Boom. No promotion.

I’m not sure if this is a gendered phenomenon, but I’ve spoken to at least a few college-aged women who agree: it is Not Acceptable to poop at work.

My college roommate said, aghast, after confessing to coming back to our apartment to relieve herself privately, “You can’t be that intern that poops all the time. What if your supervisor heard you? Boom. No promotion. ‘Brings her home life to work.'” Others react with similar horror, slowly beginning to cover their mouths with their hands in projected embarrassment: “Oh my god, no. Of course not. And our bathroom doors are paper thin. You can hear everything. No.”

I realize anxiety about using public restrooms is fairly common, as Michael Showalter’s relatable experience of using a Starbucks bathroom demonstrates (3:00), and if you went to public school in the United States, the thought of using your schools’ bathrooms probably grossed you out, and at least made you uncomfortable. (How much of this adulthood bathroom anxiety stems from having to publicly ask to use the school bathroom for years of our lives, this submission of our own bodily functions to a figure of authority, in classrooms of structured civility? We might never know.)

I’ve been socialized to feel the same way. But I don’t know if it’s right. And if there is a gendered difference, then I want to be conscious of this unfairness. And what of the important and totally justified movements to normalize other bodily functions, like breast feeding, which are, in fact, unique to women? Why are we so uncomfortable and grossed out? In the case of breast feeding, there are definitely externally imposed standards of “professionalism.” For pooping, there’s less of a case.