Gender and Infrastructure

In my Gender and Technological Change course the students are currently looking at how gender and infrastructure shape each other, and in particular, how technological infrastructure disciplines our thinking, and our bodies, into specific patterns.

The class read a great historical article on the moral, political, and economic wranglings to try to get public bathrooms placed in major U.S. and European cities during the late 19th and early 20th century. The catch? Public bathrooms for women were seen as outside the pale by most men in charge at the time, leaving city women in an uncomfortable situation. Professor Maureen Flanagan, department head here at IIT in the Humanities, shows in “Private Needs, Public Spaces–Public Toilets in the Anglo-Atlantic Patriarchal City: London, Dublin, Toronto and Chicago” that attempts to keep public bathrooms for women out of cities were also attempts to shape women’s behavior into “respectable” patterns–namely to keep women out of public places and to keep their time out and about to a minimum.

We also looked at more recent bathroom projects: particularly ones designed to highlight or make more available genderqueer and trans-friendly bathroom spaces. In this regard, college and university campuses have often led the way, making specific policies to create gender-neutral and genderqueer-friendly bathroom spaces.

On a personal note, I still remember how my undergraduate institution lacked enough women’s bathrooms in many buildings–including the undergraduate library–because women had only been allowed into the main parts of the campus as (almost) equals in the 1970s and 1980s. And even in the 1990s, when I was a college student, genderqueer-friendly bathrooms were barely even acknowledged as an issue by the administration, despite student groups’ protests.

Campus Map of the main buildings at Illinois Institute of Technology: http://www.iit.edu/about/campus_map.shtml

Here at IIT, we have a multi-layered problem: not only is the discourse on queer issues on campus relatively quiet, the infrastructure of the campus has long been designed to reflect the fact that the majority of IIT’s students and faculty are men. (Currently, women make up roughly 30% of the student population here.)

So our class did an experiment to try to see how these things were reflected in, and also shaped by, the physical infrastructure of the campus. Each class member went to a series of buildings on campus and made notes about the bathrooms, including the gender of the bathroom and accessibility issues. Once their comments have been collected below, we’ll put them up on a campus map using Google maps to create an online resource for the campus.

17 comments

  1. Gabriel

    Men’s Bathrooms:

    Perlstein Hall:
    Basement – No bathrooms;
    1st – a 4 stall, 2 urinal, and 3 sink men’s bathroom, a 2 stall, 3 urinal, and 3 sink men’s bathroom, additionally there was a faculty bathroom that I was unable to enter;
    2nd – a 4 stall, 8 urinal, and 4 sink men’s bathroom. All bathrooms were too small to be converted. Additionally I was unable to find an elevator or chair lift in the building

    Alumni Memorial:
    1st – a 4 stall, 4 urinal, 3 sink men’s bathroom that was around an unsigned corner next to labs;
    2nd – 4 stall, 4 urinal, 3 sink men’s bathroom. All bathrooms were too small to be converted. Additionally I was unable to find an elevator or chair lift in the building

    Herman Hall:
    Basement – a 4 stall, 8 urinal, 4 sink men’s bathroom with 1 handicapped stall and cannot be converted, there is one additional bathroom listed on maps within the bog but it was closed when I was there;

    1st – 2 stall, 3 urinal, 4 sink men’s bathroom that had one handicapped stall and one broken urinal, there is sufficient room to convert it, a single occupancy, 1 toilet and sink, gender neutral bathroom that was on the far side of the building around an unsigned corner;

    Mezzanine – No bathrooms.

    Wishnick Hall:
    Basement – No bathrooms;

    1st – a 3 stall, 3 urinal, 3 sink men’s bathroom with 1 handicapped stall, it could be converted into 2 small gender neutral ones;

    2nd – same as 1st floor;

    3rd – same as 1st floor, but it is located behind a set of doors, that were open when I visited.

  2. Cruz

    Women’s restrooms:

    STUART BUILDING
    Basement
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    3 / 3
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – Locking external door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Not super accessible since it’s located in the basement, if you were not able to walk down stairs you would have to take the elevator

    First Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    3 / 3
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – Lock on door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Accessible b/c it’s on first floor
    Handicap stall is out of order, so not accessible if you have this need

    Second Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    3 / 3
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – Lock on outer door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Accessibility — 2nd floor so elevator would be needed if you could not walk up the stairs

    LIFE SCIENCE
    First Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    1 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – it is already a “uni-sex” bathroom
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Accessible to all, door can open automatically with a press of a button
    Issue — there was an ant problem

    Second Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    2 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    No lock on outer door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Stalls are too small for wheelchairs or people who need more room
    There was an automatic door that can be opened with a button

    Second Floor – Psych Student/Faculty Lounge
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    1 / 1
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    No lock on outer door but definitely could be converted to gender neutral since there is only one stall and sink
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    This bathroom was fairly tiny, could possibly be remodeled to allow for wheelchairs

    Third Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    2 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    No lock on outer door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Stalls are too small for wheelchairs or people who need more room

    ENGINEERING 1
    Basement X 2
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    2 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – there was an outer lock
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Ease of use — there was an outer door and inner door, which led to the stalls; this would be difficult for people with wheelchairs

    First Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    1 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – Lock on outer door
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Accessible → Handicap accessible

    Second Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    2 / 2
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    Yes – there was an outer lock
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Ease of use → there was an outer door and inner door, which led to the stalls; this would be difficult for people with wheelchairs

    ALUMNI
    Second Floor
    Number of Stalls/Sinks
    2 / 1
    Gender Neutral or Easily Converted
    No outer lock
    Notes: Accessibility, Ease of use, Convenience
    Accessibility — Tiny stalls, it was a small space where the actual stalls were located behind the second door
    Located on 2nd floor, and did not see an elevator

    First Floor
    Could not locate a bathroom on this floor

  3. Carla

    Women’s Bathrooms:

    Perlstein Hall
    Location: First Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 6/5
    Accessibility: no wheelchair accessible stalls; spacious rooms
    Other Attributes: no lock on outside door, very clean

    Location: Second Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: ??
    Accessibility: ??
    Other Attributes: outside door locks from inside and was locked each time I tried to investigate it

    Wishnick Hall
    Location: First Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 3/3
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, spacious, no tight corners
    Other Attributes: very clean and well-lit, big window to outside

    Hermann Hall (HUB)
    Location: First Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 1/1
    Accessibility: no stalls so is wheelchair accessible, building itself, however is not very accessible
    Other Attributes: single person, marked as family/gender neutral, lock on doors

    Location: First Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 6/4
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, switch-activated door,
    Other Attributes: really elegant, clean, well-lit, has a changing table

    Location: Lower Level 1
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 3/2
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, narrow turn into the bathroom, tall sinks
    Other Attributes: dimly lit, in general disrepair

    Location: Lower Level 2
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 2/2
    Accessibility: no wheelchair accessible stall, narrow
    Other Attributes: dimly lit, hard to find, not in good condition

    Galvin Library
    Location: Lower Level Lobby
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 5/3
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, must get down to the lower level to enter the library
    Other Attributes: in poor condition, has one stall that does not open or have a toilet in it

    Location: Lower Level near Archives
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 4/2
    Accessibility: no wheelchair accessible stalls, must step down into the bathroom
    Other Attributes: dimly lit, not very clean, hard to find, strange locked door on opposite side of bathroom from the entrance

    University Technology Park Business Center
    Location: Basement
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 7/4
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, pretty spacious
    Other Attributes: very well-lit, very clean, brightly colored, keypad on doorknob

    Location: First Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 7/4
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, pretty spacious
    Other Attributes: very well-lit, very clean, brightly colored, keypad on doorknob

    Location: Second Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: 7/4
    Accessibility: one wheelchair accessible stall, pretty spacious
    Other Attributes: very well-lit, very clean, brightly colored, keypad on doorknob

    Location: Third Floor
    # of Stalls/Sinks: ??
    Accessibility: requires ID access to get up to the third floor (Therapeutic Proteins, LLC. )
    Other Attributes: was unable to go to the third floor, not sure, but one can assume that the bathroom layout since all other bathrooms were identical

  4. Crystal Gordon

    Women’s bathrooms:

    MTCC (McCormick-Tribune Campus Center)
    [Mezzanine Level:] bathroom has 4 stalls and 3 sinks. One of the 4 stalls is considerably larger which makes it easily accessible with those with disabilities. The sinks turn on with a wave of the hand which is useful but sometimes adjusting the temperature of the water can be a handful.

    -Not gender neutral
    -Can be converted.

    [Main Floor:] bathroom has 5 stalls and 4 sinks. The stalls are very spacious which makes it quite convenient. The bathroom itself has lots of space. The sinks are the same as in the first bathroom in the building.

    -Not gender neutral
    -Can be converted (space is plus)

    Siegel Hall

    [Basement: ??]

    [First floor: 3 stalls and 3 sinks. I found the bathrooms to be quite cozy but the closeness of the area where the stalls are located can make it a bit uncomfortable given more than 3 people are in there at a time. (Even though there is an antechamber area to stand while waiting.) The sinks use a motion sensor which makes it easy but the adjustment of temperature again may be a setback.]

    [Second floor: 4 stalls and 2 sinks. Large handicapped stall at end, however entrance door to bathroom is difficult to open. Sinks are conventional--not motion sensing.]

    [Third floor: ??]

    E1

    [Basement] bathrooms had 2 stalls and two sinks. One bathroom provided an handicap stall. despite this, I found their bathrooms to be very small and uncomfortable. Even with a stall for the handicapped, I didn’t find it easily accessible. Also, the lighting gave a very gloomy feel.

    -Not gender neutral
    -Can’t be converted.

    • Marie Hicks

      Crystal, I’ve corrected your post in brackets above: much of the information you gave was not accurate or was incomplete. For Siegel, I’ve corrected the first and 2nd floor bathroom stall and sink counts from my experiences there, but you still need to find out the info for the basement and the 3rd floor. E1 also has different bathroom configurations throughout the building, so the info you gave is incomplete. Lastly, are you sure the MTCC main level bathroom only has 5 stalls?

  5. Erik

    Technology Business Center
    is known to most students as the building in which the Idea Shop is located. The building is accessible via a keycard reader and showing identification to the security officer at the door. I believe the keycard reader is only necessary after 6pm. There are no gender neutral bathrooms in the building. There is one set of bathrooms, consisting of one bathroom marked for women and one bathroom marked for men on each floor, for a total of 8 bathrooms since there are 4 floors. The 3rd floor of the building is fully occupied by a tenant and is not accessible to anyone but those tenants. The bathrooms are all identical on each floor. Entry to the bathroom is through a rather heavy door, though they are all said to be handicap-accessible (HCA). The women’s bathrooms contain 6 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall, and 4 sinks. The men’s bathrooms contain 3 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall, 3 urinals, and 4 sinks. The bathrooms are well-maintained and clean.

    Crown Hall
    is the home of the architecture students for much of the semester. There is only 1 set of bathrooms, marked as men’s and women’s (no gender neutral bathrooms) on the basement floor. This is accessible to those in a wheelchair via a chair lift. The bathrooms are on opposite sides of the floor and are difficult to find unless one is willing to wander over the entire building. The women’s bathroom contains 8 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall, and 6 sinks. The sinks are separated from the toilet stalls by a door. The men’s bathroom contains 3 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall, 5 urinals, and 6 sinks. There is a doorway, but no door separating the sinks and urinals from the stalls.

    Materials and Metals
    is not accessible to students. A keycard reader is present and my ID did not permit access. There is no security staff visible. As a list of persons is posted on the door, I inferred that those people are the only ones who have access via keycard (ID).

    Galvin Library
    has 3 sets of bathrooms. 1 set, the only one on the second floor, is only for administrative staff. The other two sets of bathrooms are on the first floor. The set of bathrooms near the lobby consists of 1 women’s and 1 men’s bathroom. The women’s bathroom contains 4 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall – which is clearly marked (unlike all the other bathrooms), and 3 sinks. The men’s bathroom contains 2 regular stalls, 1 HCA stall, 3 urinals, and 5 sinks. Both bathrooms near the lobby have a very over-active air freshener hanging on the ceiling and are therefore dangerous for anyone with respiratory conditions such as asthma or allergies. The second set of bathrooms, near the archives is not HCA. The women’s bathroom contains 4 regular stalls and 2 sinks. The door is very heavy. The men’s bathroom contains 2 regular stalls, 3 urinals, and 3 sinks. There is a large step down which many people miss and fall. Many library patrons are unaware of the second set of bathrooms (near archives) and therefore it is much safer for those who wish to not be watched to use them.

    As an additional note, a HCA gender neutral bathroom on the 1st floor of Life Science was changed to a women’s bathroom and then changed back when I complained to the building manager. It is a single user lockable bathroom. The men’s bathroom in the basement of Life Sciences is actually gender neutral and is just not labeled as such. [How is it labeled?--MH] The two bathrooms in the Psychology Student Lounge (LS, 223) are single user bathrooms consisting of 1 stall and 1 sink. Also, in Tech Central, 2nd Floor, which is Shimer College, there are two sets of bathrooms labeled as men’s and women’s, but Shimer is MUCH more friendly to people using whatever restroom they wish. The bathrooms in this paragraph are good places to go for anyone wanting a gender neutral bathroom on campus, especially if they are a commuter student. [Why especially for commuters?--MH] Keating recently added a gender neutral single user shower and bathroom, but they never hooked up the hot water to it.

      • Erik

        The bathroom in the basement of LS is labeled as a men’s restroom, although I think the sign is broken. Last time I looked the outline of a sign was clearly visible but had not been replaced.

        I point out these places to commuter students because MSV and Gunsalus each have 1 guest bathroom, but you must be either signed in or a resident of the dormitories on campus to use them. Also, having had to search for safe bathrooms, I previously either walked to LS or went back to my dorm when I still lived on campus.

  6. Bradley Martin

    Men’s bathrooms:

    Herman Hall 1: 1 stall, 0 urinals, 1 sink, no halls or stairs, already unisex, no other bathrooms would be easy to convert.
    Herman Hall 2: 2 stalls, 3 urinals, 4 sinks, easy to use/find

    Wishnick Hall 1: 3 stalls 3 urinals, 3 sinks, upstairs
    Wishnick Hall 2: 3 stalls, 3 urinals, 3 sinks, upstairs and down a hallway
    Wishnick Hall 3: 3 stalls, 3 urinals, 3 sinks, easy to use/find

    Library 1: 3 stalls, 3 urinals, 5 sinks, easy to use/find

    Siegel Hall 1: 3 stalls, 3 urinals, 2 sinks, easy to use/find
    Siegel Hall 2: 5 stalls, 6 urinals, 4 sinks, upstairs

  7. AnthonyL

    I’m not sure how granular we want the data so I tried to get as much information as possible.

    Key: B – Basement, G – Ground floor, 2 – 2nd floor, WC – water closet (stall), U – urinal, S – sink, C – cleanliness rated from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), A – accessibility rated from 1-5.

    Men’s Bathrooms:

    Perlstein
    G-1- public, 4wc, 2u, 2s, c4 drip, a3 narrow entry
    G-2- faculty locked
    Basement – none found
    2-1- public, 4wc, 8u, 4s, c5, a4 2 doors, big

    Alumni Hall
    G- no access (bathroom present, but behind construction)
    2-1- public, 4wc, 4u, 3s, c4 stain, a3 corner entry

    E1
    G-1- public 4wc, 6u, 4s, c5, a5 two doors, handicap
    G-2- faculty 1wc, 1u, 2s, c5, a4 two doors
    B-1- public 4wc, 6u, 4s, c5, a4 doors
    B-2- public, 4wc, 6u, 3s, c5, a4 doors
    2-1- public, 4wc, 6u, 4s, c5, a5 doors, handicap
    2-2- faculty, 1wc, 1u, 1s, 1 shower, c5, a3 doors, narrow

    Stuart
    G-1- public 4wc(-1), 6u, 4s, c4 smell, a4 doors corner
    B-1- public, 3wc, 4u, 4s, c4 unkempt, a4 doors
    2-1- public, 5wc, 6u, 4s, c5 unused, a4 doors

  8. Kevin

    Men’s Bathrooms:

    Technology & Business Center-
    Given that this is a relatively new building, the bathrooms were very modern and easily accessible, they were in every floor right next to the elevator.
    There were 4 Stalls, 3 Urinals, and 4 Sinks in all bathrooms in all 4 floors.
    They could very easily be converted into a gender neutral space given the layout of the washrooms and the placement of the urinals in relation to the stalls.

    Metals & Materials Building-
    Given that this building is used for construction purposes, I noticed that the washroom lacked space. It could, however, be easily developed into a gender neutral bathroom because it has 1 Stall, 1 Urinal and 1 Sink– but not easily accessible by wheelchairs.

    SR Crown Hall-
    The bathrooms in this building were in the bottom of the building and slightly difficult to reach with a wheel chair. [How? Ramp? Elevator?] The bathrooms would be easily changed to gender neutral by simply placing a small plastic divider between the 6 sinks and the 5 urinals. The stalls were in a different room (you had to open a door to get to the 5 stalls) and so they could be changed easily.

    MTCC-
    In the male bathroom of the MTCC, I do believe it would be relatively easily to convert them to gender neutral. There are 5 sinks, 2 stalls, and 5 urinals. even though they are close to each other, I do believe they could easily be changed. As per the accessibility, it is very easily accessible by wheel chairs if necessary. [Which bathroom? There is more than one..]

  9. Marie Hicks

    Nice job, folks. As you can see, the data you’ve collected is not exactly easy to fully absorb when represented in text.

    The next step will be to represent it in ways that 1) allow it to become easier to understand at-a-glance, 2) allow it to become maximally useful (perhaps by highlighting only certain elements), and 3) allow it to show us patterns or insights that we wouldn’t have gotten without aggregating it. So these are the next steps for us.

    One idea that I’ve already mentioned is putting the info on a google map of campus so that it can be a campus resource. What are some other things we can do to represent this information in different ways and to mine it for insights? Think about other things we could do with charts, maps, etc. If you wanted to make an argument about gender and space on campus using this information, what would that argument be and how might you support or represent it with a compelling visualization of this data (or a subset of it)?

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