A study in “A Journal of Feminist Geography” in 2015 found that men’s and women’s bathroom graffiti differs — mens’ bathrooms usually contain vulgar graffiti while women’s bathroom graffiti is usually inspiring, artistic or uplifting.
Thankfully, many bathrooms at UNC are actually home to uplifting messages, quotes, lyrics and a communal attempt to survive finals.
After going through the school’s academic buildings, the interesting part is that this seems to be building-specific — English students engage in heated discourse in Greenlaw while students suffer together in Davis.
Graffiti can be a way to embrace self-expression in a small way and make a statement, even if it’s just a doodle or a few words on a bathroom door.
While NC State has the Free Expression Tunnel, UNC only has the Cube by the Pit, which requires reservation. Students don’t have a centralized location on campus to write messages and drawings.
Sophomore Livian Kennedy said she understands the appeal of writing on walls for fun, and has even seen poetry and art in campus bathrooms.
“I think initially it’s a place of boredom, like you’re just kind of sitting around on the toilet and you’re looking at blank walls, you want to decorate them, it’s natural,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s also the understanding that everybody has to use the restroom, so at some point or other people are going to see your artwork, so I don’t know, I don’t really think of it as graffiti. I think there’s some really crazy poetry, art, like, intelligent statements on the walls here and on the bathroom stalls here.”
The anonymity of graffiti is another possible motivator for taking a sharpie to the stall walls.
Something drives us to share our thoughts, boredom, and random drawings with other people.
This concept has made spaces like Yik Yak successful — anonymity can free people to say what they feel they normally can’t.
First-year Carolyn Blackburn said that knowing no one will know you created the graffiti is a reason students do it.
“I think it’s partly to waste time and procrastinate while they’re in there. I think part of it is the anonymity of it,” she said.
After using several restrooms across campus in different buildings, it starts to become obvious that each building has its own bathroom graffiti style.
It’s not uncommon to see a literary quote near an English class or an encouragement about self-care near a psychology class.
First-year Sara Sharp said she sees this happening in Dey Hall bathrooms.
“Dey Hall has some weird stuff, like on the third or fourth floor, I think. It’s kind of weird,” Sharp said. “I forget what’s actually on it, but I’m pretty sure there are poems.”
So next time you want a distraction from studying, resist the urge to turn on Netflix and look at the writing on the walls around you.