In the 1970s, Alexander Kira of Cornell University diagnosed Americans with a psychological and cultural aversion to squatting, as well as to talking openly about our basest bodily functions.
Sigh. This is one of the reasons I tend to resent The Guardian - there's an interesting story here, but they have no interest in finding it.
Alexander Kira did a lot more than "diagnose Americans with a psychological and cultural aversion to squatting" - he spent 30 years conducting scientific tests on all aspects of the bathroom. Shit like this:
Shit like this:
Because fundamentally, there's nothing about bathrooms that makes any human sense. They are an accumulation of taboo and architectural convenience that does not account for human physiological need in the slightest. And I should be able to link to all this, but it's so fuckin' sub-rosa that the links are dead. I mean, treehugger did a 5-part on Kira... in 2011... but it's only through sheer luck that even 1 of the 5 parts is still online.
Toilets are tall because back in the medieval era, kings pooped on stools
and commoners pooped in holes.
When bathrooms moved out of the holes, they got taller. Not because it was good for pooping but because it was a selling point. We have tall toilets for the same reason we have lawns - it was social aping of the landed gentry. We can blame the British for most of this (as with most things); you know that bit in Douglas Addams' Hitchhiker's Guide about how all the telephone sanitizers were shot into space? Yeah, "telephone sanitizer" was a euphemism for "toilet cleaner." Since toilets and telephones hit the Brits about the same time, it was far more polite to have a truck outside your house announcing you had a telephone (even though you probably didn't) than one announcing you had a water closet (even though you probably did). It was an open secret, but the Brits being Brits, not only did they wink wink nudge nudge their way to obscurity, they did such a good job that by the time Douglas Addams came around, they'd all forgotten.
Worthy of note - the rest of the world doesn't poop like us. I've designed around Islamic squat toilets before; you can fuckin' mop the floors into 'em. And the pacific rim doesn't know what to do with toilet paper (because it's a fuckin' nasty habit); they attach the magic good time sprayer to the cold water tap and call it a day. The Japanese poop in one room and bathe in another... and they'll snot-rocket on the street without a second thought. The irrational American hatred of the bidet is well-documented. But what wasn't well-documented - before Kira - is that bathrooms in general are fucking stupid.
Kira was the guy to state the obvious and say "why is our toothbrush arm's reach from a bacteria volcano? Why do we accept stepping over a barrier into a shiny, slippery porcelain abattoir prior to covering ourselves in soap? Why do we stink up the very room we tend to put on perfume?" And everyone laughed at him and here we are, 50 years later, losing our minds over the thought of pooping with our feet up.
Kira's book is now effectively a storied antique. It's $30-70 on eBay, depending on whether it's first or second edition (there have been no more editions). But at least there are internet cranks like me who remember it. The Cornell Kitchen is completely forgotten. Christine Frederick is completely forgotten. Both of them invented the kitchen work circle; Frederick's contributions were so forgotten that 40 years later Cornell independently discovered it again.
And we've already forgotten again.
We'll forget this, too. Cheapest toilet at Home Depot is a wheelchair-accessible one. That means that everyone renovates their bathrooms with super-tall toilets. And then goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a squatty potty because they think the unicorn is funny. And then some stand-up comic is going to make fun of all of us and we'll throw the thing out because frankly it was covered in dried piss and pubic hair anyway. And in ten years, the only thing anyone will remember is rainbow sherbet.