Naomi Wu, 23, is known in China’s tech world as “SexyCyborg,” and has become the target of ill-informed misogynists far from her city as she pushes for inclusivity in the community.
Among Wu’s attackers is Dale Dougherty, CEO of DIY magazine Maker, who questioned her authenticity in a now-deleted tweet:
“I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people,” Dougherty wrote.
Wu is an emerging female icon in China’s tech landscape. A coder, designer and educator rolled into one, she has since inspired thousands across multiple social media platforms.
On YouTube, she has amassed roughly 140,000 followers, with her videos raking about 14 million views to date.
Dougherty’s harassment reportedly went on for weeks, affecting Wu’s financial prospects. For one, a company pulled itself from a sponsorship deal.
“[A] 3D printer company was going to pay me for several builds over the next few months using their product. I’m trying to save it but everyone knows Dale here, and this is all over the WeChat groups,” Wu told The Next Web.
Dougherty apologized in public earlier this week, but the damage, apparently, has already been done.
Naomi, I apologize for my recent tweets questioning your identity. I was wrong, and I’m sorry. @realsexycyborg https://t.co/hnEdn34sio
— Dale Dougherty (@dalepd) November 7, 2017
Wu further elaborated to NextShark about Dougherty’s apology, and exactly how much it cost her:
“The half-apology only came after the damage had been done and his comments were all over social media and in the Maker community here in China. He knew this would be devastating to my reputation and professional prospects — he also knew I would have no recourse. He waited a few more days and emailed with a vague sort of ‘I have no idea what I can do’ as if I was being unreasonable after he destroyed two years work? I don’t know what to say to him.
“For myself, I’m kind of looking at the wreckage and not really sure what to do. For Westerners who don’t understand the importance of reputation in China it seems like a very minor thing — it is everything here and there’s no repairing this.”
Wu believes that Dougherty, however, would have never tried attacking “a White lady from San Francisco.” She is convinced that the entire dispute stemmed from her pushing for women to be included — she has been critical over the lack of women at Make events in China.
“I kept pushing for more inclusion – not just me, other underrepresented people. They didn’t like being pushed. This is payback,” she said.
Yet, Dou is not alone in targeting the female tech star. As per Newsweek, many men in Silicon Valley are convinced that she’s not really human.
One anonymous blogger –whom Wu thinks is an American man — penned a “debunking” post that has since been falsified.
“The person writing [posts about me] is angry, angry at women. I can only guess it was a him,” Wu said.
Wu also cited Western men’s sense of entitlement to local women’s attention when visiting China. For her part, she often witnessed expats respond with rage when turned down.
Wu told NextShark:
“Any woman in tech ends up putting in a lot of time defending her work. Because of how I choose to look I have to put in a little more time than most. There’s always doubt, there’s always people quizzing you, trying to trip you up. Every time you post a project maybe half the commentators are talking about the project, the rest about how you didn’t make it no matter how detailed.
“In China, where White professionals are put on a pedestal, having someone like Dale call you out — that’s a devastating blow to your credibility. That credibility is everything if you are trying to make a career of this. Sponsors don’t want to sponsor a fake maker — and that includes people on Patreon. That doubt will follow me at long as I am doing this — it’s already filling up forums. ‘Whoops, my bad’ does not cover it. Not when he absolutely knew I was real and had spoken beforehand to people who verified I am exactly what I say. You can’t destroy someone’s work and career and just walk away with a shrug and a ‘sorry.’”
Wu pointed that her home city of Shenzen has long embraced a “cyber punk” culture that allows femininity to blossom in technology and art. Hence, her decision to make modifications to her body is perfectly acceptable in the community.
Unfortunately, this is something that her sexist attackers fail to comprehend as well.
Much like Dougherty, Wu’s senseless attackers only stimulate retrogressive thinking. She insists that American misogyny is unwelcome in China, and while the series of insults affected her pride, it does not hold her back from pushing to meet her goals.
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