Author:David Andrew Griffiths (University of Surrey)
Paper short abstract:
An analysis of the urinal as a technoscientific object, with reference to historical and contemporary activism - particularly exploring the role of urinating standing up in controversial intersex surgeries.
Paper long abstract:
Between 1 in 125 and 1 in 300 boys are born with hypospadias: that is, the opening of the urethra (urinary meatus) is not at the top of the penis, but somewhere further down the head or shaft, or on the scrotum. If this is noticed at birth, this often leads to surgical 'correction', or 'hypospadias repair'. Intersex activists have for decades argued that these and other surgical interventions on children with atypical sex anatomies are cosmetic, not medically necessary, and non-consensual - in stronger terms 'infant genital mutilation'. One of the traditional justifications has been the supposed importance of urinating standing up for boys' development. This paper will focus on a key site for this performance of masculinity: the public urinal. Seeing the urinal as a technoscientific object with a specific history, I will trace its invention and role in the increasing industrialisation and urbanisation of Western countries. The toilet is one of the last public sites of strict gender segregation, and one where this segregation is expected and enforced. Tracing some of the different groups that have historically fought for access to toilets and some of the contemporary activism and debates in this area, I will ask what the urinal's historical, social and technological role is in the maintenance of gender binaries. Furthermore, as a key site for the disciplining of male bodies, masculinity and heterosexuality, and one that causes widespread anxiety among adult men, I will question how it functions in justifications for early childhood surgeries.
Feminist Technoscience Studies in Unexpected Places: (Intra)Activism and Social Justice