Disclaimer: This is not an explicitly UX-forward project. However, it does involve research (loosely construed) and I am proud of how this work reflects on why I decided to get a degree in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies (GWSS) in tandem with my engineering degree.

In a way, I believe it also helps question what “research” even is, or what is deemed worthy of being considered “good” or “quality” research.


This is my capstone project for Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington (GWSS). In it, I collected graffiti from bathroom walls in two of the school’s libraries, Odegaard and Suzallo. I wanted to see if putting phrases from the men’s and women’s restrooms into a text generation AI would result in different outputs from the different kinds of people that I assume pass through those gendered spaces.

Perhaps this project was just an excuse to collect an absurd dataset and generate algorithmic outputs for my own fun. But I actually see this as a product of the way that my thinking has grown and changed throughout my time in GWSS.

For instance, I used to think feminism = a bunch of angry women who hated men. And that technology and women’s studies were mutually exclusive. My freshman year self obviously had a lot to learn.

Why did I do this? (The project… and double majoring)

At first, I thought I was only doing this project because it seemed fun. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the ways that I have been thinking through and with the content of this project have been heavily shaped by my time in GWSS.

As a freshman coming into UW, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing besides knowing I was going to study some sort of engineering. I figured, eh, I’ll get an engineering degree and get out, and go make that Silicon Valley salary. How mistaken I was.

I took a class titled “Gender and Human Computer Interaction (HCI)” in the Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) department, where we read a bunch of papers about gender and HCI and discussed them. As someone who knew they were trans but wasn’t out at the time, I had never really considered that gender and technology weren’t mutually exclusive. I was totally unaware of any overlap between the two.

Then I found myself taking GWSS 200, Introduction to Women Studies, the following quarter. Thinking back on it now, I’m unsure of what exactly possessed me to take the class— but I’d like to think it was because I had taken a liking to the act of thinking about and discussing gender from that HCDE class that I took. I was sold after that. By the end of freshman year I had committed to minoring in GWSS, and then by fall of sophomore year I was in my advisors office asking if I could double major and still finish in 4 years, so... I did.

Actually, I considered only majoring in GWSS and leaving engineering by the wayside at first. I dug through my email archive for this, but in spring of freshman year I had this conversation with the PhD student who led the Gender and HCI course:

I asked:

“Maybe this has no straightforward answer, but why HCDE? (Rather, why should I do it? This DRG [directed research group, Gender and HCI] has honestly made me wonder whether I should be doing engineering at all, and switch to something like psychology/gwss or something).”

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