Friday, April 25, 2014

Men Can Not Take This Sitting Down


By Bill Gouveia


            I believe in equal rights for women in all areas.  Equal pay, equal opportunity, the right to choose and control their own bodies.  But if you are going to claim equal rights, you have to be fair and not demand special rights at the same time. 


            For many generations now women have dominated their male counterparts in one particular area, and it is time for it to stop.  It is a simple matter, but remains controversial.  I am going to pick up the mantle and carry the cause forward to ensure the rights of men.


            The male of our species should not be expected to keep the toilet seat down.  It defies the principles of common sense, common courtesy, and fairness.


            Think about it.  Why should men be required to exert the additional time and energy for no good reason other than to give women the advantage in our bathrooms?  A brief review of the facts will clearly reveal this creates an undue and unfair burden on my brothers.


            One of the biggest complaints women have concerning men and the bathroom is – well, they tend to “miss” sometimes.  So women want the seat they left down to be raised while the guys do what guys usually do when standing in the bathroom.  Then they want the seat lowered again so they don’t have to do it.


            The end result is men are expected to raise and lower the toilet seat during each bathroom session.  But women, under the current rules, never have to even touch it.  This is tyranny, and cannot be allowed to stand.


            Another frequent defense of the existing discriminatory toilet policy is what I refer to as “The Fall-in Factor”.  How often have you heard the tale of woe from a female who got up in the middle of the night, walked into the bathroom to answer the call of nature, and sat on the toilet only to discover the seat was up and the water was cold?


            I reject the conclusion this is the fault of any men in the house.  With all due respect to the fairer sex – is it our fault you didn’t look where you sat?  Don’t you have any responsibilities at all for what happens in the bathroom? 


If we happen to move a kitchen chair away from the table and you sit where it was and fall, is that our fault too?  Perhaps guys should escort the ladies of the house into the powder room each time and personally inspect the seat situation before they hurt themselves?  Oh, the horrors of expecting them to look first, sit later.


There is also the “common courtesy” argument.  It is said men should raise and lower the seat as a matter of politeness and respect.  Well, it certainly is a nice gesture.


But why does that respect and courtesy not extend equally in both directions?  To be sure, women in general get more square footage in the bathroom than their male counterparts.  However, the toilet itself should be asexual.  If guys have to lower the seat for gals, shouldn’t they have to lift it for us?  Courtesy and respect ought to be gender neutral.


Men do have specific duties in the bathroom they must take care of regularly.  The old adage “If you tinkle when you sprinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie” was on a sign in my mother-in-laws bathroom for years.  It is a valid (if somewhat hokey) way of reminding us to clean up after ourselves.  That is a perfectly reasonable request and should always be fully honored.


But training men to lower the seat is demeaning to both the men and the women who force them to do it.  And to those ladies who say it is so little to ask and requires minimal effort, I say:  Then why don’t you do it?


For centuries now, women have played on our inbred guilt to get us to perform this menial task.  It is well past time we stood up for ourselves while – well, standing up for ourselves. 


And for the record, my wife never complains when I leave the seat up.  She says it’s a wasted effort.  Smart lady.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In North Attleboro, Voters Take the Rap for Government

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, April 7, 2014

By Bill Gouveia


            As I looked over the election results in North Attleboro last week, a thought suddenly struck me.  North Attleboro’s town government is a lot like my little brother when I was growing up.


            Nothing seems to ever be their fault.


            For the second year in a row voters virtually ignored the town election.  Only 10.85 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots, on the heels of last year’s turnout of less than 10 percent.  For the second year in a row, Election Commission Chairman Kevin Poirier correctly referred to the turnout as “disgusting”.


            But there is little to indicate anything will change soon.  North officials have shown little interest in doing anything meaningful to attract more voters to local elections, other than insisting they are not to blame for the turnouts.  It’s almost like they really don’t want more voters casting ballots – and that might very well be the truth.


            Almost to a person, town officials refuse to place any blame for the poor turnout on the system of government.  They reject outright the argument voters simply don’t believe the current system is effective, thus making their votes relatively meaningless.  Instead they have a myriad of other excuses – er, I mean reasons – to explain the continued poor showing.


            The election wasn’t advertised well enough.  No one mentioned it on the town web site.  The weather has been bad.  People are too busy working.  The media doesn’t cover it as well as it should.  Voters have trust in the current system and don’t see the need to vote.  It is not just North, turnout is down in many other communities.


            But the idea that voters have simply lost confidence and feel betrayed by a government that consistently shuns them never seems to be touted by town officials. 


            How many embarrassing turnouts does it take for that to be publicly considered?  What will it take for town officials to finally admit that a system regularly ignored by 90 percent of town voters needs to be changed?


            Last April less than 10 percent turned out to vote for town officers.  Two months later in June, 40 percent voted in an override election.  Why the difference? Because in June, their vote actually mattered.


            There are 135 members in North Attleboro’s Representative Town Meeting.  Last Tuesday’s election featured two contested races for seven spots.  All the rest were either unopposed.  In about 19 instances no one at all even bothered to run for the position.  This system can’t even attract enough candidates to fill its legislative branch, never mind attracting voters.


            Yet this is the form of government most officials are determined to keep at all costs.  Again, why?  In my mind, the answer is simple.


            This is the government they can control.  This is the government picked by the small number of good citizens who take seriously their obligation to vote.  This is the government that got them elected. 


            Despite claims to the contrary, they don’t want more people to vote.  It makes the electorate more unpredictable.  That just makes it harder to get elected. 


            I have to laugh when I hear people say RTM is better than a mayor or a town council because it lets more people vote on local issues rather than concentrating power in the hands of a few. 


Yet that same RTM has consistently blocked people from casting binding ballot votes on changing the form of government.  Is more only better when it applies to them?  The hypocrisy is laughable.


There will be elections in other local towns with very low turnouts.  But most of them will have few if any contested races.  By contrast, the three contests in North Attleboro were spirited and interesting.  Yet voters still ignored them. 


Supporters of the current system point to low turnout in other communities as a defense of the status quo.  It reminds me of when I would point to bad behavior by others to explain my own, and my mom would say “If they all jumped off a cliff, would you?” 


North voters are not lazy, don’t need to be “educated”, and are not ill-informed.  They are just tired of being ignored and blamed for the consistent failure of a system they have said should be changed.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.