Jun 20, 2022 - 23 min
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Privacy, at a price. For decades, US cities have been closing or neglecting public restrooms, leaving millions with no place to go. Here’s how a lack of toilets became an American affliction. Widespread restroom closures in the early days of the pandemic underscored a longer-standing shortage of hygiene facilities in US cities. So how did Americans end up with so few places to go? Elizabeth Yuko explores the societal and sanitary conditions behind public restrooms in American cities and the moral panics that created their creation and downfall. “The presence or absence of restrooms in public spaces has long been an indication of a particular group’s place in society, says Laura Norén, a postdoctoral associate at New York University and co-editor of Toilet: The Public Restroom and the Politics of Sharing. From women to people of color to those with disabilities, vulnerable communities have struggled to have this most fundamental of needs accommodated. Most recently, transgender individuals have found themselves targeted in bathroom-backlash debates.”
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