TM&Th blog
Jean-luc Doumont
Women only?

Interestingly, the criticized use of the word man to designate
a human of either sex as opposed to, specifically, a male one
has got a direct, language-independent graphical equivalent.
The picture below, taken a few days ago at the new Terminal 1
of the Barcelona airport, shows two identical representations
of a man, used in the same two distinct meanings as the word.

Signs at BCN

The drawing of a man on the left indicates the men's restroom,
so it says man in the sense of a human being of the male sex.
The drawing of a man on the right prohibits access to anyone
(or at least to unauthorized persons, whether male or female),
so it means man in the sense of a human being of either sex.
Like the word man, a standard visual representation of a man
is usually unambiguous in context, even if the use of the same
generic drawing for two different meanings can be criticized.
However, when this drawing appears twice in the same context
with different intended meanings, the confusion is more likely.
The seemingly binary logic of the signs above identical doors
in the picture above—men allowed left, men forbidden right—
almost suggests that the right door is the women's restroom.

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