Gender and Bathroom Door Signs
Fresh off her discussion of gender distinctions in how people are addressed, Eszter Hargittai has an interesting look at public restroom door signs and how they differentiate men and women. She even has a public Flickr group set up for others to contribute.
Perhaps it’s a selection issue (she only photographed signs that were interesting) but almost all of them are instantly recognizable. The exceptions are the ones that use no graphics, limiting themselves to words. Those, of course, are fine for people who can read a given language but less so for the illiterate (small children, for example) or foreigners.
One pub I visited in Amsterdam, for example, had the block letters H and D on the doors. Because of the similarities between Dutch and German and knowing a smattering of the latter, I correctly deduced that these were Dutch variants of Herren and Damen and chose the former. The alternative, I suppose, is taking a 50/50 chance or hoping someone whose gender is obvious enters or emerges from the facilities soon.