Muhammed Nitoto takes his kids into the women’s room and it’s sparked a debate about public rest rooms that we need to have
There’s a lot of issues with having gendered bathrooms, but maybe one of the biggest debates surrounding men’s and women’s restrooms is what dads with babies and little kids are supposed to do when their kids need changing tables or adult assistance.
One dad spoke out recently about how he’s solved the issue, and it’s causing a stir among parents with different views about gender, privacy, nakedness, and safety.
Nitoto went viral on instagram this summer when he posted his thoughts on why he takes his two little girls, Zendaya, 5, and Zuri, 3, into the women’s room instead of the men’s room. And the debate has raged on since then.
The dad, who often posts about the joys and challenges of being a father, explains that not only do men’s rooms not have the changing table he needs, they are often dirtier — not to mention the men standing at the urinals.
“Usually we would go places and they have FAMILY bathroom which are meant for people with children but what I found was most places don’t have them and Dads are left to decide between taking their daughters to the men’s bathroom or the women’s,” he begins in his post.
At first, he tried to take them to the men’s room.
“Now when first hit with this choice I did what most men would do which is, I went to the Men’s bathroom. Now I’ve been to a men’s bathroom millions of times but walking in with your daughter makes you look at it completely different. Men’s bathrooms are DISGUSTING. They smell like pee and nothing is setup for a woman or a person with a child. The changing table was right next to the urinal which means my child literally would be next to where men pee which she’s being charged.”
Finally, he decided that the women’s room was the better choice for everyone, even if it’s not ideal.
“I use the women’s bathroom when I’m out with them,” he explains. “They are too young to go on their own so I have to go in with them. I try to be as respectful to women as I can while doing so which consists of knocking on the door before entering and announcing myself. Making sure if someone is inside that they know I am a Dad coming in with his daughter and making sure they are comfortable with that. Now once inside our stall I still am aware of the door and whenever I hear it open and someone new is coming in I announce myself again and make sure they know I’m inside with my child so that they aren’t surprised.”
Obviously, most of these problems could be solved by requiring that men’s rooms have changing tables, too, like New York did, because this is 2021 and we freaking understand that dads change diapers sometimes. And the rest of these problems can be fixed by abolishing gendered bathrooms and making family bathrooms a more common sight.
But that’s not the world we live in yet.
Nitoto talked to Today more about his choice — explaining that while gender-neutral bathrooms and family bathrooms are his preference, but that when he has to choose, he feels better in the women’s room.
He does everything in his power to keep the women who might be using the bathroom comfortable.
“I say, ‘Excuse me, ‘I’m a dad, and I have my daughters with me. Do you mind if I bring them in?’” Nitoto explains. “If I hear the door open when we’re in a stall, I re-announce myself. I don’t want to surprise anyone. I know some women have experienced trauma and might be afraid. I try to be as respectful as possible.”
He said that while most people are welcoming and fine, he has had women ask for him to wait until they were finished — although one woman who did that then “stood guard” for him outside the bathroom door until he was done.
All of the awkwardness is worth it for him.
“Protecting my children’s privacy is my main priority,” he says.
His response was a mixed bag, as you might guess. Some women were outraged that a man could enter their private space for any reason and seemed to feel like men in women’s bathrooms were inherently unsafe.
“Men need to stay out of women’s bathrooms,” one disgruntled person writes. “Full stop, no exceptions. This will restrict your movements, meaning you can only go to places with family bathrooms? Suck it up… No men in women’s bathrooms, ever. No excuses.”
But there were also a lot of clapping emojis in the comments thread, with many people sharing similar stories or being empathetic.
“Great dad and appreciate the respect to women! I would very much appreciate the way you make yourself known right away and that you’re with your daughter,” one person writes.