December 17, 2012

Female disregard for common or public spaces

A girl living in our house moved out this weekend, and I'm reminded again of how little they do to maintain a common, shared, or public space.

Usually the person moving out will clean the bathroom or something one last time, trying to leave it the same as or better than they found it. Nothing from this one, though, and she never did clean any of it during her semester-length stay here, other than Windexing the mirror once.

But with people moving in and out somewhat often, it's impossible to enforce a regular system of maintenance. You just don't know each other well enough. The only time I've had chick housemates who contributed to cleaning a common area was when our landlord, a grad student living in the house, made it a condition of renting -- you would be part of a weekly rotation of cleaning the bathroom.

Don't even look at, let alone enter into the bathroom shared by strangers in a freshman girls' dorm room or suite. They're so insistent on not playing the role of Cinderella to the wicked step-sisters, that no one ends up pitching in at all. So gross.

Then there's women's public bathrooms. Sometimes when the men's is occupied, I'll go into the women's instead, obviously only when it's made for a single person and locks. Guys, you wouldn't believe how much junk you'll find lying around on the floor there -- crumpled paper towels that missed the trash can, unused paper towels that must have come out too many at a time from the holder, random sheets of toilet paper, and the occasional bits of trash that also missed the trash can.

When a woman causes a piece of junk to fall to the ground in the bathroom, she isn't very likely to pick it up like a man would. "Oh shit... well, fuck it, somebody who works here will pick it up. I mean, it's like what they get paid to do." And of course none of the women after her will pick it up either -- "Who do these bitches think I am, expecting me to pick up their trash after them?"

A guy walking into such a situation is more likely to get angry that a bunch of slobs have messed the place up. He'd chew them out if he could find them, but since that ship has sailed, he'll just take one for the team and pick up some of the junk. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

A men's public restroom almost always looks nicer because those who use it feel like they're part of a team they haven't even met, and they're all willing to pitch in here and there to maintain the facilities. The only way it can get bad is if bums are allowed in -- they're almost always male, and one bum can really fuck a place up.

Sure, a slightly messier bathroom isn't the end of the world. But these behaviors generalize across all public, common, or shared spaces. Women are adapted to the private or domestic sphere, including only herself, her offspring, any of her own kin living there, and a boyfriend or husband if he's around too. They're great at keeping their home clean if it's their space. But once it becomes a space shared with anyone other than kin or a boyfriend/husband, lots of luck with having them join the teamwork.

Men are the opposite, more adapted to larger and broader social networks involving all manner of genetic strangers, and stretching far away from home base. So while they may tend to let their personal desk or their entire bedroom become too cluttered, that's only because their mind is on the maintenance of so many different spaces that they frequent. They're willing to let their own personal space suffer a bit, as long as they're pitching in to keep their various public spaces in decent shape. Besides, if they're living with a female family member or a girlfriend/wife, she'll probably clean up his spaces in the house, however annoyed she may get.

I don't think it's correct to see the difference as entitled behavior from women and generous behavior from men. If women are cleaning up after the men they live with, while the men take care of public spaces, then the two complement each other. But once you get girls living with housemates -- male or female -- then they start shirking their domestic-sphere duties, while also enjoying the efforts of males to preserve the public spaces.

So, it's females being single and childless for so long that lies at the root of this parasitic problem.

These examples are some of the most vivid you can point to whenever you hear someone complaining about how under-represented women are in any domain that involves teamwork. "If women ruled the world..." -- then our parks and plazas would become as crummy as a women's public bathroom.


  1. I think you may be being a little unfair to women here. Granted, what you say applies to many women, but not all.


  2. Its ultimately only about averages. For instance, wouldn't you agree that some men - particularly gays - do not maintain public spaces?

    At the same time, its probably true that women, on average, don't maintain public spaces. But a substantial minority of women do.


  3. I have worked as a restroom cleaner.

    Civilised people (i.e. the skilled workers in this place) treated the toilets more or less as well as they would at home. No problem there.

    The ground floor toilets were used by young menial workers. There were unidentified idiots or animals of both sexes. The gents were worse for piss on the floor (in huge puddles) and blockages. The female toilets were worse for toilet paper and paper hand towels littering the floor, and for absurd wastage of the hand towels (evidently some of them like to dry their hands using a huge wad, rather than two or three sheets). Controlling for frequency of use, the disabled toilets were worst of all: gobs of spit on the mirror, and feces on the walls.

    There was a clear sex difference in manners; the men were almost always polite or indifferent, whereas the female menial workers were often rude whenever they wanted to use the toilet when it was being cleaned (despite their ease of access to other toilets within a minute's walk). On the other hand, the friendliest people were also women.

    It didn't seem to me that anyone in the building took it upon themselves to pick litter up.

  4. Women just have much smaller but more focused personal horizons.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."