Making a safe space doesn’t mean just putting a sign on the door, it means actually making that space safe.
U of T is taking a step back from its campaign to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms after two women reported someone attempting to film them while showering.
For the time being, Whitney Hall and its housing affiliates will have only one gender-neutral bathroom per floor per building, despite dean Melinda Scott’s statement that the problem doesn’t have much to do with bathrooms being gender-neutral.
On the topic of returning to gender-specific washrooms, Scott said, “We do not expect the designation of these washrooms alone to resolve this matter; it is a complex situation that requires a multi-layered approach,” in a statement to The Varsity.
The dean is right. The university has found itself in a strange place where their efforts to create a safe space have resulted in student security being compromised, and there isn’t an easy fix.
Violations of privacy aren’t something to take lightly, but neither can U of T let the actions of one or two deviants derail what’s an admirable project.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are a big part of making an environment physically accessible to everyone.
By removing gender designation, gender-neutral bathrooms become less hazardous for those who might face harassment or discrimination due to how they identify.
In 2012, Queen’s approved a policy to ensure the existence of at least one gender-neutral bathroom in each newly-constructed or renovated building, recognizing it as a human rights issue.
So, because not everyone fits into the two distinct gender binaries, separating the sexes in different bathrooms won’t make students safe.
The college has a choice between retreating to the familiar ground of clearly-defined gender binaries — and accepting the shortcomings of that model — or providing all their students, whether trans, gay, straight, cis-gendered or any other identity, with the essential ability to use the bathroom in peace.
Voyeurism isn’t acceptable in washrooms. It seems absurd that it needs pointing out that both sexes using one washroom doesn’t provide any wiggle room in the eyes of the law.
And if we explain women being filmed without their knowledge or consent by saying that the temptation is just too great when they’re only a stall door away, then we need to assess how we assign blame in these situations.
Gender divides us on many grounds, but let’s not make which door it’s safe to use one of them.
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