Post-sexist toilet signs

It’s LGBT History Month: a good moment for an optimistic look to the future.

In a previous post, I showed how pictograms can perpetuate sexism. That one was mostly about female stereotypes, but the signs on toilets can also be a headache for people who don’t really see themselves as either women or men, and for people who are not seen by others as ‘real’ women or men (summed up in the ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’, for trans-people). But things aren’t all bad. In fact, they seem to be improving.

Here is what I recently found in a Belgian cafe:


On the left: a unisex cubicle with a seat. On the right: a urinal. Hurrah!

Yet still designated with the well-known skirt/no-skirt pictures. And the phrase ‘gentlemen’ on the right; implying, perhaps, that those looking for toilets should turn left, and those looking for gentlemen will get satisfaction on the right?

Inside the cubicle, I found this etiquette:Image005

So no gender restrictions: no rules about what you must be; only about what you must do.

And how about the following sanitary convenience, spotted last week in an English cafe?


Of course, this sign still refers to a binary choice. It says ‘whichever’, not ‘whatever’: ‘whether you are a woman, or a man, it does not matter.’ That’s why ‘post-sexism’ is an apt name for the stage many of us have entered: sexism still plays an important role in our lives, but we know how to distance ourselves from it from time to time.

To conclude with a more poetic interpretation of this last sign: someone in a summer’s dress, standing on the deck of a ship with winds coming from larboard?

More to follow…