Last summer, I spent a week traveling through Iceland with my father, his wife, and my little sister and brother. While I’ve never been a fan of outdoor activities (I used to make a point of NOT being a “nature person”), nature truly steels the show in Iceland. Imagine steaming lakes, smoking rocks, glaciers… Even a child of the video clip generation can stand for hours waiting in excitement for the next eruption of the natural water fountain.
But in a place where nature is such a spectacle, we still can’t seem to fully accept everything that is natural. One afternoon, we took a walk where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet. At the parking lot, there were a couple of public toilets for tourists to use. My little sister Lola, 7, turns to me and tells me that she has to pee. So evidently, I tell her that there’s a toilet right there, pointing. She walks over and opens the door to one of the stalls and peers inside. By her face, I can tell that it’s disgusting (which it truly is). But nonetheless, we insist that she go. Lola says that she’ll just go behind a bush, but we tell her that there’s a toilet! She should just get over herself and go. (I would never have peed there because I am too grossed out by most public bathrooms.)
Later, little brother Nathan, 4, has to “Pipi machen” (do pipi) as well and he wants to go behind a bush. Unsurprisingly, no one has a problem with that.
Is it just the age difference? I doubt it. With small differences like this, we teach little girls that women’s bodily functions need to be kept private and hidden from public view. Growing up in an extremely liberal household, my family would never have a problem with public breast-feeding, for instance. But evidently when we have a choice between locking our physical needs behind a door and simply peeing behind a bush, women are expected to choose the option that maintains an image of female hygiene. Hygiene that is not granted by nature, but created through an artificially created environment. Women are expected to WANT to hide physical attributes that aren’t sexy and in the end, I think that most women not only follow those “guidelines” but in fact DO WANT to follow them, out of shame and embarrassment.
To celebrate the spectacle of nature and our bodies, here is a vegetarian quiche done entirely by hand.