Story of the Degenderator

I really started working on this project when I was 8 years old. I was playing with my parent’s corkscrew. When I pushed the ‘head’ down, the ‘arms’ went up. Me, having a pretty simplistic view on gender at the time, thought I was on to something very profound. I pulled up and said men, and pressed down and said women. The utterly ubiquitous icon had so deeply cemented notions of gender binary in my soft young brain that I was ascribing it to a simple corkscrew.

In 2013 I found myself playing with the same type of corkscrew. I remembered my childhood impression, anthropomorphizing and gendering a simple machine. I thought maybe there was something to it, and made a shitty one out of fiberboard. The mechanism sucked, it was not motorized, so the viewer would have to select between pants and dress, so I put it away. I kept it on my to-do list and revisited it every few months eventually making a motorized model in 2017. It needed to be plugged in, had a huge motor which got very hot, and it moved much, much, much too slowly. So slowly that it appeared to not be moving at all, which essentially made a bad problem worse by gendering bathrooms in a rhythmic and alternating manner. After showing it as a conceptual sculpture it got a little bit of press in the hardware hacking and 3d printing world. It was ugly, slow, a little loud, and generally not suitable for large scale deployment.

In 2017 I was in an asian grocery story in Berlin when I saw for €4 a solar flip-flap flower toy. It was perfect. Low-power, silent, smooth motion with two petals/arms that moved together in opposite directions. I bought two and took them apart. It took the help of a lot of googling and an electrical engineer to fully understand the complexity of these toys, but I eventually learned what I needed to design the parts.

That brings me to 2019, where after many design attempts I finally had a working low-power version that was silent and could run for years on AA batteries. I flew to Shenzhen China to meet with factories and see about getting thousands made.

I now have a factory and a final design. The kickstarter launches in just a few weeks.

Honestly right now it is just one person. Want to get involved? Live in the bay area? Reach out, I’d love the help.

Robb Godshaw is a queer artist and researcher based in San Francisco. Their work uses robotics, electronics, and rapid prototyping to explore the complexity of human-machine interactions. Their work walks a fine line between absurd and unsurprising as a way to comment on cultures of technology. Robb has received a BFA in Art degree from Carnegie Mellon University where they focused on implementing mechatronic sculpture techniques into their artwork. Their other work can be seen at