesser-ness.

That is not right and the physical toilet-space sharing just hit home with the sociological space-sharing this last week or so! It’s not right to lump people together with so little consideration for different groups’ needs and journeys.

It just made me cross with those loos- sociology has certainly changed how I do life!

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