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The PAX Toilet Situation

To help stave off long lines at men's restrooms, MCCA changes 6 PAX restrooms from female to male.
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

Strange news this week from PAX: Some of the women’s restrooms were changed into men’s restrooms. 

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I started to hear about this on the floor from men passing by, overhearing snippets of conversations about “Hey, did you see that the bathroom didn’t have urinals.” The first time was odd, the third time was even stranger. Evidently men’s bathrooms always have urinals? 

Robert Khoo, president of Penny Arcade (which is responsible for Penny Arcade) talked to Polygon about the situation: 

The city came to us last week and said that just because of the number of people in the building and the slight skew to male, it’s like 65 to 35 percent, for safety reasons we need to change some of the restrooms…We tried to say, ‘Why is that an issue? Did we see a problem last year? But they really didn’t give a shit about what we said.

Overall six women’s restrooms were changed to the opposite gender because of this imbalance in gender. Khoo’s request to turn these six restrooms into “gender neutral” restrooms, like the one near the Diversity Lounge, were turned down by the city of Boston. 

Even with these changes, it appeared that the men’s restrooms still had lines while the women’s were almost completely empty. This is a commonly documented issue, where tech conferences often have long lines for the mens restrooms with non-existent lines for the women’s restrooms. 

However, PAX is not a disproportionately male as other conventions I have attended, and the 6 extra bathrooms hardly seemed necessary (The Boston Convention and Expo Center has 40 bathrooms total). For whatever reason (safety, evidently) the city determined that the extra bathrooms were needed. 

In related news, the MCCA (which operates the Expo Hall where PAX takes place) committed a serious case of foot-in-mouth. When contacted by Brian Liberge, Creative Director for Beer Star Games, about the bathroom change, MCCA responded like this: 

Yeah. PAX isn’t a men’s convention. Even with the numbers at 65/35, that’s not a men’s convention. @masswomen is the Massachusetts Conference for Women, which is a convention specifically for women. For some reason, the little winky face at the end of that tweet makes it substantially worse. 

When it comes down to it, while I enjoy the luxury of not having to wait in line to go to the restroom, I hope that someday the men and women participants at these conventions will be more evenly distributed. 

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Amanda Wallace
Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.