How Public Restrooms Shape the Gender Order
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Today’s debates about transgender inclusion and public restrooms may seem unmistakably contemporary, but they have a surprisingly long and storied history in the United States—one that concerns more than mere “potty politics.” Alexander K. Davis takes readers behind the scenes of two hundred years’ worth of conflicts over the existence, separation, and equity of gendered public restrooms, documenting at each step how bathrooms have been entangled with bigger cultural matters: the importance of the public good, the reach of institutional inclusion, the nature of gender difference, and, above all, the myriad privileges of social status. Chronicling the debut of nineteenth-century “comfort stations,” twentieth-century mandates requiring equal-but-separate men’s and women’s rooms, and twenty-first-century uproar over laws like North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” Davis reveals how public restrooms are far from marginal or unimportant social spaces. Instead, they are—and always have been—consequential sites in which ideology, institutions, and inequality collide.
Praise For Bathroom Battlegrounds: How Public Restrooms Shape the Gender Order…
“Essential. All readership levels.”
"Davis finds that bathrooms have consistently been entangled with larger cultural matters such as the public good, the reach of institutional inclusion, the nature of gender difference, and, above all, the myriad privileges of social status."
— Law & Social Inquiry
"This work is an important contribution to scholarship on gender, boundary work, organizations, and citizenship. Davis’s work is simultaneously empirically and theoretically driven and easy to read."
— American Journal of Sociology
University of California Press, 9780520300156, 320pp.
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
About the Author
Alexander K. Davis is Lecturer at Princeton University, where he studies gender, sexuality, and social inequality through the lens of cultural and organizational sociology.