Potty parity in perspective: Gender and family issues in planning and designing public restrooms

H. Kathryn Anthony, Meghan Dufresne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public restrooms are among the few remaining sex-segregated spaces in the American landscape, tangible relics of gender discrimination. This article describes how public restrooms have historically discriminated by class, race, physical ability, sexual orientation, as well as gender. It examines how public restrooms pose special health and safety problems for women, men, children, elderly, persons with disabilities, and caregivers. It chronicles potty parity legislation, examining impacts of and backlash from recent laws. It presents new developments signaling a growing international movement and a quiet restroom revolution: the newly formed World Toilet Organization, American Restroom Association, increased family and unisex restrooms, and technological inventions such as automatic self-cleaning public toilets. It proposes innovative solutions about how twenty-first-century public restrooms can make cities more livable; offers roles for planners, designers, and civic officials, and suggests new research directions. Sources include an extensive literature review of relevant legal research, scholarly publications, and media coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-294
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Planning Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Discrimination
  • Gender
  • Livable cities
  • Public restrooms
  • Toilets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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