This is a strange subject today - but hear me out ;)
One of the things that I don't think I've ever really thought about, that I've just kind of assumed is the norm from a young age, is the absence of women's bathrooms in public spaces - Amsterdam specifically. This morning my friend Lucie and I were wandering around Albert Cuypmarkt, one of the busiest marketplaces in the city, when she announced that she really needed to pee. Nothing exciting or groundbreaking there - it was just when we stopped to decide where to go, we realised the familiar situation again - oh yeah, there aren't any public toilets. We walked around, peering into cafés with signs saying NO BATHROOM, joking about how it was so easy for guys just to duck behind a tree and go on with their day until we finally found a bakery that reluctantly let her use their facilities. The cashier gave her the 'seriously?!' look, saying that it was frustrating having so many women come in off the street to ask to use their bathroom. "In the summer, we have queues of people," she said. "You can use it, but just know that it shouldn't be like this".
Of course, it shouldn't be like this! I agree with you there, lady. The question is: why are there no public bathrooms for women?
If you walk around the city you see many a pissoir, an outdoor toilet for men where they can discreetly go about their business with a winding cover to protect them from onlookers. Granted, they're not that clean and the smell is what can be described as unpleasant. In absence of one of these facilities, granted you are discreet and you manage to avoid a police fine, you can go behind a tree or a bush or whatever, which is usually the only option for women. I remember on busy days such as Kingsday when men are easily pissing all over town, women had to resort to paying €3/€4 to use private toilets in cafés, shops and even people's own houses - a lucrative business for sure.
I am not blaming men for having it easy, in fact, I envy them. This problem is a systemic failure of urban planning and the local municipalities who decide that, at the end of the day, 50% of the population must not need to go to the bathroom. If you are caught openly peeing in public, I think it's pretty gross and you should be fined. But for half the population, this is the only option - let alone if you are homeless, with no other option at all due to the absence of permanent living or the flat-out rejection from cafés, bars and so on. What is the solution here?
In other cities like Paris and even Dublin where I am from, public toilets must be available to everybody as a civic right. They are cleaned thoroughly, free for homeless people and around 30-50 cents for everybody else - which I don't mind paying at all for such a basic need. The issue of such progressive and forward-thinking cities such as Amsterdam not having such a basic facility for its inhabitants is mind-boggling to me.
Who would have thought peeing is such a political issue?