Loo Law: The Public Washroom as a Hyper-Regulated Place
29 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009
Date Written: January 6, 2009
The article suggests that the public washroom is the most regulated of all public spaces, at least in the United States. It offers several possible explanations for this hyper-juridical attention. First and foremost, the article argues, such hyper-regulation of the public washroom has to do with the sanitary and moral significance of this space. Secondly, the intensity of washroom regulation is due to its ambiguous public/private properties. Finally, the intense regulation of the public washroom is the result of physio-anatomical functions performed in it. Utilizing the State of New York as a lens through which to observe the various issues raised by what it refers to as "loo law," the article unravels the regulatory regime that governs this mundane and somewhat unattended to space. This exploration of the minute operations of law is also the basis for broader claims made in this article about the relationship between law and architectural design. Mainly, the article argues that legal norms not only reflect certain cultural norms and practices but that, through their physical manifestation, these cultural norms and practices are also standardized and fixed by legal norms. Hence, the combined work of law and architectural design renders certain norms and practices - e.g. the gender-based segregation of washrooms or our sitting posture on toilet seats - more rigid and less changeable, in turn accounting for what we tend to consider as our second nature.
Keywords: Law and Geography, regulation and inspection of commercial washrooms, public/private divide, hygiene and spatial design, law and architecture, legal pluralism, gendered spaces, Science and Technology Studies
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation