“How To Design a City for Women” and Gender Neutral Bathrooms by Emma Tessler

The article “How to Design a City for Women” by Clare Foran discusses Austria’s city planning concept to gender mainstream and create environments that make it easier for women to carry out their daily tasks. It goes into detail about the activities that women perform versus men and the changes the city planners have made since 1999 to assist women in doing them. However, what this articles neglects to acknowledge is how by doing this and separating the daily roles of men versus women in a stereotypical family, they are neglecting all other a-typical forms of families in Austria. The city planners seem to be fixated on this idea that women are the ones to stay home, take care of the children, and run to the supermarket. Yet, what if it is the husband doing these duties? Does that change the way they need to plan the city? Beyond that, they completely fail to recognize any families that include gay or transsexual parents. In these family units, gender does not necessarily come into play and therefore could make these individuals feel disregarded due to the fact that their city is build around this idea of gender and gender specific activities.

Gender, according to the World Health Organization, is defined as referring to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. However, when it comes to the LGBT community, gender is a debatable topic. One major social issue that is being debated currently on an international level is the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms. In gender-neutral bathrooms men, women, and all members of the LGBT community are able to share a bathroom space. By doing this, it eliminates the feeling of discomfort a transgender individual may feel when needing to choose either a male or female restroom to use while in public. The article found here goes into depth about how helpful these bathrooms would be for the LGBT community and also the social issues surrounding the idea of gender neutrality. A concern that the author, Izzy Rode, talks about is the possibility of sexual assault in such gender-neutral bathrooms and the discomfort surrounding the idea that victims of previous sexual assault may feel regarding this concept. Rode discusses how the idea of sexual assault nearly always revolves around the idea of men assaulting women and rarely touches on women assault on men, man on man assault, or even woman on woman assault. By removing these previously socially constructed ideas that assault is man to women, it opens our eyes to the idea that every one’s discomfort, including that of men, should be given equal concern when examining the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms.

Do you think that we should have gender-neutral bathrooms? Do you think that the way Austria’s city planners designed the city to assist the needs of women is a good thing? How could this be detrimental to our global society moving forward? What can we do as college students to ensure that by the time our children grow up, the idea of gender specific activities will be a thing of the past?

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