The bottom line; “Occupy men’s toilets” movement makes a splash in Beijing

By Zhang Zihan Source:Global Times Published: 2012-2-29 19:05:03


Scenes from the occupation. The sign reads
Scenes from the occupation. The sign reads "Don't let her wait if you love her!" Photo: IC

The Occupy movements that have swept throughout America and other areas of the world have now landed in China… in the public toilets. The reason? Women are finally fed up with waiting for ages to use the lavatory. It is, after all, a common occurrence throughout China to see ladies queuing anxiously outside every public toilet in every shopping mall, KFC and bus station, while in sharp contrast their male counterparts swan in and out without a wait. Some may argue this is caused by the physical difference between men and women, but this is not a good enough answer for many, especially not for Li Maizi. Li, a self-confessed feminist, launched an "Occupy men's toilets" campaign in Beijing, following on the back of a successful one in Guangzhou, to draw the attention of the nation.

Tired of waiting for diddly-squat

On February 26, approximately a dozen women stormed into the men's section of a public toilet south of Deshengmen, Xicheng district. With placards and leaflets, the girls politely requested men not to enter the toilets. "Please let women use the toilet first. Don't keep them waiting," said Wu Rongrong, a 26-year-old NGO worker and one of the participants. She declared that they aimed to help solve the issues surrounding women having to wait.

Though named "Occupy," the participants didn't deploy fences and barracks to keep men away.  Speaking to Li Maizi, she revealed that out of every 10 minutes they would occupy the toilets for three minutes. "We're not turning men's toilets into women's. We just want to make full use of the resources and alert the public to the issue," said Li. A native Beijinger, Li hopes the movement will make people think more about the issue.

For Li, one thing that herself and her friends have observed is that women often waste their time waiting for an empty cubicle. The 21-year-old college student described the current situation as "unreasonable" for women. "Men and women's sections have basically the same number of cubicles in most public toilets, but the men's section has urinals too, which means twice as many people can use the toilets at any one time compared to women. This is unfair," said Li. Li also pointed out that it takes women longer to use the toilet, which makes the number of cubicles in the women's toilets an even more rare resource.

Can't get no satisfaction

According to many, the current facilities for women in most public toilets in Beijing are beyond satisfactory. Jiang Shu, a 37-year-old bank employee, said he understood the girls' campaign. "Being a married man, I know how long I have to wait when my wife goes to the public toilet," said Jiang. "Especially in tourist areas and shopping malls, some ladies should not have to suffer and should be able to use an empty cubicle in the men's area."

Feng Yuan, a member of the Women's Studies Institute of China, expressed her support of the girls. "According to standards issued by the Chinese government, the ratio of toilet cubicles for men to women should be between 1:1 and 2:3. This however does not meet the demand of women. The current law and policies should be examined to ensure gender equality," said Feng.

This is not just a gender issue, but also one of health. Rong Weiyi, a member of the China Association of Marriage and Family Studies, pointed out that many women have suffered from urinary diseases as a result of having to wait for so long. "Clearly the difficulty of using a public toilet is important," said Rong.

Still feeling flushed

Occupying men's toilets is obviously not the ultimate solution. In a letter written by the girls, they demand more cubicles in women's toilets. "The government should add more cubicles to women's public toilets and legislation should be changed. The ratio of women's cubicles to men's should be at least 2:1."

Jerry Zhang, a 22-year-old college student and participant of the "Occupy men's toilets" movement, also suggested that the government should build more gender-neutral toilets. "The gender-neutral toilets provide space for both sexes, which would help solve the problem," said Zhang.

Lu Pin, a feminist and critic of the current situation, argued that the toilet issue should be examined through a closer look at both urban planning and differences in lifestyle choice between men and women. "Women are not suffering in all public areas. For example, they often do not use toilets in metro stations, while hotels and airports have decent facilities. Therefore there are usually no queues in such places. However, toilets in shopping malls are often very busy, especially during the weekend, as many women visit malls at the weekend," said Lu. "These factors should be taken into consideration."

The "Occupy men's toilets" movement was well-received by locals during its previous stop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Authorities responded immediately and announced a new toilet construction plan, changing the proportion of women's toilets to men's to 1.5:1. Li described feeling "delighted" when she heard the news. "We are amazed to hear that Guangzhou authorities embraced our appeal quickly and in an enlightened manner. This attitude is good and I sincerely wish Beijing authorities take similar action," said Li. "We hope our efforts will raise awareness, as the movement is not so much about occupying men's toilets, but defending women's rights," Li added.
The poop scoop: women's toilets throughout the world exposed

Women the world over experience trouble when it comes to using the toilet. Some countries have realized the problem and tried to solve it through legislation, and in some cases installed some very funky cubicles, while others are still way behind when it comes to one's behind.

Here we dig the dirt on some of the best and worst toilets in the world.

Taiwan and Hong Kong: less space but more for waste  

It might be a small island, but Taiwanese authorities have set up the ratio of men's toilets to women's as 1:3. In addition, gender-neutral toilets can be found in many public places. These all have alarms inside to prevent possible sexual harassment.

Over in Hong Kong, while real estate might be one of the most expensive in the world, the city somehow managed to pass a bill to increase the ratio to 1:1.5 in 2011.

US: 1:2 is the law

In most states in the US, if people use the toilet of the opposite sex it will be regarded as sexual harassment. American women therefore cannot easily use men's toilets and this was a cause of suffering for some time in the past.

Then, in the 1990s a law was passed ordering the construction of more public toilets and double the amount of space for women's compared to men's.

Nowadays half of the states in the US have passed this law to ensure the ratio of men's toilets to women's in public areas is 1:2. Taking Chicago as an example, a stadium there containing 60,000 people has 205 toilet cubicles for men, so therefore it is obliged to have at least 410 toilet cubicles for women.

Japan: bathrooms are business

Any woman who has been to Japan will testify how amazing the toilets are - a tourist site in their own right. The Japanese have built gender-neutral toilets in many public areas, as well as generally gadget crazy and clean female toilets in shopping malls, libraries and train stations. For example in Lucua, a shopping mall in Osaka, the ratio of men's toilets to women's is 2:8, and for those who find themselves on the third floor, they can enjoy 13 dressing rooms, with mirrors and perfume, the latter of which corresponds to the season. Meanwhile, Angelbe, a pay toilet in Osaka Train Station, comes with cosmetics for 300 Yen ($3.7).

India: need lots of rupee to pee 

Half of India's population, which would be around 665 million people, have no individual toilet in their home, and even their public toilets are not enough to meet their needs. This leads to more than 300 million Indian women who have to go somewhere less private instead of a toilet, which is a less than desirable situation on many levels. Thus many women have declared that they won't marry unless their spouse has enough money to provide a toilet in their house.


Posted in: Metro Beijing

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