A few weeks ago, a client was concerned over bathroom signs: how do you denote the boy/girl & man/woman with icons without being sexist?
I was happy this client was very concerned over the possibility of perpetuating stereotypes, especially among children - but he was making it difficult by constraining the problem to a visual solution only. Virtually every example signage we would find online has the infamous skirt. None of us like the skirt. "Boy" "Girl" would be the least sexist. The gender-signifying Venus/Mars would also work, but we wanted the icons to be more humanoid, less symbolic.
Some ideas I had were the triangle/ wedge, which is more of a biological reference (body shape and genitalia) and although restrooms are presumed to be separation of genitalia, really it is is separation of genders (thus the Venus/Mars symbols). A triangle and wedge would be not only be too abstract, but unfair to our trans friends. Gender is more than genitalia.
Then there's the idea of completely dissociated symbols, such as apples and oranges, but how do you then establish which is the man and which is the woman?
Really the best solution would be single occupant gender-neutral bathrooms, but there is not enough space for that (and we're well into CA!) and that perhaps provides too much privacy for children who need to be monitored by teachers and their peers. And although Seattle is a very liberal place, it may not be ready for co-ed K-12 restrooms just yet.
After a few pitches, we gave up and went traditional. We made sure the male/female shapes were more abstract: rather than the man being the default rectangular human, he was more of an inverted triangle, which made the woman's shape an equal opposite, reading less like a skirt.
I started taking things to a joking manner. And lo and behold, my idea:
I will be making these into clear decals to put into our office restrooms! Hopefully the men won't find this....a threat.