The final post of this four-part reflection series focuses on being female in public toilets, specifically at Brighton Pier.
I have already discussed my initially disheartening experience in the Brighton Pier female’s toilet in a previous reflection, so I won’t dwell on the epiphanic moment I had whilst staring at the nearby sanitary bin. Instead, I will dive straight in for the final post of this four-part series.
I have never thought about what it means to be a women in a public toilet. As a female, I can expect lengthy queues, groups of girls doing their make-up or gossiping, subsequent damages to self-esteem as they apply their fourteenth layer of foundation, and, more often than not, overflowing sanitary bins. To my delight, Brighton Pier’s bin was seemingly clean and appeared to be at an appropriate capacity.
There is an unsurprising lack of literature on the socio-political significance of the sanitary bin, but a wealth of information on the importance of them. I, too, am unsure at this point as to what I want to say about sanitary bins in women’s toilets, so I will list my thoughts and reflect further as I continue my photographic practice:
- Patriarchal constructs around how ‘women are made to feel that menstruation is shameful’ (Muscio, in Clarke, 2017) – ideas around free-bleeding as resistance to using feminine hygiene products
- A House of Commons report showed that:
‘Women take longer to go to the toilet because of “a range of sartorial, biological and functional reasons…Women have more functions than men [and] at any time about a quarter of all women of childbearing age will be menstruating…yet women are catered for on a 50:50 basis, and sometimes on a 70:30 basis in favour of men’
We can speculate, then, whether women’s needs are being met in public toilets, or just a specific type of femininity.
- Consequential environmental issues; the ‘fatberg’ discourse (Adams, 2018)
I will continue to explore these ideas, since, as a woman, I feel I should explore notions of femininity and investigate how gender is played out within public toilets. The rise of gender-neutral facilities in Brighton & Hove is exciting and necessary, but I feel as though I can most respectfully enter the gender debate but reflecting on my own experiences.
This image is perhaps my favourite of the entire day. I think the use of negative space is effective, as well as the lack of any colour other than white; I feel as though this implies an expected cleanliness that is simply unrealistic during that time of the month. The bin itself feels somewhat authoritative, too, perhaps due to the existence of shadow and the framing of the image. I will continue to document sanitary bins photographically over the coming weeks.
Adams, T. 2018. ‘London’s fatberg on show: “We thought of pickling it”‘ The Guardian [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/feb/04/fatberg-museum-london-display-pickling-age-waste [Last accessed 24 April 2018]
Clarke, K. 2017. ‘Free the period: Why some women choose to free-bleed’ Life [online] Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/life/wellness/free-the-period-why-some-women-choose-to-free-bleed-1.4015740 [Last accessed 24 April 2018]
House of Commons. 2008. ‘The Provision of Public Toilets’ [report] Available at: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmcomloc/636/636.pdf [Last accessed 15 April 2018]