We need to think about toilets

A note from the editor

Maggie Black

The problem with toilets is that no-one wants to talk about them. Even less do they want to talk about what goes into them (the ‘s’ word) or the act of human waste expulsion (the ‘d’ word) – except with smirks and giggles.

That kind of verbal crap has been swilling remorselessly around the NI editorial offices in Oxford this month. Why do Brits (maybe it’s only the male of the species) take such delight in lavatorial double entendres? Swedes can talk about excremental effluvia and pee-H content without the least hilarity issuing from their lips.

Ballcocks aside, this is a serious subject. Imagine what it is like not to have a decent place to ‘go’. It is not surprising that people don’t want to talk about the indignity they suffer – although some women do so in these pages.

The hidden scandal is that this is a situation endured by literally millions of people. Addressing the scandal demands as a first requirement that we learn to talk about it without embarrassment.

So it’s back to language and staying within the bounds of what you, the readers, daily defecators as we all are, regard as good taste. I hope to succeed in opening the door – or should it be the lid? – and inviting you in.

Maggie Black for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

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Photo: UNICEF WEST BENGAL

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