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In Berlin, a new museum is opening which is devoted to the Rolling Stones. It’s full of old souvenirs from their 50 year career, collected and curated by fans. A delightful cultural asset to any city, I trust you’ll agree.
But, should you gentlemen find yourselves needing to answer a call of nature while visiting, you’ll be confronted by some distinctive urinals, which are based on the classic Stones logo – a very red caricature of Mick Jagger’s mouth with his tongue out – as designed by John Pasche in the early ’70s.
What makes this situation slightly gross (in more than one way) is that the urinals, which were designed by Meike van Schijndel, are called ‘Kisses,’ have already caused a certain amount of controversy, after they were installed in JFK airport, back in 2004. The problem is, even when presented in the middle of a Rolling Stones museum, once you take that tongue out (to prevent splashbacks, presumably) it becomes, at best, a very girly version of Mick Jagger’s mouth. And at worst, it’s just a girl’s mouth.
And this has outraged local feminist campaigners, such as Roda Armbruster, who told the LA Times: “If the urinals sported a tongue, it would have been acceptable because the identification with the band and Jagger would have been unmistakable. Without it, it’s a woman’s mouth, not a man’s mouth.”
Ulrich Schroeder, founder of the museaum, is having none of it, telling the German paper Die Welt “it’s art. It’s staying.”
So, the question is, who’s in the right? If these urinals are in the men’s room of a Rolling Stones museum, and based on the Rolling Stones logo, which is itself based on a very specific man’s mouth, are they still sexist?
And more to the point, aren’t they just very, very weird urinals?
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic