Can a sink be gendered? If you’re talking specifically about the Dyson Airblade™ Wash and Dry sink, it’s safe to say it can. Maybe you’ve seen this sink in public bathrooms, for instance in museums, universities or airports. The idea is that by executing a vertical motion with your hands, the tap function is activated, and by moving your hands sideways, the air dryer automatically turns on. This means that you don’t need to walk across the room to dry your hands after washing them.
This is super handy if you need to wash your hands… aaand that’s about it. The moment you need to use the public sink for anything else – let’s say emptying your menstrual cup – this can easily become quite the messy affair. A menstrual cup is a hygiene device for people who menstruate. It is usually made out of rubber or silicone and inserted in the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid. It can be emptied into toilets and sinks and should preferably be washed between use.
Now, it is easy to imagine what happens if the motion sensor on the Dyson Airblade registres horizontal rather than vertical movement while you’re washing your menstrual cup. Unfortunately, some of us have had to experience this first hand, and we can confirm that those 240 Volts can take your menstrual blood across the room in no time. Menstrual cups have become increasingly popular among people who have good access to sanitation. It is therefore a shame that personal innovations like this – which generally give people who menstruate more freedom and fewer health risks compared to tampons and pads – are ignored in the design of public spaces.
However, we shouldn’t solely blame the engineers of this invention. The decision to include the Dyson Airblade™ Wash and Dry in public facilities is the choice of those who govern these public or common spaces. Rarely can these people relate to the struggle of someone balancing their menstrual cups between motion sensors. Or the cleaner dealing with the potential mess that can follow.