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The toilet debate: Stalling trans possibilities and defending ‘women’s protected spaces’

Charlotte Jones Orcid Logo, Jen Slater

The Sociological Review, Volume: 68, Issue: 4, Pages: 834 - 851

Swansea University Author: Charlotte Jones Orcid Logo

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Abstract

As one of the few explicitly gender-separated spaces, the toilet has become a prominent site of conflict and a focal point for ‘gender-critical’ feminism. In this article we draw upon an AHRC-funded project, Around the Toilet, to reflect upon and critique trans-exclusionary and trans-hostile narrati...

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Published in: The Sociological Review
ISSN: 0038-0261 1467-954X
Published: SAGE Publications 2020
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa61313
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Abstract: As one of the few explicitly gender-separated spaces, the toilet has become a prominent site of conflict and a focal point for ‘gender-critical’ feminism. In this article we draw upon an AHRC-funded project, Around the Toilet, to reflect upon and critique trans-exclusionary and trans-hostile narratives of toilet spaces. Such narratives include ciscentric, heteronormative and gender essentialist positions within toilet research and activism which, for example, equate certain actions and bodily functions (such as menstruation) to a particular gender, decry the need for all-gender toilets, and cast suspicion upon the intentions of trans women in public toilet spaces. These include explicitly transmisogynist discourses perpetuated largely by those calling themselves ‘gender-critical’ feminists, but also extend to national media, right-wing populist discourses and beyond. We use Around the Toilet data to argue that access to safe and comfortable toilets plays a fundamental role in making trans lives possible. Furthermore, we contend that – whether naive, ignorant or explicitly transphobic – trans-exclusionary positions do little to improve toilet access for the majority, instead putting trans people, and others with visible markers of gender difference, at a greater risk of violence, and participating in the dangerous homogenisation of womanhood.
Keywords: bathroom; feminism; gender critical; TERF; transphobia
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Funders: The Around the Toilet project was funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme (AH/M00922X/1 and AH/P009557/1), and Charlotte is now funded by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (203109/Z/16/Z).
Issue: 4
Start Page: 834
End Page: 851