Little Boys Shouldn’t Be Banned From The Ladies’ Room
In an ideal world every place we visited would have family restrooms where moms and dads could easily change a diaper or take children of any age to go to the bathroom, but unfortunately we don’t live in anything resembling that world. Instead, we live in a world where people freak out if kindergarten-aged boys accompany their moms into the ‘wrong’ restroom.
As you can see, the sign specifies boy children over the age of six should use their own bathroom, thank you very much. Apparently age six is the cut-off point for when it becomes inappropriate to pee in a toilet in a private stall that happens to be situated beside someone who possibly has different genitalia. No word on whether a similar sign exists for girl children who accompany their parent into the mens’ room.
The origin of the sign is unknown — outlet owners claim they were unaware of it — so we can’t know if it was made by a staff member in response to numerous complaints or a single instance of a child behaving badly, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s downright absurd. Most parents hesitate to allow small children to use a public restroom alone for a number of reasons, including behavioral concerns and fear of predators. Also, the request makes no room for disabled children, who often require parental assistance in using the bathroom well beyond age six.
The other issue, though, is why anyone fears crossing sex and gender boundaries in such a benign scenario. Places like locker rooms have guidelines about who is allowed inside because it’s a safe space for people to change, shower, and walk around naked if they feel like it. That’s not what happens in a public restroom at an outlet mall. A six-year-old boy in a women’s restroom with his mom wouldn’t be exposed to anything wilder than seeing women wash their hands, catching a glimpse of women’s shoes in the space beneath the stall door, and possibly stumbling upon a maxi pad some gross person didn’t dispose of properly.
Businesses like Ikea lead the way with access to family-friendly facilities for everyone, and more establishments need to follow in their footsteps. Regardless of personal opinions, there’s no reason to prohibit anyone from using a public restroom, especially when that person is a child accompanied by a parent for guidance and safety. A public restroom is not a wild sex den and it’s beyond time we stopped treating it that way. Yes, girls and boys may have different parts, but as we tell our kids, everybody poops.