Up Front by Emma Hart


For Your Own Safety

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a cricket game at Hagley Oval, because that’s what I do in summer. The oddest thing about it wasn’t that the Black Caps won, it was the toilets. For the second time in a game I’d been to, the portaloos were gender-segregated.

It’s an odd thing to do because it takes more work. You have to estimate how many women are going to attend, in order to work out how many pink (not even kidding) loos you’re going to need. The first time around, it appears they got it horribly wrong, and the queues for the toilets were horrendous. The second time was better, but even so, it has to be more inefficient. For reasons that I hope are obvious, having (for instance) five pink loos for fifty women and ten green loos for 100 men is less efficient than having 15 loos for 150 people. So why do it?

People made mistakes all day. I watched a man wander into the women’s side just in front of me and then realise what he’d done. “It’s free,” I said. “Just use it.” But he couldn’t, because all his friends were just outside laughing at him.

And he was a cis man. He wasn’t being forced to make a fraught decision about where to pee that might risk his own safety.

Can’t we just have unisex toilets everywhere? And if, for some weird reason we can’t, can’t we let all women use the women’s, and all men use the men’s, instead of trying to force some men to use the women’s and some women to use the men’s?

People are concerned, apparently, for the safety of women. Not all women, of course, and not the women at most risk in toilets. Just cis women. Who are apparently at risk of an epidemic of violence from trans women.

When I was eight years old, I was attacked in a women’s toilet by a man. Weirdly, there were no Gender Police on the door to stop him coming in.

If you genuinely care about people’s safety, maybe concentrate a bit less on imaginary threats, and get behind measures to protect us from real threats.

I was heartened, in this time of Political Armageddon, to see that the National Party has changed its mind and decided to support Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill through to Select Committee.

The most dangerous time for someone in a violent relationship is immediately after they leave. Even going into a refuge doesn’t keep someone safe if they still have to go to work. Their abusive partner knows where they work. They know where the children go to school. If you can’t take a few days off without risking your job and your economic independence, you might die. It’s a real threat.

And yes, I know there’s a cost to employers. But do they really want to say, “Paying for someone to take leave on next to no notice and arranging cover for them, like I’d have to do if someone in their family died, is just too much trouble. I’d rather they got beaten up on my doorstep.”

It’s not even just about taking leave. As the bill explicitly states, it might be about letting the employee work from home, or at a different branch, or for different hours. Reading the bill, I found it pragmatic and actually quite conservative.

I’ve no idea what Family First’s position on it is, and here’s a tip for the Herald: I don’t give a shit.

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