Hillary Clinton, Star Wars and the fraught loo break

Peeing is a feminist issue. It's also a human one. 

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We’ve all been there. You’re debating with a load of other left-wing political candidates on live television for the chance to be elected the next president of the United States, when you realise your bladder is full. Bursting. This is a do-or-die situation.

When the urge struck Hillary Clinton at last Saturday’s Democratic debate, she followed the call of nature and left – only to find there was a queue. On her return, she apologised to the live TV audience for her absence. 

This should be the end of the story, but the inimitable Donald Trump has waded in today with his important take on Clinton’s unexpected departure: 

"I know where she went, it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting, let's not talk, we want to be very, very straight up. But I thought that, wasn't that a weird deal.”

Perhaps Trump doesn't suffer from the human need to urinate - an uneniable advantage in the race ahead, given it will give him even more time to, as he described in the same interview, read “books and.... financial papers which I actually enjoy reading”. It's more likely, however, that Trump does the "weird deal" just like the rest of us, but was offended that his attention was drawn to Clinton's bodily functions. 

First, let’s look at the feminist issues at stake here. Women, as Clinton pointed out at another debate, tend to “take a little longer” to pee, especially as they get older; and are meanwhile encouraged (by men like Trump) to pretend their bodily functions don't exist. And in New Hampshire this weekend, the Boston Globe reports that the single women’s toilet was further away than the men’s, and Clinton was lapped there by a campaign manager. We've all seen the disparity between men's and women's queues during a theatre interval: women simply have to wait longer. 

In a broader sense, though, other people's toilet habits aren't really our business. Long, live events test even the strongest of bladders, as audiences found over the opening weekend of the latest episode of Star Wars. My cinema was filled with tuts and sighs as people escaped to the toilet, unable to wait any longer during the film's whopping 135 minutes. No lightsaber battle - or slice of a Democratic debate, for that matter - is that unmissable. 

To minimise tutting and missed plotlines, there is actually an app for forward-thinking, small-bladdered audience members: RunPee. It suggests “peetimes” in scenes that don’t have “crucial plot twists, or LOL moments, or exciting action”. (Anyone who’s seen The Force Awakens will know that the scenes at the cantina are an obvious contender). 

So perhaps Hillary needs a similar guide for her TV appearances: it's fair game to leave anytime Bernie Sanders starts droning on about funding, or perhaps, in future debates, anytime Trump opens his mouth. 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.