Recognising this is a divisive subject…

Sarah Ditum:

Just spent twenty minutes on the phone angrily telling the features ed – who approached me, commissioned me, and to whom I made myself available for any rewrites all for a derisory 50 quid fee (important enough issue to take a hit on the rate, I thought) – that he’s a coward

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Sarah wrote one of the articles.

She adds:

Unbelievable as it seems, the issue of whether women should have toilets is incendiary. I agreed to write for the Stage in good faith, believing they intended to give a platform to an important conversation. That was my mistake and god do I regret it.

You can read the column here, on my website, and decide for yourself whether @TheStage was right to pull it without even forewarning me

Btw I’ve donated my fee to @nia_endingVAWG, who do incredible work

So let’s read Sarah’s column:

This article appeared briefly on the Stage before reactions to it convinced them to unpublish both this, and the article it was responding to. The features editor originally approached me, and as well as writing the column I made myself available for any edits (which were not required), despite the £50 fee being well below my usual rate – I consider the issue of women’s access to public toilets important enough to take a hit on the fee. Unfortunately, the Stage did not consider it important enough to support the work it commissioned, nor did they consider it necessary to notify me before unpublishing. You can read it here and decide for yourself whether it is an obnoxious enough piece of writing to deserve that treatment. 

If you need to confirm that we live in a world built on men’s terms, take a look at the toilets in any public building. The chances are that, while men are freely swanning in and out of their facilities, women are left shuffling uncomfortably in line, waiting for a cubicle. That’s not because women are frivolously lingering in there. While men can unzip and go at the urinal, women have to partially undress and sit down inside a stall, which takes longer – and because of periods, pregnancy and higher incidence of UTIs, women have to use the toilet more often.

For men and women to have equal wait times for toilets, a good rule of thumb is that women should have access to twice as many toilets as men. But few public toilets put that principle into practice, and the disparity is rarely more infuriating for women than when trapped in the queue at the theatre with the bell summoning you to your seat. So when the Old Vic launched a fundraiser to double provision for women, a lot of female theatregoers were very keen to give it their support.

But – haha – fooled again! There are more toilets, but they’re all accessible to men, and 18 of them have urinals, which makes them not even slightly comfortable for women to use.

Though the Old Vic’s change to gender neutral toilets has been pitched as an act of consideration to trans and non-binary people, in reality it offers little help at a great cost to women, who are still stuck queueing, only now with their privacy compromised. Why this, rather than keeping men’s and women’s and adding a third option for those uncomfortable with choosing? The Old Vic has made an incomprehensible decision here, betraying the terms of the original fundraiser, and women are angry about it. A theatre with inadequate women’s toilets, or without women’s toilets at all, is a theatre that doesn’t care whether there are women in its audience.

Oh well, it’s only women.

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