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Men's Waste

If the shoe fits . . .

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 messes.

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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