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GEORGE: Time's up for this old sign of male privilege

January 23, 2018 - 12:36 PM

When you belong to a Facebook buy and sell group, you are exposed to a lot of interesting things for sale. I recently spotted a plastic toddler urinal that hangs on the wall so that toddlers can practice their aim. I laughed.

The very next story in my feed was about this year's women's march.

That got me to thinking.

I grew up in a "lid down" family. With two older sisters and my mother in the household, I learned pretty quick that arguing about it wasn't a smart thing to do. I learned to put the seat down when I was done, most of the time. Problem solved, in a fashion that I am sure many other families had used to solve it.

Back to my thoughts. First, why do we see lowering the seat an obligation to be satisfied by the males in the equation? Why do we not see this activity as simply an act of kindness and consideration when it happens, and as a fact of life when it doesn't?

After a bit of more thought, I came up with a better question. Why do men feel that peeing standing up is the accepted way to pee in the first place? How did standing up become the default for men to the extent that asking us to sit is rarely seen as an option in the seat up, seat down controversy?

It doesn't seem to be rooted in our nature, after all, men sitting to pee is pretty much the default in Germany now. It wasn't until I had the opportunity to be "Mr. Mom" that I began to grasp the bigger picture behind standing up to pee. Cleaning the bathroom used by two adults and two children taught me that wives and daughters rarely missed.

Walls, floors, and the toilet itself would need a whole lot less cleaning if it wasn't for me standing up to pee.

Me?

As a toddler, I am sure that I would have benefited from the practice of the toddler urinal. I have noticed over the years that other members of my sex could have as well. In my early twenties I lived with four other young men in a townhouse. We rotated the chore of cleaning the bathroom. It was here that I learned first hand about just how inaccurate we were, even with two decades of experience under our belts. Toss in late nights, alcohol, and the general slobbishness of young men and this rapidly became the worst chore in the house.

It seems that the drive to sit in some places around the world is being driven by concerns around hygiene. That is a good thing. But I think an even better reason for men to sit is that this is also an issue that has a bearing on the cultural inequalities between the sexes.

How many men, by default, clean the bathroom in their home?

Men can address this inequity in a couple of ways. We can remember to put the seat down. We can consciously try to not miss. We can sit. Or we can take over the task of cleaning the bathroom. I recommend sitting and cleaning the bathroom.

Some men will see this idea as emasculating. Some will see sitting as unnatural. I can tell you that it quickly becomes a habit. When I find myself in a public washroom with a urinal, I use it. When I find myself in the forest, I stand up. But when I am at home, I sit. It is the disparity in the housework in most homes that stands out as something that must be addressed if equality of the sexes is a goal. Lowering the seat is a side issue, up or down isn't an obligation and it isn't a kindness. Standing in the first place is an excellent example of "male privilege". We may have gone for generations splishing and splashing hither and yon and thinking nothing of our loved ones cleaning up after us, as long as those loved ones were female.

That time is up.

— Chris George believes one measure of a just society is found in how well it balances fiscally conservative economics with social responsibility and environmental soundness in all of its living arrangements.

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