SO, there I was, heading to the ladies during the interval at a London theatre when something astonishing caught my eye. It was a queue. For the gents.
I was so stunned to see blokes lining up outside a lav that I took a photo. I know. I too am amazed security didn’t ask me to leave.
Anyway, the point is: men queuing for toilets. I mean, wow!
I’m not having a go at men – it isn’t their fault they’re made the way they are. But the oddity of that scene illustrated the disparity between the sexes when it comes to spending a penny.
Why? Well, welcome to gender bias in architecture.
Like many other things we live in a world designed by one sex but used by everyone.
When it comes to loos women usually have more clothes, more bags and sometimes small children to deal with. But toilets are designed to be of equal size when, actually, ladies need a third more cubicles.
And it doesn’t stop with lavatories.
The formula to decide a standard office temperature was developed in the 1960s around the resting rate of the average bloke. But a recent study found the resting rates of women is lower. That means most offices are five degrees too cold for women and explains why we sit in scarves while men are in shirt sleeves.
Ever struggled to reach the Weetabix on the shelf in the supermarket? Yep, designed for the taller sex.
Ever decided to do a spot of DIY? Chances are, if you’re a woman, your hand won’t fit around that wrench. Too small, you see. Too feminine.
And should you ever feel the need to don a stab vest, perhaps as a female police office, be prepared to be jolly uncomfortable. And not entirely protected.
If these seem like trifles then perhaps, taken individually, they are. But they all add up to a serious issue – that the world in which we all live is not fit for purpose for around half the population.
Never mind the gender pay gap, what we have here in 2019 is a gender data gap; great, yawning chasms of information about how everyday things and everyday life affect women.
It’s the result of centuries of it being “a man’s world”; of designing around “the average man”.
And it has to stop.
International Women’s Day fell this month and it feels this year it’s more important than ever to mark it.
Yes, it should be a celebration of the achievements of women. But it must also be a platform to say “we’re not done yet”.
The truth is, compared to my mum’s era – when it was still ok for girls in bikinis to be used to flog cars – we’re writing and taking about feminism more than ever.
And that’s a great thing. The fact that we’re still doing it, however, is a bad thing.
There is clearly so much more that needs to be done.
And if you’re a fella? Well, don’t feel left out. Campaign on behalf of your wives and girlfriends and daughters and sisters.
It’s not your fault the system is as it is.
But it is your fault – it is everyone’s fault – if we don’t strive to change it.
IN the list of things to look forward to in life having a cervical smear ranks quite low.
And I get why. They take up precious time. They’re invasive and a bit embarrassing.
And trying to make small talk during one is about as comfortable as piles which, come to think of it, is often another reason not to expose your nethers to a stranger.
So, I’m not surprised at the sharp decline in women going for the test – now at a shocking 20-year low.
Shocking because to willfully ignore something that may save your life is madness.
Now the government is launching a campaign to bust some of the myths surrounding smears.
The fact that this is the first national drive of any kind tells its own story. This is a public health emergency which should have been tackled years ago.
But something is being done so now it’s our turn girls. We must take advantage of what’s on offer.
After all, nobody ever died of embarrassment.