One More Problem With The Bathroom Bill In North Carolina

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” and the similar ones in other states are problematic in so many ways. They don’t offer any real new protections, and they do endanger transgender individuals. Courts may determine that they are constitutional violations, and they are costing the state business, as companies that pride themselves on diversity decide to place their offices elsewhere. They are also going to cost the taxpayers as they proceed through the courts. North Carolina’s, for one, also includes other problematic portions unrelated to bathroom issues, which constitute the state’s grab of power from local governments.

These are things you can hear from an endless stream of activists fighting the bill and from attorneys who see legal problems with it. A piece from local news outlet WRAL details some of these: North Carolina’s bathroom bill removes the right to sue for discrimination (not just LGBT discrimination — if you’re fired for your race, religion, marital status, or gender, that falls here too) at the state level; will force trans males into female bathrooms regardless of anatomy (the opposite of the claimed purpose of the bill) and trans females into male bathrooms; and has caused businesses to cancel plans of expanding into the state.

According to Recode, a long list of tech companies have joined a list opposing the bathroom bill, with one exec sending out a memo saying, “I am not comfortable deploying dollars into startups [in North Carolina] until the voters there fix this.”

Again, you will hear those points on almost every news channel, in your Facebook feed, and on protest signs. I don’t want to diminish or detract from the dangers of the bathroom bill to trans individuals, but I do want to talk about something that I am not seeing anyone else talk about.

The entire attitude around the bill is misogynistic, patriarchal, and possessive.

It’s always about “our” women, “our” wives, and “our” daughters.

I’ve read a lot about this bill, particularly the bathroom aspects, in part because I have loved ones who are directly affected. Everywhere I look, the comments center on “our” women.

There are even men promising violence if a trans woman (or someone they assume is one) comes near “their” women. Check out the following comment on Herman Cain’s Facebook post about the bathroom bill.

Bathroom bill leads to threats
[Image via Facebook]

“Herman, if it’s only one stall, no problem. If it’s two or more stalls, big problem. If my wife needs to use that restroom, I will stand at the door. And yes I carry. No problem.”

He isn’t alone.

Below is a photo from 1960 displays another time when a separate bathroom for one group was a norm.

Bathroom bill separates one group of people.
[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Some of the most violent threats I have seen can’t be reproduced here due to language or slurs.

It all comes back to the idea that not only do women need men to protect them, we need men to tell us we need their protection and to give it to us quite forcefully.

Look at these words — they follow a pattern. It’s never “my wife will not allow [this person] in the bathroom with her,” but consistently, “I will not allow.” Never is it a statement that a woman has a right to protect herself but consistently an emphasis that a man has the right to protect his women.

Don’t misunderstand — there are certainly women who oppose the bathroom bill, but their voices are drowned out by the men who want to protect “our wives and daughters,” generally without any apparent desire for input from these wives and daughters. They want to protect their wives from some imagined threat in a bathroom, from a person who probably just wants to use the toilet, either via legislation (how many of these same folks say laws won’t prevent gun violence, just harm legal gun owners, but think that bathroom laws will somehow keep out actual offenders?) or with their big manly muscles or guns.

Even this tweet, from a man who suggests that his wife could carry her gun in the bathroom for her own protection, still affirms his own position as the one to “let” someone into the bathroom with her.

Notice that despite cases of boys being raped by men in locker rooms, these folks aren’t concerned about men in a public bathroom or locker room with their sons, or if they are, they aren’t pushing legislation to prevent it or yelling about it on Twitter. They want to protect their women from men and people they define as men (despite those individuals’ own identity, which is entirely another kind of misogyny, awful in its own right). They want their bathroom bill to protect women from people they think might be men, women they presumably don’t think look feminine enough.

Although this case took place in England, there has already been one reported incident of a woman being harassed and kicked out of a fast-food establishment because someone thought she was male and she entered a female bathroom. Yet another type of misogyny — women who don’t fit their tight definition of “feminine” are just not women enough for the bathroom, apparently, and need to show identification.

Once more this is about controlling women under the guise of protection. It’s telling women whether they qualify as women, telling women whether they’re allowed in a bathroom, telling women who is allowed in their bathrooms. The bathroom bill is absolutely about attacking trans people, but it’s also very much about keeping women “in their place” and maintaining dominance and control.

[Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images]