shoe fits . . .
article was written in 1991 for a local
New York publication called the Environmental 91
By Cathleen and Colleen McGuire
While environmental crimes abound, we wish to direct
attention to a disgusting misdemeanor that receives little
publicity. It is the familiar sight of a man facing a wall,
his back huddled, hands at crotch level, polluting the
pavement with his urine.
Before continuing, let us be clear that we are not
referring to the homeless. The social conditions that reduce
citizenry to living in the streets is an outrage. In empathy,
we extend our tolerance toward homeless men trying to comply
with their bodily needs--often with strained dignity.
This opinion piece instead addresses non-homeless men of
all classes who assert an imagined privilege to urinate
in public spaces (especially when drinking). Just because
their penis is easily available with a zip of the pants does
not mean men have license to urinate whenever or wherever
they wish. At a minimum, it is rude and crude. More
significantly, though, urine is an (ob)noxious form of
pollution whose lingering stench fouls our urban communities.
We have never once seen a woman urinate publicly, although
it probably happens on occasion. The impediments may be due
to biology, dress or manners, not to mention women's
socialized propensity to suffer in silence. Also, many women
are trained to pick up after everyone else's garbage,
including their own, and thus don't tend to make public
Men on the other hand, from childhood on through
matrimony, are socialized to expect someone (mother? wife?
maid?) to clean up after them. If men (whose needs invariably
are given priority) would take greater responsibility for
their personal waste, maybe this would lead to an increase in
public toilets for both sexes.
Tired of smelly sidewalks and exposed genitals, we are
beginning to react. Standing at a cautious distance, we
loudly berate men who defile our neighborhood. Preoccupied as
they are, these men are captive audiences. Needless to say,
this is not our preferred mode of communication. Our specific
complaints, however, have been consistently shrugged off by
police officers and more often then not the men themselves.
Until a hue and cry translates into widespread public
toilets, how about sidewalk signs of the international
"no" symbol depicting a man urinating? They could
be posted next to "pooper scooper" signs. On a more
serious note, to you men who never urinate in public,
consider proactively challenging this socially unacceptable
male prerogative. When you see another man urinating in
public, please call him on it.
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