Toilet Talk: A Rythmanalysis of All-gender Inclusion

Annika Skoglund, Robin Holt

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    The recent media discussions about all-gender-inclusive toilet signs have brought to light the organizational presence and force of an otherwise neglected but necessary space for our bodily needs. The toilet is normally thought of as servicing what Lefebvre calls ‘secret rhythms’, the physiological, natural rhythms of a sick or healthy body (Lefebvre, 2013:27). Now aware of the toilet as a space that can be signed differently, we can no longer treat it simply as a facility for physiological logistics and ordering. Instead, the toilet is becoming apparent as a space complicit with an everyday, repetitive organisation of the body through what Lefebvre calls ‘public and fictional rhythms’, i.e. social expressions and the imaginary (ibid). In particular, the protracted negotiations and media discussions about toilet signs going on in various states of the US and Europe, has brought gender diversity to the fore by recognizing, and sometimes acknowledging, the existence of transgender and intersex people (also see Edgerton, 1964:1288; Gershenson, 2009). Those happily (or thoughtlessly) categorized within the biological sex provided to them by institutions at birth are simultaneously invited to question the way they have been rhythmically organized into a binary position to perhaps reach beyond it, where the imaginary gender or futuristic genderless awaits.
    As Lefebvre suggests, talk of toilets is often uncomfortable, not something typically done, and as such the organising force of such a space goes unacknowledged, not least its capacity to enforce instituted gender ascriptions. As if to enforce and echo this, the toilet is considered architecturally as an inconsequential space, tucked away, visited quickly and thoughtlessly; hardly a space of any serious consequence. Yet quotidian forces are often the most pervasive, and the toilet, we will argue, is no exception to this. Indeed in many ways it provides space for inquiring into very basic conditions of what it is to be organized as a human being, in the company of others similarly organized. Our study is of one such space in Uppsala, Sweden, a renamed ‘hir’ toilet that has been the seat of some controversy upon its inauguration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventDiverse Organizing/Organizational Diversity: Methodological Questions and Activist Practices - Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
    Duration: 2 May 20173 May 2017


    WorkshopDiverse Organizing/Organizational Diversity
    LocationCopenhagen Business School
    Internet address

    Cite this