According to a recent study conducted by the U.N, more people on earth have access to cell phones than toilets. The first question that pops into my mind is how is this possible? Anthropologists Jen Barr tackles this question in her recent article, Oh, shit!
One reason is that despite the necessity of toilets, mobile phones have opened up the world of communication, which has directly influenced businesses. Another idea she addresses is the idea of gender roles. Still, in majority of the countries today, men do most of the business. Cell phones have not only opened up the world socially, but also have created an easier way to receive capital. Toilets are a business of the home, where women are supposed to be, and are therefore a more feminine issue.
When an individual uses the toilet, it is likely to be a private event. It is a passive activity. Cell phones require more active participation. They are something which bring excitement through showing photos to friends or playing the latest game rather than something an individual feels the need to conceal.
This also brought attention the ability to share toilets. How often does a person need their own personal toilet? Cell phones are more personal and require to be constantly with a person to be of use. Toilets on the other hand can be used by dozens of people.
Jen Barr uses anthropology to look at the social uses of both items to dissect this “sobering statistic.”