I met my friend Emily (friend from NYC Radical Cheerleaders) for lunch today at Crepes du Nord on South William Street in the Financial District. It was really nice to catch up and we had a lovely time – until she went to the bathroom. She saw the following sign on the bathroom door:
After we paid our bill, Emily asked our server what it was supposed to mean.
"That means it's a unisex bathroom."
"A man peering over the wall means it's a unisex bathroom?" Emily asked.
"It's funny. Everyone who comes in thinks it's funny."
"Well, we don't. We think it's offensive."
As he walked away, Emily muttered, "Sexual harassment is supposed to be funny?"
I was really angry when I left; the lunch had been lovely and the food good (though the metal teapots and metal teacups were a bit strange but I digress), but why is it funny when a man peeks in on a woman going to the bathroom - which is essentially what that sign means.
I went onto my work computer and found a Feministe article about a coffeebar in DC with a similar obnoxious sign.
Let me say it straight: a man who is a peeping tom - who spies on a woman, looking at her as she goes to the bathroom, is not funny. Men like that - I don't want to know. That disgusts me.
When I was in 8th or 9th grade, a guy pulled up my skirt and showed my underwear to an entire crowded hallway. I was mortified. I felt terrible. A teacher had seen, reported the student, and he ended up getting suspended. It's rare that these sorts of things get caught and punished. There was the guy who exposed himself to the high school girls as they ran the cross-country races. (Never the boys' races and as far as I know, they never caught him.) I have had men stare obsessively at me at my old job at a public library, frightening me. I have had men try to follow me home. Stare at my building. Sit across the subway from me and stare, stare, stare.
This is not funny. This is scary. Why is our society encouraging this? Maybe you think I'm blowing this up, but I have been a victim of some really horrible things way too many times - and it has never been funny.
It has been sad. It has been scary. It has been mortifying. It has been soul-destroying. But it has never been funny.