Where I draw the line when it comes to unisexuality is right outside the door of the women's bathroom.
Last week's New Yorker had one of those funny, short, New Yorkerish things listed under "The Academy," discussing how toilets are theorized by intellectuals. It's called "Powder Room 101." It's cute; it's got amusing details.
The most interesting part to me is the opening anecdote. The professor of the class, they tell us, is just back from a meeting with NYU admin about the restrooms in a new building. Going to be unisex, evidently. The big questions is, "urinals"?
If I were designing a unisex bathroom myself, this would be a no-brainer: even though they're ugly they're obviously efficient and ecologically sound. So sure, put in the urinals.
But honestly, I am not in favor of unisex bathrooms. Or, let me qualify this: I am not in favor of doing away with segregated bathrooms. A mix would be nice, unisex on the fourth floor, segregated on the fifth, if you wanted to go to the trouble you could find yourself a women's-only bathroom.
I'm a little surprised at myself, because I'm usually in favor of mingling and against sex distinctions where they're unnecessary. And I went to a college with unisex dorm bathrooms, and wasn't bothered by it at all. I found it totally unexceptional.
But now, I occasionally have this strong feeling when I duck into the women's bathroom: "Ah. No men allowed. What a relief." Why do I have this?
I realize, on reflection, that it's a workplace feeling. The unisex bathrooms in the restaurant near my house are fine -- or rather, they would be fine if they weren't painted all in black with poor lighting. Having the men hand-washing while I redo my lipstick is fine.
In the workplace, though, I don't know. Sometimes my male co-workers alarm me; they ask me things at time when I'm not ready to answer, or they look uncomfortable when I ask them things that at a time when they're not ready to answer. I'm not ready to have them watch me trying to fix my hair, and I'm not ready to look at their penises while they use the urinals. OK, forget the urinals; I'm not ready to listen to them pee, either.
Nothing against guys. I figure they like having their own sort of separate space, too. And nothing against anyone else, either: transsexuals are welcome in my women's bathroom, too. And having a few unisex ones around should solve any other problems.
But I gotta say, leave my women's room alone.
And now for your viewing pleasure, a "funny toilet sign from Germany" that I got from a blog called "Look at this." (link).