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Patriarchy, Toilet Seats, and Feminism

patriarchy, toilet seats and feminism

I don’t know if you know (I didn’t so that’s why I’m telling you) that part of what defines a patriarchy is that everything is designed and organized around men.

Maleness is the assumed center of everything, and everyone who doesn’t identify as male in the way society expects men to identify must organize themselves around a society that hasn’t taken them into consideration.

So now that we’re clear on that, I have to tell you about something that happened last week.

We had a house full of guests, including 18 people we hosted for Thanksgiving dinner. By and large, it was awesome. (I fully embraced my Do Less philosophy and for the first time ever in my history of hosting felt like I had more than enough help. Yay!)

Let me start by saying that the rant that is about to ensue has nothing to do with any of the men who stayed in or visited our home during the Thanksgiving holiday. They are all amazing men who I adore and who I would deem above-average in their consciousness and respect for women.

However, I noticed one time when I went into the bathroom that the toilet seat was up. Not the lid (which, by the way, is way better to keep down because it’s better Feng Shui) but the whole seat.

Having grown up in a house full of women, I’m totally unaccustomed to going into a bathroom and finding the seat up. And it pisses me off to a degree that tells me my emotion around it is not about the toilet seat but instead about something it represents.

(Rule of thumb: when you get extremely pissed off about something, pay attention. If your level of anger about it seems out of proportion to the actual thing, ask yourself what that thing might symbolize that’s actually bigger than the thing.)

I don’t remember how it came up, but I started talking to Mike about it (who, by the way, never leaves the toilet seat up). As I was talking about it I could feel my heart race, and the words started coming out of my mouth faster and faster, with the intensity of hot peppers.

“A man leaving the toilet seat up is like slapping the woman who comes into the bathroom after him in the face!” I heard myself saying.

“There is nothing about my anatomy that would require me to touch a toilet seat, basically ever,” I said, “and the fact that they’re making me touch it unnecessarily is not only gross, it’s wildly disrespectful.”

“This is the patriarchy in action!” I went on. “Maleness is assumed. Women’s bodies and needs aren’t considered. It makes me so mad!”

Mike listened without defending men. (Thank you, Mike.)

(He did, however, ask me to make a PSA to women to be sure to wipe the underside of the seat if they’ve had a particularly exuberant trip to the bathroom, given that men with Virgo tendencies like Mike end up wiping the underside of the seat after the ladies quite a bit. Good to know. Point taken.)

And then I found myself talking about it with several other people, and I realized that a man leaving the toilet seat up after he pees and not considering putting it down for a woman who might come use the toilet after him (because she doesn’t need her hand to come into any contact with the seat) is just one insidious symptom of a society that centers around men and forgets to consider that anyone else lives here on planet Earth.

It basically says, “My anatomy counts more than yours, and I’m going to prove it by making you touch a gross toilet seat that you wouldn’t have needed to touch, except for my arrogance at not considering that you might have different needs than mine, based on your anatomy or any other difference we might have, because I’m a man and you’re a woman.”

Let me be clear: really good men leave the toilet seat up after they pee. I’m not saying you’re a bad guy because you leave the seat up.

But what the really good men leaving the toilet seat up in my home made me realize is how many other things well-meaning men do that they’ve been programmed to do while living in a patriarchal society, and how many other things women who would consider themselves to be awake don’t think are a big deal because they’ve also been brainwashed into thinking that a society organized primarily around being male (with being female or anything else on the spectrum only being considered as a distant afterthought) is not only normal but okay!

My rant on leaving the toilet seat up has two points:

  1. Men: remember the other half of the population. Put the toilet seat down.Twitter Logo
    Men: remember the other half of the population. Put the toilet seat down.
  2. If we want to live in a world that considers our daughters just as worthy as our sons of attention, resources, and respect, we all need to pay attention to the seemingly insignificant yet super-powerful daily ways that we all contribute to keeping maleness and the qualities of the masculine reigning supreme and how, by default, that keeps femaleness and qualities of the feminine subordinate.

Here’s are a few questions we can all ask ourselves:

  1. How am I contributing to the patriarchy?
  2. What am I taking for granted as normal that doesn’t need to be normal?
  3. In what ways do I assume male supremacy without even noticing?

The culture is not out there. We are the culture. If we want to change it, we can just get started changing it.

And for the love of God, guys, after you pee, put the toilet seat back down.

Over to you:

Does it drive you as nuts as it drives me when guys leave the seat up? What else really bugs you and what might it be symbolic of? Where do you notice assumptions about male dominance that you could perhaps be part of dismantling? Let me know in the comments!

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