Women In Travel: Equality Starts in a Servo Toilet

Sometimes we think that travel has to be 9.2 billion hours on a plane to the smallest hidden corner on the globe or the most outlandish, off beaten Bermuda Triangle track we can find for it to be an authentic adventure. This of course, isn’t true.

I’ve had the pleasure of roaming far and wide; and it is that roaming that has taught me that my favourite country is this land we call home.

Australia. Land of linguistic laziness, serious sun and that small, beautiful little thing called opportunity. We’re lucky here. Although the long haul fare prices may crush our souls and we’re often forgotten by the big boys of global politics, we have it good; we have it GREAT.

We like to think we are leaders of equality; forging the path for all Australians to stand as equals. Compared to some nations, we certainly are.

In Saudi Arabia as a result of religious beliefs, women aren’t allowed to drive or even cycle. How do 367,000 school girls get to school when they aren’t allowed to be driven by a man who is not a relation and women are frowned upon to drive them? Conundrum indeed.

Or, women in Egypt are only allowed to file for a divorce if they renounce all rights to the couple’s finances and repay the dowry. AKA they must buy their freedom.

In Bahrain a man can place a travel restriction on his wife; preventing her from leaving the country for any reason. That’s a serious consequence for asking someone to do the dishes.

Or in Sierra Leone, girls are prevented from going to school when they have their period because it’s cultural taboo to even consider where babies come from and remaining hygienic during their menstruation is impossible because they don’t have access to safe sanitary products. Girls can miss up to 12 weeks of school because having a period is…yucky. Oh yes. YUCKY.

In Australia, we’re better than this right? The truth? No, we’re not.

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I’ve just had a girls weekend away in Melbourne and despite all my West Aussie pride, I can concede it is a city full of the fantastic. The food, the bars, the people and oh the shopping. But Melbourne let me down in a big way.

It was a servo (petrol station) in East Brunswick that reminded me that we still have a way to go on the old equality front.

It was shark week for me; of course it was and keeping the YUCKY details to a minimum, I needed a refresher on the sanitary front after some serious retail therapy.

I’ll set the scene; Late afternoon. Lots of walking. In dire need of a loo and then heaven sent me a servo. Now, we all know what a servo loo can be like – horrifying at the best of times – but luckily I do not have high standards when it comes to lavatories (frozen squat toilets in the Himalaya will really wipe out any pre-requisites).

Now I’m old fashioned in that I don’t like to use facilities if I haven’t invested in the establishment, so I made sure I purchased an outrageously priced beverage and made my way into the single unisex loo. It was what I expected; grimy, questionable and close quarters. I sat down, did my thing and went to dispose of my sanitary item only to find that there was no bin. Na da. Zilch. Zippo. For the folks at home; sweet FA. And the worst thing about this situation? I felt bad.

Yes, that’s right. My initial thought process went along the lines of; ‘Fuck. Do I put it in the paper towel bin next to the sink or do I have to put it in my (very tiny) handbag?’

Then, I came to my senses.

It is the 21st century. You can grow ears on mice. You carry a computer around in your pocket. There’s an Oompa Loompa as President of the USA. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AND THAT INCLUDES PUTTING A GODDAMN SANITARY BIN IN A UNISEX TOILET.

How hard is it to put in a bin?

The saddest thing about this experience, is that it wasn’t my first. It wasn’t my second. In fact, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have gone to a toilet that did not cater to 50% of the ENTIRE GLOBAL POPULATION. This might seem like something small or even insignificant maybe but it is the message it sends; Equal rights only apply when they aren’t yucky.

We, Australia, pride ourselves on trying our very hardest to be at the front of the equal rights campaign. We’ve been jumping up and down about gay marriage for what feels like eons (let’s just approve it already); we fight for our pensioners, the disabled, small business owners and the environment. We will go to the ends of the Earth for Tom, Dick and Harry.

Well for crying out loud, what about Tina, Dolly and Hermione?

Women shouldn’t be forced to put their own hygiene at risk by having to carry around used sanitary items because an establishment lacked the foresight to consider the gender of 50% of the demographic that uses its facilities.

There are bigger problems out there than service station sanitary facilities, but wouldn’t it be great if talking about menstruation and acting on that conversation meant we actually were taking the steps to be on the fighting front for equality?

It’s one bin. I’m pretty sure my over priced beverage paid for it already.

#sanitaryservos #onebin

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