Thursday, 15 May 2008

Women and Toilet Seats

One thing which I have never understood is why women get so very upset when men leave toilet seats up. They make such a fuss about this issue that it has entered popular culture as a factor and I heard it included on a radio advertisement today as something ensured to infuriate women. Maybe someone can write in and tell me what the problem is. Do women reverse up to toilets without looking at the situation first? As a man I come at the toilet face first even if I am to defecate, I do not take my trousers down and reverse into the toilet. Of course it may be that not only the seat is down or not down, but also the lid as well. Men are considerate when the left the toilet seat when urinating, it is only young boys who do not and run the risk of getting urine on the seat and surely that is far worse than women taking a few seconds to put down a seat that is up. Is this simply a British issue? Is it because we would rather chide each other about manners and household rules than discuss politics or the state of the World?

I developed a principle in my youth that how I left the toilet seat depended on the gender balance of the house I was visiting. It was what I called the '49% principle', that is if the make up of the household was 49% or more female, then I would put it down. If the female percentage was less than 49% then I left it up. This erred on the side of caution, as if I went to a house with simply a husband and a wife, this is a 50%/50% balance between the genders so on my principle the seat would go down, but if the couple had a son, then the female ratio would have fallen to 33.3% and the seat stayed up. Of course for many women they just do not care, if they are only 1% of the household which is otherwise male, they still get angry that the seat is left up. What always astounds me is the level of fury about this issue over something so trivial. It is equivalent to not taking your shoes off when you enter the house or not washing your hands when you sit down to a meal or not waiting for grace before a meal: in some houses these are things that are not done in others they are vital, but as a guest if you get it wrong you are not shrieked at and it is not referred to repeatedly through the rest of the day. (As an aside, my priestly manner, not something I cultivate but seemed to have been lumbered with not only means that people confess things to me but also often expect me to say grace before a meal, which is ironic given the only church services I attend are weddings and the occasional funeral and have not been to either since the start of the 2000s). These days I have given up on trying to please anyone and rather than refraining from using the toilet on all visits to people's houses, I now simply put down everything, the seat, the lid, the full works. Ironically no-one complains about that, presumably assuming that constantly my faeces are malodorous. This is despite the fact that for all users whether male or female having to lift the lid expends more energy that simply lowering the seat.

What angers me is women who are regularly humiliated in public by their husbands never seem to contest that, but then if their husband leaves the seat up they go at him severely. This begs the question, why on that issue and not on everything else far worse that he is doing? This has led me to surmise that women see the toilet seat issue as one on which they can 'legitimately' get back at men on. Is our society still so constrained or men's responses so violent that women feel they cannot challenge men's behaviour in any other sphere?

Women need to calm down about toilet seats and do not, if this in fact the case (and no woman I have witnessed using a toilet does so) walk in backwards not paying attention to the set up of the toilet. If you have a problem with the man in your life do not simply go on to him about what he does with the seat, challenge his other behaviour, which generally says a great deal more about your relationship than what he or your visitors do with the toilet seat.

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