Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness

There is no biological reason why individuals shouldn't be more considerate - be they men, women or strangers on a train

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Did Maria Crapper (1837-1902) ever scold her husband for leaving the toilet seat up? I ask because it’s Thomas Crapper Day this Tuesday, the day when a nation comes together to give thanks for the flushing toilet and commemorate the legacy of the aptly named plumber who helped popularise it. What do you mean, you weren’t planning anything special?

This year, the occasion is even more significant than usual, because it comes only days after a landmark German legal ruling on toilet tort. A landlord in Düsseldorf was seeking €1,900 (£1,400) from a male tenant to pay for damage to his marble lavatory floor. While the judge agreed that uric acid (from wee-wee landing where it shouldn’t) had caused damage, he ruled in favour of the tenant. “Despite growing domestication of men in this matter, urinating while standing up is still common practice,” said the (male) Judge Stefan Hank. He also warned that men who insist on standing “must expect occasional rows with housemates, especially women”.

The judgment has been welcomed around the world as an affirmation of a man’s right to do what comes naturally. But what does come naturally? Is it basic biology that determines how men and women behave in shared spaces? Or are there also cultural expectations at work here? In Germany, for instance, signs encouraging men to sit while they urinate appear in many public bathrooms, but men who abide by these instructions are given the derogative nickname “Sitzpinkler”.

A related issue has been debated in New York since the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority launched an advertising campaign last December to discourage “manspreading”. This term refers to the (mostly male) habit of sitting with legs wide apart on public transport, so that one’s lower limbs invade the personal space of others seated or standing near by.

However noble the intentions, all this gendering of bad behaviour hasn’t proved very helpful so far. Scolding only reinforces the sexist and insulting assumption that men are too inherently selfish or stupid to moderate their behaviour and selfless women must therefore do all the accommodating. There is no biological reason why the onus shouldn’t simply be on individuals to be more considerate. Be they men, women or strangers on a train.

A kick the Government needs

You may struggle to take seriously an activist group that names its operation after Harry Potter characters, but Anonymous never needed anyone’s approval anyway. This week, the hacktivists announced “Operation DeathEaters”, aimed at tackling international child abuse rings and bringing their members to justice. “The operation’s objectives are clear and simple,” said a statement, “source public information before it disappears, push for independent enquiry, and offer support to witnesses and the victims where needed.”

Be afraid, high-ranking members of the “paedosadist industry”, but also be afraid anyone who values due process. Leaving the investigation of such a serious crime in the hands of such a shadowy organisation presents clear legal and ethical problems – yet, in effect, that’s exactly what the Home Office has done. Following the death of the former home secretary Lord Brittan, who allegedly mislaid the Dickens dossier of evidence on a VIP Westminster paedophile ring, the prospect of an independent inquiry taking place seems even more remote.

Could Anonymous do what it claims? It’s difficult to assess the group’s real-world influence and those politicians, peers and judges who make up the British establishment would seem among the least able to do so. That’s the Pascal’s Wager of our digital age; we’re not sure if the internet is as all-powerful as some claim, but, in the absence of any real understanding, it’s best to be on the safe side. There is an upside to this: if Anonymous’s threat of “help” is a scary enough prospect, it might provide the Government with a necessary impetus to action.

The blagging cheek of it

Crowdfunding – aka begging for posh people – must have seemed like an innovative use of technology when it got going around 2013, but the online fundraising technique is fast turning into a public nuisance. Exhibit A: the breathtakingly cheeky Tom Packer, a 26-year-old “cocktail bartender and occasional writer” from Norwich who’s looking for love. All the best to him, you might think, but I’m afraid it’s not your good wishes that Tom is after. Having discovered that dating costs money, Tom has set up an Indiegogo page to raise £1,300 in spending money from the public.

Sites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo are increasingly chocka with chancers like Tom. They think nothing of asking complete stranger to donate to their dream holiday, or night out on the tiles or that new laptop, necessary so she can “catch up with Breaking Bad”, and they’re all bare-faced blaggers. All, that is, except my favourite Nineties girl group TLC, who are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album. You should donate to that one.

All that glitters can be gold

Glitter, the stuff you stick on home-made Christmas cards when you’re eight, might seem like a substance with limited application in adult life. Not so, as demonstrated by 22-year-old Australian Mathew Carpenter, who’s made $85,000 in less than two weeks via his website ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com. Our mistake was to think of glitter as merely decorative, when in fact it’s a powerful weapon of psychological warfare with a special capacity to linger. Three weeks after first contact with the contaminant, you’ll still be sheepishly shimmering in business meetings. That’s fine if you happen to work in Studio 54, but not ideal for the rest of us.

Wind of change

Oliver Cromwell didn’t think much of Magna Carta, the charter of liberties that turns 800 this year. In David Starkey’s Magna Carta, which is broadcast tomorrow evening, the historian notes that the Lord Protector dismissed it as “Magna Farta”. Sadly, much like Magna Carta itself, Cromwell’s quip has been mangled over the years. Urbandictionary.com defines Magna Farta as “A contract between partners giving the other permission to fart freely.” It is “signed” the first time one partner openly breaks wind in front of the other.

Twitter.com/@MsEllenEJones

Comments