An Ode To The Girls’ Bathroom

by Bri Kane


Ever since we were young, we’ve been told to bring someone with us to the bathroom — it started with your mom or your big sister and morphed into your friends, or just some other girl. We all know why — because girls by themselves get kidnapped, assaulted, and lost. But what not everyone realizes is this unofficial protection led to something amazing: the girls’ bathroom is the absolute best. Every girl can confirm that although public restrooms are notoriously dirty, girls’ bathrooms are also magical. It’s important to clarify that this includes all people in the girls’ bathroom, which means trans women as well. In a girls’ public bathroom, especially at a bar or a party, you can make friends, get life advice, and find out where that girl got that dress that has pockets! 

There are some basic rules of decorum in a girls’ public bathroom, like always give a girl a menstrual product if she needs one — I know I’m not the only cis woman who’s been there, and has the stains to prove it. Also, if you see a girl crying or getting sick, alone, it is your duty to help her get it together, get her friends, and get home safe. I could never count how many taxis and Ubers I’ve called for complete strangers because we met in the girls’ bathroom — it’s just what you do. Feminism is about helping fellow girls, right? There are some other unspoken rules, like if someone asks where you got your lipstick/outfit/shoes, you must answer truthfully, because we’re all just trying to live life beautifully. Girls will fix your hair, help you reapply your lipstick, help you with S.O. problems, and tell you what the drink specials are — all while talking over the stall door, or across the sinks.

I know I’m not alone in this: There’s a whole thread on Reddit about the unofficial rules of a public girls’ bathroom. This thread listed absolutes like: “If you see a lady with her skirt tucked into the back of her underwear, you have to say something before she leaves the restroom. Even if you don’t know her; even if she is a bitch,” “Pretend not to hear pee farts,” and “Always warn the other girls if there’s no toilet paper.” Truly, is there anything more devious than finishing the toilet paper and not warning the next person? I think not. The communal unspoken rules really boil down to: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and always help a girl out.

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Lots of wonderful things happen in public girls’ bathrooms, like girls decorating the walls or mirrors with positive affirmations. I know I don’t speak only for myself when I say I could really use all mirrors to compliment me before I examine that giant pimple. Girls’ bathrooms also sometimes have posters explaining a secret drink one could order to subtly tell the bartender they are unsafe or need a ride home ASAP. The graffiti in the girls’ room is bar none as well — I’ve seen countless bathroom stalls calling me beautiful and independent, and telling me which creepy guys on campus to stay clear of. Girls lookin’ out for girls starts in the bathroom. Any girl who says she doesn’t sometimes stay in the bathroom talking for 15 minutes after she’s done and washed her hands is a liar, because chatting in the bathroom with other girls is life.

But why the bathroom specifically, you ask; why don’t girls just do this everywhere? Well, they kind of do, but the magic of the girls’ bathroom is simple: a space without men to openly discuss femininity and “women’s issues” is rare, to say the least, and yet the bathroom is always there to do so. For trans women specifically, joining the party that is the girls’ public bathroom can be important and joyous. Given how much buzz there has been about “bathroom bills” and the myth of the trans sexual predator in the bathroom, making sure trans women can access the freedom of the girls’ public bathroom is a vital part of feminism and also just basic decenct behavior. 

Men will manspread and mansplain their hearts out – but not in the girls’ room. People will cringe and side-eye you if you talk about period cramps, tampons, or blood stains openly — but not in the girls’ room. A flight attendant from Alaska Airlines even utilized the wondrousness of the girls’ bathroom to help a girl she thought was being sex trafficked — honestly, the girls’ room saves lives and sanity on a regular basis.

I’ve made so many lifelong or temporary friends in the girls’ bathroom and gotten so many shoe recommendations and countless assists with pulling up my skinniest of skinny jeans. The glory of the girls’ bathroom is that it’s a place for girls to be their caring, funny, authentic selves. We look out for each other, help each other, and we always hold the stall door closed if the lock is broken. I’m convinced Nirvana is an immaculately clean bathroom with a couch, a free tampon dispenser, and all my new and old best friends.

Header photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons/Khrystinasnell

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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