I am not a radical but I am #PeedOff

Are you #PeedOff off queuing for the toilet at a public venue? I am.

If you ask any woman, then the peril of facing a queue at the toilet is a fact of life, whether we are waiting in line during the interval at a theatre production or at break time during a conference, we learn early on to wait our turn. But have you ever stopped to think about why women have to queue for the toilet at all?

I had never thought too deeply about the long queue outside the toilet, even whilst noting that the inevitability that the men’s toilet would be empty. Even when I became annoyed at missing out on the start of a second half of a play or several songs in the set of a band I had paid to see, I never questioned the reality of queuing to relieve myself.  I confess at times, especially in arenas, I have on occasion lost patience or got desperate enough to skip into the men’s toilets when I was sure it was empty.  Like most women I sigh when seeing the queue, do a mental calculation as to how long it is going to take and then just put up and shut up as I wait my turn.

At least that was my thinking until I read about the tyranny of the toilet queue in an article by campaigner Caroline Craido-Perez (see https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/feb/23/truth-world-built-for-men-car-crashes)

A week after reading the article, I was in London with my family, enjoying a pre-show lunch prior to visiting the theatre, and it happened again. At the end of our meal my brother, brother in law, husband and I headed for the toilets. The customer toilets were in the basement and myself and four other female diners were forced to queue in the same corridor used by staff toiling with trays of food.  I endured a 10 – 20 minutes wait to relieve myself.  The ‘boys’ meanwhile went straight into the toilet, relieved themselves and came straight back out. Meanwhile, the queue for the ladies had moved forward by one.

I was well and truly #PeedOff.

My husband told me that the men’s toilet had 2 cubicles like the ladies, but also 3 urinals.  Therefore the men had 60% more convenience provision than the women, and since, according to Craido-Perez’s article, women take 2.3 times longer to use the toilet than men, our toilet provision equated to over 4 times less than the gents provision.  This, it turns out, is ‘normal. It appears our planning laws are not designed for gender differences.  The relevant Health and Safety legislation is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Regulation 20, Sanitary conveniences, which makes a distinction between mixed use (or women only) and men.  The legislation itself is discriminatory.  Toilets that are men only have greater provision (Toilets and urinals) than mixed use toilets, see below:

For a large venue men get a total of 8 conveniences to relieve themselves per 100 people, whereas, Women (or mixed use) only 5 conveniences. Venues may very well be following health and safety law but in doing so they are directly discriminating against women in fulfilling the need for sanitary facilities.  We are complicit in this discrimination because we just accept that this is something that we have to bear.  But it is wrong… and it is unlawful.

Why should women be forced to wait to relieve themselves?  This is a clear example of sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 “It is direct sex discrimination to treat someone less favourably because of their sex than someone of the other sex would be treated in the same circumstances” – Men don’t have to wait in discomfort to go to toilet.  Women do. And this has real world consequences. Less networking time at conferences, having to make choices between getting a drink at the bar/catching the train/missing a vital scene at the cinema or relieving yourself, and so much valuable time wasted.

I’ve decided this is something I am going to change. I am determined to eradicate queues at female toilets so my daughter doesn’t have to go through her life putting up with queuing for the toilet every time she goes out for meal, or to watch a film or play, or when she is at a conference for work, or indeed in any other circumstance.

So I started my #PeedOff campaign.

From now on, every time I go somewhere and I am faced with the ubiquitous female toilet queue I am going claim direct sex discrimination. I started last week by writing a letter to the restaurant claiming direct sex discrimination and have already received a letter apologising in reply. But they are not putting in more conveniences for women despite admitting that at peak times the provision is ‘insufficient’ so I need to take my claim further. I have contacted the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to bring the discrimination inherent in the legislation regarding sanitary provision to their attention.

And I have written this blog, because I want to activate every woman who is fed up with queuing for a convenience to join me in my #PeedOff campaign. I sincerely believe women are being treated unfavourably and that if we make enough noise we can get the law changed to eradicate queues for the ladies toilets.

What can you do if you are #PeedOff?

Highlight the disparity between male and female sanitary provision by writing to:

Penny Mordaunt (MP)
Minister for Women and Equalities
Government Equalities Office
Sanctuary Buildings
16-20 Great Smith Street
United Kingdom
Email: geo.correspondence@geo.gov.uk

Dr. David Snowball
Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS

Plus write letters claiming direct sex discrimination to a venue every time you have to queue for the ladies, pointing out the circumstances where you had to queue for the toilets and for how long. Don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off. Pursue the claim.

Get your friends and family involved too! You don’t have to be radical to be #PeedOff.


Carrie Foster
Woman of Many Businesses

Tel: 0785 0880 547
email: carrie@organisationdevelopment.org
Web: www.organisationdevelopment.org
Twitter: @carriefost
Facebook: Fortitude Development
Linkedin: Carrie Foster

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