Lower School Bathroom Remodel Faces Criticism for Gender Exclusive Design

The quotation in the bathroom in the beginning of the year. The quotation in the bathroom now no longer includes the word “she.” (Sophene A. )

When you step foot into the first floor Ranney House girls’ bathroom, a quotation written in black, cursive letters written on the light-yellow wall greets you: “The perfect combination of princess & warrior.” Other parts of the bathroom design include pictures of butterflies and flowers, along with decorations on the doors of bathroom stalls that display a crown, a high-heel, a cowgirl, and a wahine, Hawaiian for a young woman who surfs. Originally the large quote read “She is the perfect combination of princess & warrior.”

Sophene A.

A handful of students, mostly upper schoolers, were insulted by the bathroom’s use of “she” and believed that the restroom excluded students on campus because of their gender. A few weeks after the school year began, the word “she” was removed from the quotation due mainly to students’ feedback and concerns.

“She is the perfect combination of princess & warrior” was added to the lower-school bathroom in an effort to make the bathroom more animated and decorative. 

In 2019, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the student government in the lower school referred to the bathroom as the “scary bathroom,” or, as Dr. Kelly put it, “a little dark and lifeless.”

“As we were starting to come back onto our campus last spring and facilities were getting the campus ready to receive students, the bathroom came back up again. It was a quick thing that could be done: a coat of paint and fixing the tiles. I thought nothing of it,” said Dr. Kelly.

A note left behind is placed under the bathroom’s quote (Sophene A. )

After the remodel, Dr. Kelly’s impressions were mostly positive. “It was really sweet and lovely, but I did notice the quote. And I just, knowing Westridge, thought of the word ‘princess.’ I thought that the word might strike a chord with some people, just because of who we are as an institution. I knew that if it was going to be an issue, I would hear about it.”

And she did. Underneath the inspiration-intended quote, someone posted a note that read: OR THEY OR ANY PRONOUN YOU USE. The message, written in all-capital sharpie, remained for several days. When told about the note in the bathroom, Dr. Kelly exclaimed, “Oh, I love it!” She proceeded to comment that the note is “beautiful.”

Fiona Z. ’25 commented that while she believes the removal of the word “she” is a “step forward,” there are still unresolved problems regarding the bathroom. “It does have ‘princess’ on there, and that’s kind of like a feminine word,” Fiona said. “They didn’t take down the other things in the bathroom stall like the labels of a queen, princess, and all that.”

Westridge has taken steps to ensure that students who do not identify as girls feel represented and supported. Several all-gender restrooms are located across campus that are available to students and adults, one of which is in close proximity to the lower school bathroom in question. Additionally, on page 37 of the 2021-2022 Westridge School Student/Parent Handbook, under the section “Supporting Transgender Students,” Westidged explained, “It is the view of the school administration that students who question and/or change their gender identity are welcome to stay at Westridge and that the best interests of these students and the community are addressed through inclusive, mission-driven practices.”

Yet, some students still believe the bathroom decor excludes certain students on campus. 

Sophene A.

“Remodeling the bathroom in that way goes against everything Westridge’s student body stands for,” Fiona Z. ’25 said. “I don’t even think the faculty supports it because there are a lot of people that don’t just identify as a girl. They have they/them pronouns. They have he/him pronouns. People are walking into the bathroom and seeing a gender misrepresentation.”

“I do believe the intent came from a good place,” said Ms. Rodriguez, the 5th-grade language arts/social science and co-dean of Student Voices. “However, people in our community were hurt, so we need to look at the impact this has had amongst our student body.”

Older students, including sixth graders, voiced concerns about the gender stereotypical designs

“I think it is a bit too girly. And if someone doesn’t identify as a girl, that might be a problem. Or like if they identify as they/them and not she/her or any other pronouns. I think that might be a different problem,” said Naomi W. ’28. 

Sophene A.

“When [the quote] is literally in your face as you walk into the bathroom and it’s saying that it is a women’s bathroom, it just makes it so much worse,” said Elliot C. ’22, who identifies as male. “I get where the facilities people are coming from, but it’s unnecessary. I think it’s causing more harm than good.”

Younger students were largely indifferent toward the decor. 

“I don’t really get why the bathroom is decorated,” said Anoush J. ’30. “It’s just a bathroom. All of the flowers, butterflies, and decorations are not needed.” 

“I think it’s very colorful. It even feels good to just walk in,” said Eva B. ’30. 

“I like it because it means that you could be also a warrior but you could also be a girly girl,” said Taylor T. ’28. “You don’t have to be one of them. You can be in the middle. So, I really like that.”