The official Twitter account for Switzerland’s Zurich Airport replied Friday morning to a woman complaining about lengthy wait times at women’s restrooms by suggesting she take her grievances up with Mother Nature.
A Twitter user going by the name Laura Roldan posted two photographs showing long lines at the bathrooms in the terminal. When, she asked in an accompanying caption, was “the airport going to solve the problem with the ladies toilets?”
Hi Laura, we are very sorry to hear you had to wait. There are many toilets all over the gate. we hope at your next visit at Zurich Airport everything will work smoothly! Best regards from ZRH
— Zurich Airport (@zrh_airport) June 21, 2019
Zurich suggested Roldan try one of the “many toilets all over the gate.” When Roldan continued to press her case, the airport delivered a more blunt response:
Women need 2.5 x the provision that men need.
— Clare James (@clarerjames13) June 21, 2019
The airport’s response sparked a flurry of rebukes from feminists on Twitter, who jumped in to defend Roldan and chastise Zurich.
“If there was ‘enough space’ there wouldn’t be queues, how is that not obvious? There is enough space for men, there is not enough space for women,” tweeted columnist Tracy King.
“Women need 2.5 x the provision that men need,” wrote Clare James, a British high school math teacher.
BBC World Service broadcaster Jackie Leonard was appalled.
“Clearly not. Wow. What a response!” she tweeted.
“Of course you can influence it by providing correct number of toilets based on the needs of each sex. Had never thought about male privilege extending to almost never queuing for a piss but here we are in 21c with men’s time & comfort more valued than women’s,” one commenter said.
The airport answered the avalanche of criticism by apologizing and conceding that the issue “urgently requires action.”
“This is a problem which exists in all public areas and which urgently requires action. We have informed the department responsible for building planning. We would like to sincerely apologize to all women who had to wait in front of one of our toilets. We hear your problem,” Zurich said in a tweeted reply to a user.
Zurich airport and “Invisible Women”
Several critics, including Roldan, referenced “Invisible Women,” a book by British feminist activist and author Caroline Criado Perez.
In it, Criado Perez compiled a plethora of statistics intended to prove her thesis: despite the appearance of progress on the women’s rights front, modern society is still very much a “man’s world” because “those who built it didn’t take gender differences into account.”
In a review for The Guardian published in February, English cultural critic Eliane Glaser prasied “Invisible Women” for using data to shed light on “the hidden places where inequality still resides.”
Offices are on average five degrees too cold for women because the formula to determine their temperature was developed “based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old” man. Smartphones, at an average size of 5.5 inches, are “too big for most women’s hands” and don’t fit in their pockets. Virtual reality headsets are more likely to make women feel sick.
“Even snow-ploughing, it turns out, is a feminist issue,” Glaser said of Perez’s book, referencing a study that showed how in one Swedish town, 70 percent of pedestrians injured in icy conditions are women.
Meanwhile, critics of feminism argue that the movement focuses too much energy on policing microaggressions and perceived slights. They accuse feminists of being out of touch with the concerns of the broader culture.