EDIA 101: Bathroom Panic!

Join us for our first-ever EDIA 101 Series discussion on why we have gender-neutral washrooms at UCalgary.  We will learn about the history, myths and misconceptions surrounding gender-neutral washrooms and engage in meaningful discussion about our experiences in Mathison Hall. 

Recent changes in building codes now allow for gender-inclusive (also called all-gender, barrier-free, or gender neutral) restrooms. Their design and integration into public spaces of the university is a significant shift from societal conventions of segregated gender-binary restrooms. Unfortunately, yet expectantly, this shift has raised anxieties over how we perceive our privacy and security in a vulnerable space.

Dr. Rebecca Sullivan, PhD, a leading scholar in gender and sexuality studies, will review the academic literature on restroom access and what she calls “the gender breach”: a re-ordering of public space beyond the gender binary. There has been considerable public and political debate suggesting that this breach compromises expectations of privacy and security. However, there is no evidence of a rise in violations and many hypothetical scenarios play into what is called “panic” discourse: the framing of a public issue that seeks to first invoke strong, negative emotional reactions before marshalling an argument to justify that reaction. We are all susceptible to panic discourses, even more so with the proliferation of algorithmically ordered social media networks. That doesn’t mean that our concerns aren’t real or worthy of consideration. Thus, this session will invite an open and respectful conversation about balancing rights of access with perceptions of privacy and security in public restrooms.

Sullivan is a professor in the Department of English and past coordinator of the Women’s Studies program (since renamed Gender and Sexuality Studies) at the University of Calgary. She is past Chair of the Sexuality Studies Association and served in numerous capacities on the board of Outlink: Calgary’s Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. She is the author/editor of eight books, including Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performance and Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Not a Love Story

Date: February 6, 2023
Time: 2 - 3 p.m.
Location: Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue, 3rd floor Mathison Hall, UCalgary main campus

Co-sponsored by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion


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