Will women ever embrace this type of fixture?

Photo credit: ©istockphoto.com/Johannes Norpoth

One of the comments I often hear from women is that too many men are involved in the plumbing business. In contrast, I think they mean not enough women are involved. I would tend to agree more women would always be welcome in the industry.

In our politically correct world, many want us to believe there is no difference between men and women. When it comes to plumbing, women especially know that there is a big difference. We use the toilet room differently. Men use a urinal, women don’t.

I have written in the past about female urinals. In the 1990s, there was an attempt at a new female urinal called the SHE-INAL, later the Urinet. The product never took off. Women never liked grabbing a handle and using the product’s funnel device.

There was also a female pedestal urinal manufactured in the early part of the last century. Women never used it but it didn’t disappear. It became a different style of a men’s urinal. It has since disappeared because of the high volumes of water required to flush the fixture.

One of the problems with female urinals has always been education regarding their use. Men urinate facing the urinal. With the original female urinal, women urinated by turning around and facing away from the urinal. Every time women tried to copy men in facing the urinal, it didn’t work out.

So I was surprised when I received a recent email about the Urifemme female urination funnel. At first I thought it was a joke email since I am in the plumbing profession. Then I checked and discovered it was completely legit. The product uses 100 percent recycled material for a convenient contoured funnel-like device, which allows women to urinate while standing. Those are the words from the ad.

At first I chuckled, since women can always urinate standing up, without a funnel. Women actually have better aim than men. Yes, we actually study this. Another difference is that women use toilet paper. So women have the better approach from a sanitation standpoint.

Toilet-Seat Phobias

Which takes me back to the ad. It claims that 60 percent of Americans refuse to sit on a public toilet seat. I assume it is referring to 60 percent of women. The ad goes on to describe all the germs and disease that are on a public toilet seat. It explains why women “hover.”

“Hovering” is a term I have heard used a lot by women. As explained by women, hovering is when you position yourself over a toilet seat without actually touching it. You do your business, wipe and leave, never having contact with that disgusting toilet seat.

The response to hovering, in certain public locations, is the availability of a paper seat cover. The Urifemme email included a YouTube video of a woman struggling to use the paper seat cover. It was rather funny.

Manufacturers also have developed seats with plastic covers and seats that automatically wash the seat after each use. The seat cover has caught on in certain locations in the United States, including O’Hare Airport. The automatic seat washer has not, probably because of the cost.

Bathroom Research

ProfessorAlexander Kiraof Cornell University wrote a book on the use of the bathroom. He studies the postures both men and women should be using for the elimination process. I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Professor Kira before he passed away. He told many interesting stories about our profession.

As Professor Kira pointed out, women have good aim when urinating if they bend at the waist. The urine stream will extend between 12 and 24 inches from where they are standing. Professor Kira also pointed out that the use of any form of a female urinal is hindered by social norms and the state of undress required to use the fixture.

Unlike men, women cannot simply pull down a fly to urinate. Their pants must be lowered for them to bend and use a urinal. The female anatomy also means that toilet paper is imperative for completing the urination process. If bent at the waist to stand and urinate, the toilet paper would need to be handy.

The question is whether women can ever overcome social norms to use a female-type urinal. There still would have to be an enclosed compartment, since there is more exposure than when a man uses a urinal. You could never have a nonwater supplied urinal since toilet paper would have to be flushed after each use.

A newly designed female urinal could solve the problem of hovering. It could also solve the problem of women having to use funnels, or carrying paper gaskets to place on toilet seats. But it will take time for women to adjust to using such a fixture. Can a manufacturer wait for a slow response from the public?

If the plumbing industry decides to enter a new chapter of female urinals, I think the fixture must be designed by women. That is not being sexist, that is stating the obvious. Women use the fixture, they would know what their demands are.

I also envision a fixture that would be easier and faster for women to use when urinating. The water closet takes time. When using a public bathroom for urination, a man can use a urinal twice as fast as a woman using a water closet. I think women would love to cut the use of fixtures by one third, thereby cutting down on waiting time.

I think we owe it to the female population to come up with a simpler, faster way for them to urinate. It would be nice if women never have to hover. Then again, I could be all wrong. I’m a man, after all.