The Urinary Leash: A Gender Critical Misrepresentation

This is a follow-up to my previous article, “There is no such thing as ‘sex-based rights’ (in the UK)”, which seems to have ruffled a few feathers in the Gender Critical space, even making it as far as that hive of anti-trans sentiment, MumsNet.

One interesting response was that “The Urinary Leash” was proof of women’s fight for female-only toilets. As usual however, the Gender Critical’s have got the nuance wrong and painted the wrong picture.

Historic UK has a good write up on the particulars of this here:

In this article, I won’t be going into the minutiae of the issue, but rather highlighting it from the perspective of someone pointing out how, once again, the Gender Critical movement lies to achieve its aims.

The Urinary Leash refers to a particular problem faced by women as a consequence of Britain’s sexist past. Let us remember that historically, women were considered lesser, and as such would not be conducting business here there and everwhere. Society deemd that women stayed at home, looked after the children and kept house (unless they were exceeding rich and then the whole social dynamic changed dramatically).

As such, when it became acceptable for public conveniences to appear in society, they were tailored for the efficiency of men. Without being too crude, they were facilities for peeing while standing. Women’s needs were not considered, and as such women found that they could not go from A to B without careful planning of where they could…. relieve themselves; hence “The Urinary Leash”, the leash being between woman and her home.

The Suffragettes fought for women’s loos? Almost, but not quite…

When the Suffragettes came around to campaigning for women’s rights (albeit, as history records, only for upper class women) they did not actually campaign for separate toilets, as the Gender Criticals will tell you. They simply campaigned for somewhere to go. But, all the existing facilities would have been unsuitable. Not because men were in them, but because women using them would have been….. let’s not even try to describe it (Yes, I’m ware there are devices that allow women to pee standing up. But firstly, they didn’t really exist — at least not in a well known way — in the 19th century, and also that sort of thing just wasn’t considered etiquette).

So women campaigned for women’s toilets. Historic UK doesn’t note whether the suffragettes would have been happy to use men’s facilities if they were in order, and I will not speculate either way here. But one thing that is clear, the men did object; they objected to women’s toilets even being in the vicinity of men’s toilets, much less sharing, so we can safely say that unisex toilets in the 19th century were not on the table.


As usual, the Gender Critical movement twists history to make it look like single-sex spaces are borne out of a desire to be away from men, and in doing so tarnish the achievements of feminists throughout history. Women’s toilets in the UK were not won as a right to be away from men; they were won as a right to be equal to men, in a way that played out as placing them separate.

“Separate but equal” — now where have I heard that before?



A nerd, software engineer and trans woman, fed up with the lies pushed by the so-called Gender Critical movement. Also on Mastodon:

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Rebecca Gellman

A nerd, software engineer and trans woman, fed up with the lies pushed by the so-called Gender Critical movement. Also on Mastodon: