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Monday, July 8, 2013

Lean In and Poop at the Office, Already


Public restrooms induce a certain low-level anxiety in users. There are etiquettes to observe; puddles to dodge; sounds to ignore; dilemmas surrounding flushing. But the anxieties of the public restroom need not induce shame, because they are also universal. We are all at the mercy of public restrooms — supermodels, world leaders, regular gals. Shared toilets are equalizers. Sit or squat, we do it in solidarity.

Nonetheless, the Daily Beast's Laura Dimon (daughter of Jamie) reports that "the last office taboo for women" is "doing your business at work." Really?

[W]omen report going to different floors, or walking roundabout routes from their desk to the bathroom. And some say they’ve experienced the “standoff,” when two or more women are in the bathroom, but all decline to do their business until the others leave — instead waiting awkwardly, in silence, writhing in emotional and physical discomfort, until someone surrenders.

These anxieties are not exclusive to females. In seminal guide "How to Poop at Work," Brian Moylan, a man, also describes the "unspoken shitting toilet" phenomenon. Still, women are widely believed to experience greater pooping anxiety than men. Dimon continues with the sad story of one such woman:

Jill, 28, a Vancouver native now working at an insurance company in New York City, said that if she absolutely can’t avoid the act entirely, she lifts her feet off the ground and props them up against the side of the stall to avoid the “chance that the person next to me would recognize my shoes and forever hold in their heads that I was the girl” defecating in the ladies’ room.

How is that even possible? Wouldn't the angle and leverage be all wrong? I'm picturing Jill pooping like a ping-pong show. Her effort is unnecessary: Nobody peeks under the edge of a stall to identify a pooping woman by her shoes. Nobody. (Several Cut staffers note actively avoiding identifying details in that context.) If anything, Jill's actions are counterproductive: If I had reason to believe a woman was pooping in a contorted pretzel position like Jill's, I would stick around to ask for yoga tips. But back to Dimon:

The office environment takes this anxiety and kicks it up a notch. “The workplace still remains men’s space. Women may be more hypervigilant of not breaking rules of gender by monitoring their femininity even more,” [sociologist Samantha] Kwan says. Harvard anthropologist Kimberly Theidon agrees. “Office space is already pre-determined as a masculine space and women enter it,” she says, adding that there is a “long history of women trying to manage their bodies in their workplace,” and a struggle to not be identified with or associated solely with their bodies.

This logic doesn't make a lot of sense, because the workplace that requires a woman to poop right in front of a man is pretty rare. (Ally McBeal's co-ed bathroom notwithstanding.) But since Dimon managed to find a few neurotic females terrified to the point of contortion at the prospect of pooping at work, let's make sure we make this really clear: It is okay to poop at work. Nobody is judging you. Nobody cares. Nobody gives a shit about your shits — we're too busy shitting in our own stalls.

Go poop in your office bathrooms, everyone. It's what our feminist foremothers would have wanted. Every woman deserves a poop of her own.

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