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Accepted Paper:

Public Toilets in the Feminine: Portuguese Female User Perspectives on Public Toilets and the International Movement Calling for the Adoption of Gender Norms  
Bruna Coelho (Research Center for Anthropology and Health (CIAS))

Paper short abstract:

Public toilets are the pariah of urban infrastructures due to their liminal character and their association with the excretory functions of our bodies. It is, thus, no surprise that their design is not updated in decades, impacting the life of their users, especially women, who learn to make do.

Paper long abstract:

More than two billion people do not have access to basic modern sanitary infrastructures and, women, in particular, are affected by these infrastructural vulnerabilities. Women living in more affluent urban contexts also have poor access to sanitary infrastructures due to lack of female public toilets. These toilets are often poorly maintained, and their design does not suit women’s daily needs. This paper relies on a mixed-methods approach that combines the analysis of documents and secondary sources with the usage of ethnographic methodologies. My goal is to understand not only how public toilets in Portugal are designed and maintained, but also to make sense of how women perceive public toilets in urban settings and whether these toilets are designed to fit the needs of the population they are supposed to serve. The embarrassment to openly discuss what we (women) do in the bathroom and how we (women) relate to it make this subject hard to openly discuss and, for this reason, the hope of a possible advancement is limited. That is why motivating an open discussion about this subject is of the upmost importance. I intend to show how the matter of public toilet adaptability to females is a neglected subject in Portugal, how we fit in the international paradigm and what we can do to change this. My ultimate goal is to provoke debate on the question of how public toilets are being maintained, how they operate and, mainly, how their mode of operation is shaped by larger social anxieties.

Panel P044
Entangled Commons. Shifting Infrastructures of Sociality toward Visionary Pragmatic Lifeworlds [UrbAn]
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -