- Rachel Loftspring
The Babies Act: Legislation That Wins Common Sense and Gender Equality
A CRAPPY SITUATION
Does this scenario sound all too familiar? You’re out and about with your diaper-wearing-kid who does what diaper-wearing-kids do: poops. So you set off for the nearest bathroom to change that nasty diaper.
If you’re a mom, this is likely no big deal. Most public bathrooms include a changing table.
If you’re a dad, though, good luck. Your likelihood of finding a changing table is slimmer. Much slimmer. If you happen to be out with mom or another trusted (and understanding) woman who also knows how to change a diaper (because not all of us do), you now have to haul junior and the diaper bag back out of the men’s bathroom to ask her to change your kid’s diaper. If you’re alone or only with other men, you’re SOL. Time to throw down that diaper pad you hopefully packed. Um, gross.
ENTER THE BABIES ACT
Amidst everything else going on right now, you may not have heard that there’s good news about poopy diapers. President Obama recently signed into law the quaintly titled BABIES Act, helping to bring potty parity to the U.S. at last.
The Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation or BABIES Act requires all publicly accessible restrooms in federal buildings to provide baby changing facilities (defined as a table or other device suitable for changing the diaper of a child under age 3) that are physically safe, sanitary, and appropriate.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) proposed the BABIES Act back in April, explaining the bill, “helps protect the health and safety of children, and will encourage a family friendly environment.” The bill received prompt support. By September, it had passed both the House and Senate and on October 7, 2016, President Obama signed it into law.
As Cicilline said of the unusually swift process, “it’s a common sense proposal.” A round of applause, please, for Congressman Cicilline.
IS CHANGING A DIAPER REALLY THAT BIG OF A DEAL?
For me as a mom, it’s frustrating and inconvenient to be pulled away from the middle of a conversation, or something else that I am doing because my husband, who is perfectly happy and able to change our kid’s diaper, can’t—for lack of facilities.
What if my husband was a single dad? Or a gay dad? Or just a dad out with his kid alone?
And it’s not just more difficult to change a child in a bathroom sans changing table, it’s plain disgusting. I don’t care how many kudos an establishment gets for restroom cleanliness—no one wants their baby rolling around on the floor or wet countertop of a bathroom.
But this goes beyond nuisance and annoyance.
Not having changing tables in men’s bathrooms sends a message to fathers that they are not equally adept at taking care of their kid. It perpetuates antiquated notions that only women are responsible for childcare. It undermines our efforts to share child caring responsibilities. It reinforces gender inequality. It’s discriminatory. And it’s crap.
So, no, changing a diaper isn’t that big of a deal. But gender equality is.
THE BABIES ACT ONLY GOES SO FAR – SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
The BABIES ACT is a start, but it only applies to federal buildings. And there are some exceptions.
To move forward, we need more action to incentivize or require businesses across the country to provide equal access to baby changing stations. It’s a small but necessary step toward gender equality.
And we can all do our part.
Ashton Kutcher (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) created a Change.org petition asking Target and Costco to “provide universally accessible changing tables in their stores.” Scotty over at Dads Who Change Diapers raises the issue in a humorous but persistent way, even boycotting establishments that do not provide baby changing facilities in the men’s room.
What about you? Do you have ideas for how to move forward? What is your experience with potty parity?
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