A composting toilet at the City of San Jose, Calif., Environmental Innovation Center during the grand opening of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at the EIC in San Jose on May 30, 2014. Toilets at the EIC empty into a composting tank where starter microbes break down the waste, which is absorbed into pine shavings and used for compost. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

“Potty Parity”… A Political Issue?

By Danny Westneat
The Seattle Times

A couple decades ago when I first started covering politics, there was a little issue that served as a big metaphor for changes going on in the country. It was the matter of “potty parity.”

Or as I liked to call it: “porcelain proportionality.”

Easy for me to joke, I know. As a man, I haven’t had to squander a depressing fraction of my life tap-dancing in restroom lines. Potty parity was the drive to force builders, who were and are predominantly male, to devote a bigger share of toilets in office towers and public buildings to women.

We passed a law in the early 1990s. The flash point was the torturous lack of women’s stalls at the old Kingdome. “Women Can Rejoice! Potty Parity’s Here,” was the headline of a 1992 Jean Godden column.

The rules weren’t perfect but they recognized, in the bedrock of the building codes, that our society had seismically changed. And wasn’t going back.

Except nobody foresaw the rise of the brogrammer.

Last week the local tech blog GeekWire had a new and surprising twist on the commode inequality story, one that sums up how Seattle culture is morphing yet again.

Prompted by that big New York Times expose about how Amazon employees are so overworked they’re weeping at their desks, GeekWire smartly requested all the state Labor and Industries complaints about conditions at the company.

It turns out the top complaint isn’t overwork. In the Amazon jungle, it’s survival of the fittest to go to the bathroom. And the cause is: potty-parity reverse discrimination!

“Due to a typical gender imbalance of our employees, we typically have long lines for using restroom stalls in most of the South Lake Union Amazon offices,” a male Amazonian wrote in a complaint filed with the state, according to GeekWire.

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