Humans have invented quite a few languages. Although English is widely spoken, there are many who do not speak. Thus, pictures and symbols have been developed to help those who may not speak English.
In particular, the universal bodily function, that of removing one's wastes from one's body, means that most people need to find restrooms.
So think about it. What iconography is used to represent men and women for restrooms? You have a stick figure of indeterminate gender, who represents the man. And the woman? Someone wearing, presumably, a skirt.
That's right. A skirt.
Now, I don't know about you, but outside some Brittany Spears fantasy video, I don't recall the last time I've seen a woman casually wearing a skirt. The US doesn't have much in the way of uniforms for pre-college boys and girls.
But I find it fascinating that we have stuck to symbols that are now some 40 years out-of-date, because, frankly, we lack the imagination to replace them.
Having said that, there's a reason why we choose such images. We want them to stand the test of time. Thus, we're stuck with the symbols we've picked.
Occasionally, some restaurants choose a variation on a theme that makes it even more challenging to figure out, such as seafood restaurants being clever with buoys and gulls. Forget the fact that people don't always speak English. Now, they must be familiar with these punny near-homonyms.
But what would we replace them with? Ah, there's the rub.
The obvious choice, at least, from a "historical" view, would be the circle with the arrow and the circle with the cross. Except who remembers which is male, and which is female (the one with the arrow is male)?
Another choice that ought to stand the test of time would be a little NSFW for public consumption, which is to have some depiction of genitals. I suppose one could try to represent X and Y chromosomes, but who is XY? Who is XX? And what if you're genetically unique, and don't fit those two?
Or perhaps our notions of having separate men and women's restrooms is passe, and we should allow for unisex restrooms! If that's too much, then we can have separate unisex restrooms, with one occupant at a time, if the thought of women and men relieving themselves in near proximity is too much for our frail sensibilities.
And, let's all be careful next time we're near a school, where signs abound that show the handsome young stick figure of a man, helping the diminutive young lass, who is, of course, wearing her skirt, or some triangular outfit.
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