I saw an article from a few days ago in The Atlantic entitled "The Long Lines for Women’s Bathrooms Could Be Eliminated. Why Haven’t They Been?" which was a fascinating exploration of bathroom design and civic spaces, discussing how since 1987, "dozens of cities and states
have joined the cause of “potty parity,” the somewhat trivializing nickname for the goal of giving men and women equal access to public toilets. These legislative efforts, along with changes to plumbing codes that altered the ratio of men’s to women’s toilets, have certainly helped imbalances in wait times, but they haven’t come close to resolving them."
This parity issue is particularly glaring in the context of the theater, when short intermission times and a 67% female audience average ratio at a Broadway show means cartoonishly long lines for just a few stalls built in older theaters. In New York City, the lines at intermission stretch around the theater, even as theater owners adapt existing spaces, locker rooms, and more to create more stalls. According to a London report, "Female theatergoers would need an hourlong intermission if they were all to make it in and out of the bathroom at an average London theater." Many New York and London theaters are even now working on improvements to fix these sub-par experiences for their guests.
Why the particular disparity in the performance space, as well as restrooms overall? Clara Greed who contributed to the 2010 academic anthology Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, stated that "the main concern of the male city fathers was to provide toilets for men, whose role in public space was accepted and indeed regarded as important to the industrial economy...public toilet provision for women was seen as an extra, as a luxury, or as problematic in other respects."
Additionally, in the United States, until just 40 years ago, public toilets were pay-to-pee. In a piece published by Pacific Standard Mag on the history of CEPTIA (the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America), an activist group that led the fight against pay toilets, "In the early 1900s, when railroads connected America’s biggest cities with rural outposts, train stations were sometimes the only place in town with modern plumbing. To keep locals from freely using the bathrooms, railroad companies installed locks on the stall doors—only to be unlocked by railroad employees for ticketed passengers. Eventually, coin-operated locks were introduced, making the practice both more convenient and more profitable. Pay toilets then sprung up in the nation’s airports, bus stations, and highway rest stops. By 1970, America had over 50,000 pay toilets. By 1980, there were almost none...Because the locks were on stall doors—and not on the outside of the bathrooms—men could use urinals for free, while women had to pay to do the same deed."
Combining architecture, codes, and buildings that worked against building more bathrooms with the pay-to-pee bathroom dynamic, and it's no surprise that in the image below assemblywoman March Fong Eu smashed a porcelain toilet on the steps of the California capitol building back in 1969 to show express frustration with pay toilets in public buildings.