Making meaning in spaces: Restrooms

In the article Sex changes and changing rooms, Elizabeth P. Challinor discusses the differences between the words “sex” and “gender” and how they have been misused in the context of labeling bathrooms. As well as issues with the actual design of restrooms and changing rooms. Challinor observed multiple instances where bathrooms and changing rooms were labeled as separated by “gender” rather than separated by “sex”. She says, “We could say that sex refers to the biological body and that gender refers to cultural interpretations of biological differences which produce differentiated social roles and attributes for the sexes.”

The rest of the article focuses around the idea that architects who design these sex-separate bathrooms are not only disadvantaging those who identity as women in terms of their ability to fully utilize most restroom spaces, but also setting women up to be stereotyped. She argues that by designing spaces in which people who identify as women are forced to stand outside of the actual restroom area in long lines, others are more likely to see this image of women lined up together as an opportunity for gossip and other stereotypically feminine acts. This relates to the topic of making meaning in spaces. The labeling of sex-separated bathrooms creates a dynamic in which spaces are inherently limiting and dividing people ambiguously.

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