Latest: Toilets are divisive

Latest: Toilets are divisive


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2019

The Stage, which covers all theattrical activity in the UK, has taken down its reports on the new facilities at the Old Vic Theatre, where archaic divisions of men and women were to have been abolished.

Here’s what the paper now says:

UPDATE: Sarah Ditum has republished one of the offending articles here.


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. …


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 now the Old Vic has completed the refurbishment, it’s clear that something has gone very wrong. Yes, there are more toilets, with 44 where there were once 22 – but not more toilets for women. Instead, there are 26 toilets and 18 urinals, and all toilets have been turned “gender neutral”….


  • Dennis says:

    “archaic divisions of men and women ”

    Western culture is officially insane.

    • John Rook says:

      …and doomed to oblivion. We are now so spoiled, so bored, so devoid of essential challenges that we have to invent biological problems where none exist, scream about saving the planet while we build stupidly unnecessary large cars; the list goes on. Our civilisation will be flushed away if we don’t get a sense of perspective on the rubbish we’re supposed to find important in our current society.

      • john Borstlap says:

        If our civilisation is to be flushed away, it should be in a gender neutral toilet process.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        That’s what happens when you move formal religion from the society. People lose a belief in anything but the most shallow things. Climate Catastropharianism seems to be filling the gaps for some – with its Old Testament fire and brimstone – but the majority find themselves believing in anything and everything.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The old religious orthodoxies don’t seem to have been an entirely beneficient influence in the world; after the liberation from domineering religion, people’s destructive urges simply find new outlets. But climate protests are entirely justified, given scientific reports appearing with alarming regularity but never being able to mobilize political action.

    • John Rook says:

      unnecessarily. My kingdom for an ‘edit’ function.

  • Olassus says:

    Get ASM away from that urinal!

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      I was there last week and the signs above the entrance doors do indicate that there are more urinals in one room than the other so we women went in to the other one. I don’t need to see or hear men urinating. The Traverse and Bridge theatres have hieroglyphics above the door that most people do not understand.
      Why not follow Tate Britain’s lead and just have “Non Gender Specific”lavatories which are just a row of cubicles? Much more sensible.

      • john Borstlap says:

        When I visisted the Tate some weeks ago with a couple of friends, we thought the cubicles were a work of art, including the opportunity to relieve yourself, as an expression of your opinion about the work.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Men still leave urine all over the seats and toilet tops. I don’t want to have to tolerate that when I go to the toilet; it’s barely tolerable on aircraft.

        • John Rook says:

          It’s not urine, it’s tears we have shed at our marginalisation from society; oh victims we…
          (Actually, I couldn’t agree more with you. I fail to see why men should be incapable of leaving a loo clean after use).

        • Alex Leach says:

          No that’s the women – men generally use urinals. Women have a fear of sitting on soiled seats, so hover above them – and then urinate all over the seat. And so the cycle continues… Professional cleaners all say women’s toilets require more cleaning than men’s.

      • Terence says:

        Not as sensible as it might seem.

        At galleries, the flow of people to the toilets is random.

        At theatres, a lot of patrons want to go at the same time so urinals speed speed up that process for everyone.

      • The View from America says:

        I’ll let you in on a secret. Many guys love to pass gas while at the urinal. The louder the better.

        … And coming after the world premiere composition on the concert program is icing on the cake.

    • Tamino says:

      That picture is very low in taste. It says a lot about the author, that he thinks it to be a good idea to use it.

  • About 2004 or so, urinals in the shape of women’s mouths were installed in the subway station of the Vienna State Opera. (See a photo at the url below.) At that point, the Vienna Phil still did not have any women members except harpists. Around 2006, the city decided it prudent to replace the urinals, which were put up for sale on e-bay. The Vienna Phil context was a bit too much. Misogyny must be practiced with at least a minimum of discretion.

  • dpubke-sharp says:

    Is The Stage stil even being published? Why?

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    How did we divide men and women before we had public toilets?

  • Mohtsart says:

    Re: Elizabeth Owen

    Because then everybody has to wait longer for men to use cubicles who could have used the larger number of urinals that would fit in the same amount of space. It’s fine at an art gallery where there aren’t usage spikes, but at a theatre you need max volume. Perhaps she-pees could be made available, in the name of equality, as they are at popular music festivals.

  • Leporello says:

    Why on earth would women want to use smelly mens’ loos?

  • Eric says:

    There used to be a bar in downtown San Francisco frequented by lawyers from the nearby courthouse. The toilets were marked “hung” and “split”.

  • M McAlpine says:

    No doubt the equalities commission will pass a law making it compulsory for men and women to pee the same way!

    • John Borstlap says:

      My PA thinks that gender fluidity and transgender operations have been invented to promote toilet equality.

    • Tamino says:

      Wrong, that would be too practical of an approach.
      True ideologies would make sure that it is illegal to speak out, that men and women pee differently. Thou shall not…

  • Peter says:

    Would it not be most efficient to have separate rooms labelled “Urinals” and “Cubicles”. Urinals are faster, more space efficient and use less water and chemicals, but will rarely appeal to women. Cubicles are slower, take up more space and use more water, but are more flexible and can be used by all genders. So have both, separated, and in the ratio of the numbers of people likely to use them and the length of time it takes for them to “go about their business”. Simples !
    No rocket science needed.