‘Unpleasant and unnecessary’: Emma Barnett sparks conversation on sanitary bins squeezed into women’s toilets

‘There is no need for a period bin to graze my thigh in any loo,’ says Woman’s Hour host

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 16 June 2021 10:40
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Broadcaster Emma Barnett has sparked a debate about the size and design of women’s toilet cubicles on social media after pointing out how cramped they can be with the inclusion of sanitary bins.

On Tuesday, the BBC radio host shared a photograph of a toilet cubicle she uses “most days” at work.

In the caption, she explained how the space has been poorly arranged. “Every time most women sit on it - the sanitary towel bin will brush up against their thigh,” she wrote.

“Unpleasant and unnecessary right? And yet this is a pretty newly designed loo cubicle. If you retro fit us into design we notice.”

The Woman’s Hour host continued: “There is no need for a period bin to graze my thigh in any loo. Or be so badly designed it doesn’t open properly.

“If there even is one at all in the cubicle. (I also make these comments with the proviso that we are very lucky to have sanitation and such provision at all).”

Barnett went on to reference Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women, published in 2019, in which she explains how design and data is led by men’s needs, and how all public toilets were traditionally designed to use the same amounts of space despite differing requirements.

However, due to factors such as menstruation, pregnancy, being accompanied by children and not using a urinal, Criado Perez points out that women typically take up to 2.3 times as long as men to use the toilet, arguing that this alone is an indicator that larger spaces would be preferable.

Barnett went on in her post to explain some of the findings she uncovered while researching for her book, Period.

“It was eye-opening to learn how some of the most modern companies, such as Apple and Fitbit, simply forgot about [periods],” she wrote, noting how the period emoji was repeatedly blocked by tech companies.

“It is part of a bigger and more worrying trend of othering women - making us seem different, dirty or less than. Or simply forgetting we exist. Period,” she added.

Many people commented on Barnett’s post agreeing that toilet cubicles for women should be bigger.

“Yes! I notice this all the time! And the twisting to put stuff in the bin is also ridiculous!” commented one person.

Another added: “I notice this all the time and hate it!!! I wash my hands after using the loo but I can’t wash my thigh. Thank you for talking about it publicly.”

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