This is a feminist issue because... MOA bathroom


I had just gotten off of work and was waiting for my friend to pick me up when I noticed this bathroom and the graphic that was plastered on it.


I know our unit on family values was a few weeks ago, but I felt compelled to take a picture of this because it sparked some questions in my mind... How are small, everyday actions, visuals, and words perpetuating our views on family? How does this picture create curiosity and destroy curiosity at the same time? It leaves out so many family types... and is even the color white. It leaves no room for variety and is overtly stating what the "real" family is supposed to be. How can other places and organizations be more conscious of what they are really portraying and who they are leaving out?


  1. This post did make me "curious." I do think that it is slightly ridiculous to post a sign of a "normal" family up on the door, and I understand how this can be an unsettling issue for quite a few people. I found an article about family restrooms that made it sound like they are actually made with a lot more in mind that just for family use. A lot of the time it is easier for transgender or for a person with special needs to use them. I picture that the times when it is actually a family using this type of bathroom is due to a mother wanting to change her baby, or because she has multiple children with her. A more appropriate sign and possibly even name for this type of restroom should come into play.

  2. I wonder why there even need to be pictures to go along with signs for restrooms? I can see that children who cannot read need to be able to identify which restroom they should go to- but shouldn't a parent or guardian be with them anyway to tell them where to go? It is one of the very few types of signs in our society that has more than just lettering. In most cases, the way gender is portrayed on restroom signs is very out-dated and narrow-minded. Traditional signs have a person in a dress to go along with the woman restroom and a person in straight pants to go along with the man restroom.

    Here is a link to a feministing article that has some other, more unusual pictures for restroom signs: (I don't know how to link in comments)
    There were a variety of ways to portray the 'identity' of the restroom by the picture on the sign. How a person has sex, a person's genitalia, how a person actually goes to the bathroom and what a person wears.

  3. Before even reading your comments about this picture, I had the same thoughts and feelings that you did. Whose to say that the family that walks in that bathroom is white, has a mom and dad, and children? Like you said, there are TONS of other kids of families out there, and this type of family it so abnormal these days. Don't quote me on this, but aren't half of marriages turned into divorces now of days? If I were to ever walk into a family bathroom, my dad would not be present. Maybe they were just trying to generalize and that's the best way they could do it? Very strange still... No picture should have gone up at all. It should be a picture of like a sink then. Or is there a universal sign for bathroom/ toilet? Like Kensie said, they definitely need to work on a new sign for this one..

  4. I completely agree that this picture does indeed represent a very skewed representation of a typical family unit, but I guess I would pose the question of what a new sign would look like, because signs are necessary. (Say a foreigner came without much foreknowledge of bathroom etiquette in the U.S., thus signs help and make things much easier). Would it do to make the sign black? Pink? Green? And then what can be used to represent family? I think that it is basically impossible to produce an all-encompassing sign to represent all types of families, so perhaps the other solution would be to call them something other than family restrooms. I've seen them called companion restrooms to indicate more than one person. However, in the end, i think that the most important aspect of this is that people recognize that the sign itself is simply a representation of the word family and that a family can be groups of people very different from the depicted symbol.

  5.    I'm not shocked by this. Mall of America is a national and international attraction. I doubt that everyone who goes there speaks English, our national language. Having people of different size and gender seems to be more inclusive than exclusive. I would think that places need to stick to generalized signs in order to communicate to the masses who should/shouldn't be in the bathroom. If I were visiting a foreign country, I would hope that there would be a stereotypical person in a dress on the restroom for females. Yes, this could lead to a completely different topic--should bathrooms be gender neutral?--but, I digress... Also, I like what Kensie brought up; these are built with transgender people and people with special needs in mind. I'm sure it is harder for transgender people or intersexuals to feel comfortable in male-only or female-only restrooms, and I don't often think about handicapped or special needs individuals' restroom needs. I'm sure for those who need help using the restroom, it makes it less awkward if the caretaker is of a different gender.
       Addressing the color thing, I think that it would look tacky to add a fifth color. There's already blue, green, orange, and white. Also, the infant is orange; are we to assume that the baby is Latino/a, "fake bakes" too much, or is addicted to self-tanning cream? Was it adopted or from a previous marriage? Maybe the baby was just a different color to show contrast with the mother. How do we know that these aren't two separate families: a single/married dad and his child and a single/married mom and hers? Maybe the female or male is a nanny or an au pair. Maybe one or more individuals is trangender or intersexual. Maybe the sign is depicting a gay father and lesbian mother with his/her respective child, or maybe the sign is depicting a handicapped male and a single mother of two. Maybe what we think is a child standing between the "father" and "mother" is really a dwarf or little person, possibly a parent of said "father" and "mother." Maybe this sign is really promoting non-traditional families, but we just don't see it since the depictions are much too ambiguous for us to be able to tell.

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This page contains a single entry by A&W published on May 1, 2010 5:58 PM.

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