2009 December: Mouth Shaped Urnial

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Call to Action from our committee

Update from Action Committee - December 16, 2009

WAWG members delivered over 600 letters to the Honest Lawyer on Thursday, December 10th at 12:30pm. Although we had attempted to reach the owner, Greg Sandwell, in advance of the delivery we were unsuccessful. After waiting a few minutes we were able to pass on the letters to the manager on site. The manager assured us that the letters would be forwarded to Greg. As of December 15th we have not been contacted by Mr. Sandwell. The Action Committee for WAWG is planning next steps and will keep you posted via this website. If you have letters signed please forward them to Lenore at SACHA . They will be forwarded to the Honest Lawyer. Thank you for your support

The Action Committee, a Standing Committee of WAWG, is asking members to review the article below written by Susan Clairmont of the Hamilton Spectator. We are asking anyone who thinks this urinal should be removed to sign our letter  The_Honest_Lawyer_letter_campaign.doc (220 KB)  (.doc, 219.5 KB) of protest and send back electronically to Lenore Lukasik-Foss

 

UrinalJuly 07, 2009 Susan Clairmont


The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 7, 2009)

This is about a urinal shaped like a mouth.

By most accounts, a woman's mouth.

It is in the men's bathroom at The Honest Lawyer, a roadhouse-style restaurant on King Street downtown.

It is a wide-open mouth, with glossy, bright red lips and two gleaming white teeth.

It was brought to my attention by Tony Kilgannon, a 58-year-old education assistant.

He sent me an e-mail with a photo of the urinal covertly snapped by a friend.

Tony wrote: "When it was brought to my attention, you immediately came to mind (sorry). The mindset displayed here is one which results in the horrific crimes and circumstances which you document in many of your stories. It would be disgusting to see something so offensive in a private place, but it is exponentially more vile in a ... public location.

"The idea that it is somehow cute or funny to urinate ... in the mouth of a woman is revolting to this man and I'm sure it is to most others. I can't imagine a situation where I would be willing to use this awful facility, and I know my friends would feel the same."

I showed the photo around the newsroom. Reaction was split fairly neatly down gender lines.

The men generally thought it was lame but harmless. A few had actually made use of the urinal before, but had forgotten all about it until the picture jogged their memory.

Some men were quite offended. Shocked even.

Every woman was outraged. One said she will never patronize The Honest Lawyer knowing the urinal is there.

Quite a few wondered what the urinal had to do with the theme of the restaurant. One female said although she doesn't at all approve, it would at least be in context in a strip club. But The Honest Lawyer?

Two people said they thought it was a spin on the Rolling Stones tongue logo.

Everyone else took the image to be a woman's mouth.

When I took the issue beyond the newsroom, I realized the urinal is getting attention all over town.

Jack Bruce, an English and media teacher at Ancaster High School, discussed the urinal with one of his Grade 12 classes.

To him, it perpetuates the stereotype that "women are there to serve." And that is not just offensive, but dangerous.

"Especially at a bar," he says. "You have drunk people who have already been given licence to misbehave."

Bruce has passed his concerns on to Status of Women Canada, a federal government organization devoted to advance equality for women and eliminate violence against women.

At the Sexual Assault Centre, the urinal is being talked about, too.

"Can this be true? Peeing in a woman's mouth?" says education co-ordinator Krista Warnke, recalling her reaction to hearing of the urinal for the first time.

"For far too long we have excused bad behaviour," Warnke says. "Men don't live with the objectification that women do every day ... This is part of the continuum of attitudes that end up in disrespect."

That's what the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the U.S. thought as well when it publicly denounced a similar (if not identical) urinal that Virgin Airways planned to install in its lounge at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City five years ago.

Virgin called the urinals "fun," but NOW called them "degrading fixtures." In the end, the urinals were scrapped and Virgin apologized.

The same mouth-shaped urinals also caused a stir in Austria when they were installed in a public toilet near the national opera. Pressure from politicians led the owner to remove them. And a McDonald's in Amsterdam came under fire when an American tourist complained about the open-mouth urinals to the chain's American head office.

The original urinals were created by a female Dutch designer named Meike van Schijndel. Her international sales skyrocketed after the Virgin Airways scandal.

She dubbed her work Kisses, and told a Dutch newspaper the idea that it represented a man urinating into a woman's mouth had never occurred to her.

For her, it was a "fun, cartoon mouth."

So is it art then?

Certainly there is a long history between urinals and art.

In 1917 French artist Marcel Duchamp created Fountain, a urinal which he signed and submitted to an art show. Duchamp called it "readymade" or "found art." The work is considered an important milestone.

Replicas of Fountain are displayed in some of the world's most important museums.

But teacher Jack Bruce rejects the mouth urinal as art. If it was displayed in a gallery, perhaps. But in the men's bathroom at The Honest Lawyer it "doesn't suggest thoughtful discussion."

The urinal has been at the restaurant since it opened in February 2007, says manager Samara List.

"Most people think it's funny," she says. "A few people find it offensive ... They think it's degrading -- yadda, yadda, yadda."

List says she finds it less offensive than the wet T-shirt contests at some bars. And she's not even sure it is a woman's mouth.

"Although that's what people see, because that makes it funnier."

Susan Clairmont's commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. sclairmont@thespec.com 905-526-3539

SUSAN CLAIRMONT