Why are separate bathrooms for men and women not in violation of the rejection of "separate but equal"?

  • Other than the fact that nobody has challenged it in the Supreme Court, how are separate bathrooms for men and women not in violation of the rejection of "separate but equal"?

    We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Please keep in mind that racial discrimination extended to areas like education, medical care, employment and transportation, which might be seen as far more essential than toilets.

    I think that this is more a legal question than a political one, as it is not why we have separate (or mixed) bathrooms but why the **legal doctrine** that banned racial segregation does not apply to segregation by sex. My guess is that it would apply if the bathrooms for one gender were consistently unadequated and unhygienic.

    @SJuan76 But then the question is not about legal technicalities but about some kind of moral stance - your right to not be discriminated by your gender. That's the part of the law that is in the realm of politics.

    Side comment: I read somewhere than in NZ requirement is not to have equal number of toilets, but **equal expected waiting time in bathroom line** (because for obvious reason, men can do some type of business faster). So women have more toilets.

    "men can do some type of business faster" Hey! Not when they get old and their prostate starts to enlarge... ;-)

    Some people would doubtless think that having a single bathroom for both sexes would infringe on the Fourth Amendment, which implies a right to privacy.

    @DavidRTribble The fourth amendment prevents unlawful search or seizure, and that is all. I don't know what your doing in the restroom, but if it could be consider as searching or seizing anyone you really should reconsider your restroom etiquette :P Joking aside saying that the 4th amendment offers a 'right to privacy' is a generalization that your misapplying here. Misrepresenting what is in the constitution actually says is quite common and leads to flawed arguments regularly. You can make a legal argument about privacy to justify two restrooms, but *NOT* using the fourth amendment!

    I agree! Us men demand big comfy sofas in our bathrooms too!

    @DavidRTribble I fail to see how shared bathrooms are any more of a privacy violation than a regular one.

    My wife has never gotten the hang of using a urinal.

    Shared bathrooms are a nightmare in the morning in a plane. I remember the times when I could have a piss calmly in the morning. Women just block all the bathrooms doing toiletries and painting their faces.

    From the quote you posted: "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal"... in what sense is a restroom an educational facility?

  • DavePhD

    DavePhD Correct answer

    4 years ago

    In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court stated:

    Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn.

    So the reasoning was that because in society at the time segregation was thought of as one group being inferior to the other, racial segregation was not consistent with equal protection.

    By segregating men and women from each other, neither group stands out as inferior. Perhaps one group is perceived as more messy in the bathroom. However, it is doubtful that justices would consider such a perception to be a substantial interpretation of inferiority.

    More particularly, note that four years after Brown v. Board of Education, was Dawley v Norfolk 159 F. Supp. 642 (ED. Va.), aff'd, 260 F.2d 647 (4th Cir., 1958), cert. denied, 359 U.S. 935 (1959).:

    In this action by way of declaratory judgment, plaintiff, a Negro attorney at law practicing in the City of Norfolk, Virginia, seeks a mandatory injunction against the defendants to require them to remove the word "Colored" from the doors of certain rest rooms in a courthouse building occupied and used exclusively by four state courts and the judges thereof. Plaintiff concedes that the rest rooms are equal in every respect. The lettering on the doors of the four rest rooms are indicated respectively as follows:

    "White Women Rest Room"
    "Colored Women Rest Room"
    "Rest Room (White Men)"
    "Rest Room (Colored Men)"


    ...the Court is in disagreement. Irrespective of the wisdom of maintaining separate white and colored toilet facilities in a state courthouse, there is no more reason to suggest that judges deem Negro attorneys inferior than there is to say that a white attorney is inferior because he may use a rest room marked "White". In federal buildings throughout Virginia, where separate facilities for colored and white have generally been abolished, it in no sense increases or decreases the prestige of any attorney in the mind of the judge or the public. To say that there is a loss of earning power, or a denial of equal protection of laws, or a denial under color of law of equality of treatment, would reduce the law to an absurdity.
    It should be noted that the Supreme Court at no time has said that all segregation denotes inferiority of the Negro

    So Brown v. Board of Education was insufficient to even prevent segregation of white versus colored bathrooms, let alone men versus women.

    Therefore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was needed to prevent segregation, particularly TITLE II--INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AGAINST DISCRIMINATION IN PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION SEC. 201:

    (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

    (b) Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

    (1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

    (2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

    (3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

    (4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment.

    (c) The operations of an establishment affect commerce within the meaning of this title if (1) it is one of the establishments described in paragraph (1) of subsection (b); (2) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (2) of subsection (b), it serves or offers to serve interstate travelers or a substantial portion of the food which it serves, or gasoline or other products which it sells, has moved in commerce; (3) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (3) of subsection (b), it customarily presents films, performances, athletic teams, exhibitions, or other sources of entertainment which move in commerce; and (4) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (4) of subsection (b), it is physically located within the premises of, or there is physically located within its premises, an establishment the operations of which affect commerce within the meaning of this subsection. ...

    Note that segregation based on sex is not part of the law.

    > "Sometimes men are thought of as more messy in the bathroom" Every time this topic is brought up and we have cleaners joining into the conversation, it's always mentioned ladies toilets are a lot dirtier than gents. So it's quite interesting that in this topic it's suggested otherwise.

    @kiradotee good point, I changed the answer to not presuppose which group is, or is perceived to be, more messy in the bathroom.

    @kiradotee Even if this anecdotal experiences are true, it still doesn't mean that women are messier than men. Since men often can use an urinal while women need to use the toilet (which is inherently messier), differences might be attributed to this fact. Or not. Who knows.

    @Nebr I thought men were messier for peeing on the seat, if they don't use a urinal or there is no urinal.

    @DavePhD I would expect the opposite due to anatomical differences that make it easier for men to control the stream of fluid, but as I said, who knows...

    @Nebr I'm assuming that the man is standing and the woman is sitting

    @DavePhD That may be a valid point. But since most men's bathrooms have urinals, using a toilet standing would in most cases be a bit stupid, if only for the inevitable fallout on one's own shoes when dropping fluid from a significant height. But then, when has "this is stupid" been a decisive argument in history...

    @Nebr In the cases where both sexes use the same restroom currently, like portable toilets and trail toilets (national and state parks) and other one-person unisex restrooms, there is often no urinal. Also, when the urinals are all occupied, men use the toilets standing.

    @DavePhD Apparently you're unaware of approaches like "hovering" - many women don't want to actually sit on the seat, because it is disgusting, so they sort of squat over it or just straddle it to piss, which results in urine going all over the place (the very reason the seat was so ick to begin with). A man standing up to pee has some minor issues of splatter (fluid dynamics of splatter is interesting), but it is overwhelmingly cleaner than a woman standing to pee (unless they use something like a P-Style).

    @pluckedkiwi I knew that women hover (or nest), but I guess I misjudged the relative messiness of the hovering.

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