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Posted at 12:06 PM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Visual Shock: Bathroom Edition

By Jessica Dawson

Thumbnail image for Proof men's room edit.jpg

Since when is it okay to have sexist bathrooms?

I'm talking to you, Proof. You're the G Street, NW, restaurant I frequent for your yummy gnocchi and luscious sablefish. Though I may love your food, when I use your facilities my stomach turns.

Here's why: A few weeks back, my (male) dining companion returned from the loo and asked, "Are there pictures of naked men in the women's bathroom?"

Uh, no, there aren't. There's a cutesy heart-shaped mirror above the sink and it's flanked by a wall of mirrors. The dominant color scheme is pink.

The men's room at Proof is a different story. If you're using the urinals, you're relieving yourself in front of sensuous photographs by Swiss photographer Christian Coigny. You'll find two curvaceous derrieres to daydream about while you go about your business. Across the room, a massively scaled nude spreads out behind the sinks; erect nipples emerge near soap dispensers. The mood is sensual and the lights so low you can barely see your hands to wash them.

But hey, guys don't need to make themselves look good for girls. They have the privilege of looking at them naked, right?

Over in the women's room, where it's bright and full of mirrors, we ladies have the perfect place to freshen up for our menfolk. Because that's our job, right? Looking good for the gentlemen?

Proof owner and bathroom designer Mark Kuller sees it differently. When I told him I found the bathroom situation a tad unfair, he had this to say:

"I wasn't trying to think about sexual equality. I was just trying to create cool, different bathrooms," Kuller told me. "I thought I was giving women a very beautiful, elegant bathroom.

"The women who have spoken with me about it have no desire to see naked men," Kuller added. "If anything they want to see naked women. [Hmmm... you wish - ed.] I assure you there was no sexist intent."

We savvy image-watchers know that intentions matter a lot less than perceptions. Kuller may have meant no harm, but what kind of message are Proof's bathrooms sending? I'd vote that not only are they sexist, they're heterosexist (my dining companion that night was gay and not too thrilled to be relieving himself around the bodies of naked women).

And what about connecting sex with defecation and urination? Kind of a strange practice unto itself, dontcha think?

Point being: Isn't it insidious when a restaurant reinforces the very stereotypes women have been fighting for decades to overturn?

Hey Proof, I'm pissed!

Proof women's room.jpg

By Jessica Dawson  | December 9, 2010; 12:06 PM ET
Categories:  Food, Jessica Dawson, Public Art  
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Posted by: Mike McPhate | December 10, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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