The US has taken its first step to fixing an archaic, sexist indignity that parents face daily
Anyone who’s ever tried to change a baby’s dirty diaper in a public bathroom knows it’s a gross nightmare when you don’t have a changing table. Now, a US bill signed on Oct. 7 will equip both men’s and women’s bathrooms in federal buildings with changing stations.
The Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act, only affects bathrooms in government-owned or government-financed buildings like courthouses and public libraries. But it is a first step toward reducing the indignity that parents frequently face when trying to care for their babies in bathroom stalls. US federal law previously did not require changing tables anywhere.
The act is also meaningful because it applies to both men’s and women’s bathrooms, finally addressing an archaic form of sexism: Since changing tables are more common in women’s bathrooms, childcare outside the home can become women’s work by necessity.
The BABIES act has received bipartisan support. David N. Cicilline, the Democratic congressman who sponsored it, wrote on his site that the act is “important to ensure that [bathrooms] are as open, as accessible, and as family-friendly as possible.”
It’s not the first attempt to put changing stations in men’s bathrooms. In 2015, actor Ashton Kutcher launched a petition on Change.org, asking stores to make changing tables accessible to both men and women. His initiative inspired a bill, sponsored by Brad Hoylman in the same year and currently under examination, that would mandate adding changing tables to all publicly available restrooms (for instance, restaurants and theaters) in New York City, regardless of gender.