A Clash of Cultures

There’s an Internet controversy going on between Dale Dougherty, the CEO of Maker Media and Naomi Wu (@realsexycyborg), a Chinese Maker and Internet personality. Briefly, Dale Doughtery tweeted a single line questioning Naomi Wu’s authenticity, which is destroying Naomi’s reputation and livelihood in China.

In short, I am in support of Naomi Wu. Rather than let the Internet speculate on why, I am sharing my perspectives on the situation preemptively.

As with most Internet controversies, it’s messy and emotional. I will try my best to outline the biases and issues I have observed. Of course, everyone has their perspective; you don’t have to agree with mine. And I suspect many of my core audience will dislike and disagree with this post. However, the beginning of healing starts with sharing and listening. I will share, and I respectfully request that readers read the entire content of this post before attacking any individual point out of context.

The key forces I see at play are:

  1. Prototype Bias – how assumptions based on stereotypes influence the way we think and feel
  2. Idol Effect – the tendency to assign exaggerated capabilities and inflated expectations upon celebrities
  3. Power Asymmetry – those with more power have more influence, and should be held to a higher standard of accountability
  4. Guanxi Bias – the tendency to give foreign faces more credibility than local faces in China

All these forces came together in a perfect storm this past week.

1. Prototype Bias

If someone asked you to draw a picture of an engineer, who would you draw? As you draw the figure, the gender assigned is a reflection of your mental prototype of an engineer – your own prototype bias. Most will draw a male figure. Society is biased to assign high-level intellectual ability to males, and this bias starts at a young age. Situations that don’t fit into your prototypes can feel threatening; studies have shown that men defend their standing by undermining the success of women in STEM initiatives.

The bias is real and pervasive. For example, my co-founder in Chibitronics, Jie Qi, is female. The company is founded on technology that is a direct result of her MIT Media Lab PhD dissertation. She is the inventor of paper electronics. I am a supporting actor in her show. Despite laying this fact out repeatedly, she still receives comments and innuendo implying that I am the inventor or more influential than I really am in the development process.

Any engineer who observes a bias in a system and chooses not to pro-actively correct for it is either a bad engineer or they stand to benefit from the bias. So much of engineering is about compensating, trimming, and equalizing imperfections out of real systems: wrap a feedback loop around it, and force the error function to zero.

So when Jie and I stand on stage together, prototype bias causes people to assume I’m the one who invented the technology. Given that I’m aware of the bias, does it make sense to give us equal time on the stage? No – that would be like knowing there is uneven loss in a channel and then being surprised when certain frequency bands are suppressed by the time it hits the receivers. So, I make a conscious and deliberate effort to showcase her contributions and to ensure her voice is the first and last voice you hear.

Naomi Wu (pictured below) likely challenges your prototypical ideal of an engineer. I imagine many people feel a cognitive dissonance juxtaposing the label “engineer” or “Maker” with her appearance. The strength of that dissonant feeling is proportional to the amount of prototype bias you have.

I’ve been fortunate to experience breaking my own prototypical notions that associate certain dress norms with intelligence. I’m a regular at Burning Man, and my theme camp is dominated by scientists and engineers. I’ve discussed injection molding with men in pink tutus and learned about plasmonics from half-naked women. It’s not a big leap for me to accept Naomi as a Maker. I’m glad she’s challenging these biases. I do my best engineering when sitting half-naked at my desk. I find shirts and pants to be uncomfortable. I don’t have the strength to challenge these social norms, and secretly, I’m glad someone is.

Unfortunately, prototype bias is only the first challenge confronted in this situation.

2. Idol Effect

The Idol Effect is the tendency to assign exaggerated capabilities to public figures and celebrities. The adage “never meet your childhood hero” is a corollary of the Idol Effect – people have inflated expectations about what celebrities can do, so it’s often disappointing when you find out they are humans just like us.

One result of the Idol Effect is that people feel justified taking pot shots at public figures for their shortcomings. For example, I have had the great privilege of working with Edward Snowden. One of my favorite things about working with him is that he is humble and quick to correct misconceptions about his personal abilities. Because of his self-awareness of his limitations, it’s easier for me to trust his assertions, and he’s also a fast learner because he’s not afraid to ask questions. Notably, he’s never claimed to be a genius, so I’m always taken aback when intelligent people pull me aside and whisper in my ear, “You know, I hear Ed’s a n00b. He’s just using you.” Somehow, because of Ed’s worldwide level of fame that’s strongly associated with security technology, people assume he should be a genius level crypto-hacker and are quick to point out that he’s not. Really? Ed is risking his life because he believes in something. I admire his dedication to the cause, and I enjoy working with him because he’s got good ideas, a good heart, and he’s fun to be with.

Because I also have a public profile, the Idol Effect impacts me too. I’m bad at math, can’t tie knots, a mediocre programmer…the list goes on. If there’s firmware in a product I’ve touched, it’s likely to have been written by Sean ‘xobs’ Cross, not me. If there’s analytics or informatics involved, it’s likely my partner wrote the analysis scripts. She also edits all my blog posts (including this one) and has helped me craft my most viral tweets – because she’s a genius at informatics, she can run analyses on how to target key words and pick times of day to get maximum impact. The fact that I have a team of people helping me polish my work makes me look better than I really am, and people tend to assign capabilities to me that I don’t really have. Does this mean I am a front, fraud or a persona?

I imagine Naomi is a victim of Idol Effect too. Similar to Snowden, one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed interacting with Naomi is that she’s been quick to correct misconceptions about her abilities, she’s not afraid to ask for help, and she’s a quick learner. Though many may disapprove of her rhetoric on Twitter, please keep in mind English is her second language — her sole cultural context in which she learned English was via the Internet by reading social media and chat rooms.

Based on the rumors I’ve read, it seems fans and observers have inflated expectations for her abilities, and because of uncorrected prototype bias, she faces extra scrutiny to prove her abilities. Somehow the fact that she almost cuts her finger using a scraper to remove a 3D print is “evidence” that she’s not a Maker. If that’s true, I’m not a Maker either. I always have trouble releasing 3D prints from print stages. They’ve routinely popped off and flown across the room, and I’ve almost cut my fingers plenty of times with the scraper. But I still keep on trying and learning – that’s the point. And then there’s the suggestion that because a man holds the camera, he’s feeding her lines.

When a man harnesses the efforts of a team, they call him a CEO and give him a bonus. But when a woman harnesses the efforts of a team, she gets accused of being a persona and a front. This is uncorrected Prototype Bias meeting unrealistic expectations due to the Idol Effect.

The story might end there, but things recently got a whole lot worse…

3. Power Asymmetry

“With great power comes great responsibilities.”
-from Spider Man

Power is not distributed evenly in the world. That’s a fact of life. Not acknowledging the role power plays leads to systemic abuse, like those documented in the Caldbeck or Weinstein scandals.

Editors and journalists – those with direct control over what gets circulated in the media – have a lot of power. Their thoughts and opinions can reach and influence a massive population very quickly. Rumors are just rumors until media outlets breathe life into them, at which point they become an incurable cancer on someone’s career. Editors and journalists must be mindful of the power they wield and held accountable for when it is mis-used.

As CEO of Maker Media and head of an influential media outlet, especially among the DIY community, Dale Dougherty wields substantial power. So a tweet promulgating the idea that Naomi might be a persona or a fake does not land lightly. In the post-truth era, it’s especially incumbent upon traditional media to double-check rumors before citing them in any context.

What is personally disappointing is that Dale reached out to me on November 2nd with an email asking what I thought about an anonymous post that accused Naomi of being a fake. I vouched for Naomi as a real person and as a budding Maker; I wrote back to Dale that “I take the approach of interacting with her like any other enthusiastic, curious Maker and the resulting interactions have been positive. She’s a fast learner.”

Yet Dale decided to take an anonymous poster’s opinion over mine (despite a long working relationship with Make), and a few days later on November 5th he tweeted a link to the post suggesting Naomi could be a fake or a fraud, despite having evidence of the contrary.

So now Naomi, already facing prototype bias and idol-effect expectations, gets a big media personality with substantial power propagating rumors that she is a fake and a fraud.

But wait, it gets worse because Naomi is in China!

4. Guanxi Bias

In China, guanxi (关系) is everything. Public reputation is extremely hard to build, and quick to lose. Faking and cloning is a real problem, but it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that there are good, hard-working people in China as well. So how do the Chinese locals figure out who to trust? Guanxi is a major mechanism used inside China to sort the good from the bad – it’s a social network of credible people vouching for each other.

For better or for worse, the Chinese feel that Western faces and brands are more credible. The endorsement of a famous Western brand carries a lot of weight; for example Leonardo DiCaprio is the brand ambassador for BYD (a large Chinese car maker).

Maker Media has a massive reputation in China. From glitzy Maker Faires to the Communist party’s endorsement of Maker-ed and Maker spaces as a national objective, an association or the lack thereof with Maker Media can make or break a reputation. This is no exception for Naomi. Her uniqueness as a Maker combined with her talent at marketing has enabled her to do product reviews and endorsements as source of income.

However, for several years she’s been excluded from the Shenzhen Maker Faire lineup, even in events that she should have been a shoo-in for her: wearables, Maker fashion shows, 3D printing. Despite this lack of endorsement, she’s built her own social media follower base both inside and outside of China, and built a brand around herself.

Unfortunately, when the CEO of Maker Media, a white male leader of an established American brand, suggested Naomi was a potential fake, the Internet inside China exploded on her. Sponsors cancelled engagements with her. Followers turned into trolls. She can’t be seen publicly with men (because others will say the males are the real Maker, see “prototype bias”), and as a result faces a greater threat of physical violence.

A single innuendo, amplified by Power Asymmetry and Guanxi Bias, on top of Idol Effect meshed against Prototype Bias, has destroyed everything a Maker has worked so hard to build over the past few years.

If someone spread lies about you and destroyed your livelihood – what would you do? Everyone would react a little differently, but make no mistake: at this point she’s got nothing left to lose, and she’s very angry.


Although Dale had issued a public apology about the rumors, the apology fixes her reputation as much as saying “sorry” repairs a vase smashed on the floor.

Image: Mindy Georges CC BY-NC

At this point you might ask — why would Dale want to slander Naomi?

I don’t know the background, but prior to Dale’s tweet, Naomi had aggressively dogged Dale and Make about Make’s lack of representation of women. Others have noted that Maker Media has a prototype bias toward white males. Watch this analysis by Leah Buechley, a former MIT Media Lab Professor:

Dale could have recognized and addressed this core issue of a lack of diversity. Instead, Dale elected to endorse unsubstantiated claims and destroy a young female Maker’s reputation and career.

Naomi has a long, uphill road ahead of her. On the other hand, I’m sure Dale will do fine – he’s charismatic, affable, and powerful.

When I sit and think, how would I feel if this happened to the women closest to me? I get goosebumps – the effect would be chilling; the combination of pervasive social biases would overwhelm logic and fact. So even though I may not agree with everything Naomi says or does, I have decided that in the bigger picture, hiding in complicit silence on the sidelines is not acceptable.

We need to acknowledge that prototype bias is real; if equality is the goal, we need to be proactive in correcting it. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they are perfect. People with power need to be held accountable in how they wield it. And finally, cross-cultural issues are complicated and delicate. All sides need to open their eyes, ears, and hearts and realize we’re all human. Tweets may seem like harmless pricks to the skin, but we all bleed when pricked. For humanity to survive, we need to stop pricking each other lest we all bleed to death.

/me dons asbestos suit

Update: November 20, 2017
Make has issued an apology, and Naomi has accepted the apology. My sincere thanks to the effort and dedication of everyone who helped make this right.

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154 Responses to “A Clash of Cultures”

  1. Brian Ramsay says:

    Thanks for speaking up about this. I was also very disappointed in Dale’s accusations and think his apology is pretty weak, given the damage done to Naomi. Hopefully if enough prominent voices address it he will be forced to act.

  2. Flomerboy says:

    Thanks for this very thoughtful piece Bunnie. Very well written and important leadership.

  3. While I agree the apology was weak, I think there is more going on here than meets the eye, and I also think that there is ‘blame’ (if it must be apportioned) on both sides.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say “Naomi had aggressively dogged Dale and Make about Make’s lack of representation of women”. “Aggressively” is the key point here. Regardless of gender, any single person being aggressive in their dealings with a large, well-known organisation like Make is likely to get one of two things: Push-back or Being ignored. No-one is entitled to get appreciation, focus or exposure from any organisation. Naomi has very much approached this as “Women…” (and in particular herself) “are entitled to exposure from you.” The strange thing about this is that Make and Dale haven’t been backwards in coming forwards when it comes to female makers. The idea that they’re sitting there with their hands steepled and going “Muhahahaha, we’re not going to be promoting any female makers today, boys” is ludicrous.

    Female makers deserve as much exposure as their male counter-parts, that is both ‘lots’ and ‘none’ depending on their attitude towards making and their peers, and depending on other factors such as whether the organisation giving the exposure has a) the time b) the energy and c) the space in their publications/events. By aggressively singling-out Dale, and Make in general, I’m not sure Naomi has helped the cause of female makers. She may have done more damage than good, because now it means that more female (and male, come to that) makers consider Make to be ‘the enemy’, when they’re just not.

    Dale would’ve been better off staying out of it, being more professional and detached, but unfortunately he chose a different path. He has apologised, but there will be some propagation delay of that apology. Naomi must realise that with her attitude towards Make comes an element of risk – and that risk of backlash could have been foreseen.

    As for the side issue of whether or not Naomi is authentic, I believe she is. I believe that she has a lot of help with regards to promoting herself, of providing her with help with her English skills and of providing her with a space with which to manufacture her creations – the kind of space that she uses costs a lot of money, or sponsorship.

    The practical upshot of this is, of course, that Naomi will continue tweeting, no doubt at length, about how Make have wronged her and her entire gender. The apology from Dale will stand as a testament to how he shouldn’t have got involved in the first place. The world will continue on unabated and maybe, just maybe, a little ripple in the water of the Maker world may have been caused.

    • Jon Raymond says:

      @Michael Horne – Very well articulated.

      • Ewan says:

        But fundamentally wrong. Make have, indeed, been “backwards in coming forwards when it comes to female makers” – the problems that Naomi has pointed out are real problems, and while a single individual may not be “entitled to get appreciation, focus or exposure”, Make do have a responsibility to not act in a discriminatory manner, and they’ve been failing in that responsibility.

        There is a third possible response in addition to “Push-back or Being ignored”, and that’s to listen to criticism, acknowledge problems that exist, and then fix them. Make could have done that, they still can do that, and they still should.

        They should also distance themselves from victim blaming nonsense like “Naomi must realise that with her attitude towards Make comes an element of risk” – just because a big guy /can/ punch you in the face, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for him to do it. Make being more powerful than Naomi doesn’t make their behaviour OK, it makes it worse.

        • Bill Simposn says:

          No, they’re not required to do any of those things because noncontributing zeroes on twitter on spilled their period blood because a con artist was exposed. Better luck next time.

          • JediJeremy says:

            And thank YOU for providing such a classic example of the toxic trolls that Naomi will have to put up with for the rest of time.

            It doesn’t matter to you that Dale has publicly retracted his baseless allegations, does it? Or perhaps you missed his “open note” https://makezine.com/2017/11/06/open-note-to-naomi-wu/

            And for anyone wondering why Naomi _should_ get “aggressively” upset, just imagine receiving 100 variations on the above message per day via every social media channel, all because one self-appointed community gatekeeper decided he didn’t like you.

            THIS is the damage that “Oh, I’m terribly sorry” doesn’t fix.

          • boondaburrah says:

            They’re required to do those things because that’s how you be a responsible adult.

          • don bright says:

            “non contributing zero spilling my period blood”.. thanks will have to put that on my business card, byline blurbs, etc. hope you dont have it trademarked…?

          • eas says:

            Bill, did you read the original post?

            Just kidding. You obviously haven’t, and you are obviously an ass.

    • Dan Keller says:

      At the risk of being accused of “not seeing both sides” I would like to type a response to Michael.

      I think you are ascribing more meaning to the word “aggressively” in the context of this article than what was intended. The meaning, even in context, is wrought with subjectivity. Your opinion of what it means that Naomi “aggressively” dogged Make might be that she did so with a purely negative tone. I think of it as being persistent. Is my interpretation incorrect? Perhaps, but I don’t see anything that would truly support other interpretations any more so. I’ll leave it at this – each person’s interpretation, for better or worse, will be greatly influenced by their background and experiences. This is the great weakness of language.

      In addition, I don’t think Naomi is accusing anyone of acting in the manner you are describing (“hands steepled and going “Muhahahaha”…). Yes, she and others persistently point out the lack of female representation in Make and other maker organizations. That’s accurate. The biases described in this article are accurate. However, to claim there is “fault on both sides” is tipping the scales in an already unbalanced scenario. You may take issue with this but honestly, I don’t see how else Naomi and others can approach the situation at this point. Make and other organizations have certainly ignored people who have called them out on their bias up to this point. I don’t think Naomi in any way caused this or made them more entrenched. These organizations have provided all the empirical evidence needed to show they were already entrenched through patterns of ignoring diversity in the maker universe.

      I also don’t think that telling Naomi that she needs to realize there is an element of risk to her approach is very constructive. Yes, there is risk in anything. However, I don’t think you truly understand the disproportionate risk she faces in comparison to Dale and others. The article does an excellent job of pointing this out. This situation is a result of bias, and is not Naomi’s fault. The bias was already there and was unfair to begin with. Naomi and others do not deserve to be subjected to that bias. Dale may have “apologized” but I still see no recognition by Make or their supporters of the issue being called out. I don’t see any statements of “yeah, sorry, the bias exists and we’ll attempt to rise above it”. Instead, I see a lot of “blame the victim” tactics where it’s stated that “well, people need to call this out in a different way.”

      Perhaps Dale and other can suggest what that way is, because I’m not seeing any way that is acceptable to them or others.

      This response is not an attack; rather it is an attempt to perhaps state things in a little different way to bring to light the bias that does exist. I, too, will no doubt have my words misunderstood because I doubt I can articulate clearly enough to help people understand my opinion. That’s OK. Feel free to pick my argument apart – it will at least add to the discussion. I, however, will not respond as I won’t be able to improve on my thought much. Apologies.

      • Thank you for your measured reply. It’s appreciated.

        I’ve seen Naomi’s tweets and they come across as being ‘aggressively entitled’, if that makes sense. I’m not going to go back through the Twitter history, but it has become unclear as to what exactly she was unhappy about – her lack of exposure, or the lack of exposure for female makers in general. She switches between the two. I can understand a crusade for the latter – female makers ARE under-represented by Make, but recently they have tried to make strides towards that end. However, I have very little sympathy for someone who tries to broaden an appeal for personal recognition into a crusade because the person feels that they, personally, must have validation. It comes across as: because she failed at getting personal recognition, she’s attacked Make on the general lack of female recognition in the hope that they will include her when they change their evil ways.

        There are fewer female makers out there than male makers, that’s just the way things are, for better or worse. Perhaps Make feel that their coverage of the maker community should reflect the demographic at which they are aimed? I don’t know what the solution is to that. Perhaps female makers _need_ more encouragement than male makers. Why this should be is anyone’s guess. Less charitable people might say it’s a confidence thing, and that women have less confidence in this male-dominated arena. I applaud female makers, just as I applaud male makers. I also applaud people for trying to get more visibility for female makers, but there are ways and means.

        There _is_ a risk in being so forthright with an organisation, regardless of whether you or I think that’s right. I believe Make (and Dale Dougherty in particular) have offered an olive branch to Naomi. Not particularly well, and perhaps she was hoping for more (I think Dale’s resignation is what she’s after, personally) but an olive branch is an olive branch and perhaps rejecting it in a fit of anger was not the best way to go.

        • Ewan says:

          “There are fewer female makers out there than male makers, that’s just the way things are, for better or worse”

          Go back to the top of this page and re-read the sections on the appropriate response to an existing bias, in particular the answer to the question ‘Given that I’m aware of the bias, does it make sense to give us equal time?’

        • kuro68000 says:

          Your whole argument is completely ignoring the issues she raised. You just make generic points and speculate about her motivations, assuming the worst.

          I don’t know if you are doing this deliberately – I think a lot of people who do it just adopted it from others after seeing that it is effective without understanding why. But it’s a common derailing tactic, and should be avoided.

    • Matthew Bloch says:

      Michael – from everything I’ve read of hers, Naomi has been polite, persistent & well-informed on the issue of representation. If she hasn’t, sheesh, she is a talented young woman who is 23.

      If her name was Linus and it was 1991 you’d be praising her tenacity and forthrightness in taking on the establishment not advising her to be politer

      • Bill Simposn says:

        She neither represents her community, nor is she in any position to educate anyone, let alone an executive from O’Reilly who presumably didn’t whine his way into power like Naomi is intending to do. Try not to cry.

        • JediJeremy says:

          Oh, just go away you toxic individual.

          I know Naomi. Her work has been educational for me, and it’s been inspiring. I would feel proud to be represented by her, unfortunately too many people seem determined to deny her the chance.

          There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

        • boondaburrah says:

          Why do you hate so much?

        • boondaburrah says:

          She’s now in a position to educate me because now I know she exists. Not the best way for this to happen, but hey. I also don’t see any whining.

        • I can see why she’d *like* to represent her community – it would be very beneficial to her in terms of exposure and sponsorship and would be self-validating. I can equally see that her attitude has, and will continue to, cost her a great deal. Other female makers out there are much more impressive, both in terms of their builds and their approach to public relations.

          • Karen Reilly says:

            “Other female makers” benefit from Naomi’s work tearing down assumptions about how women in technology act and dress. There’s no amount of diplomacy that makes tech more welcoming. There’s no way to dress that makes tech more welcoming. Men decide they don’t like women in tech in any form, so you know what? We can do what we damn well please and we’re not required to ask permission, just like every novice Maker who is content puttering around his workshop doing what seems like fun and not getting comments like “OMG eat a sandwich” or “I would fornicate with the girl.”

            Further reading about “attitude”: http://fortune.com/2014/08/26/performance-review-gender-bias/

            • Bill Simposn says:

              Nobody benefits from Naomi’s work, because her “work” doesn’t exist. That would imply that she expends effort and has any talent to speak of other than constantly whining about how much of a victim she is.

              And these make-believe men who “don’t like women in tech in any form” must be particularly taxing to deal with. Unlike the real men (and women) in tech who welcome anyone who can delivery commercially viable products and services, since that will make them money. Funny how capitalism utterly destroys systemic discrimination, huh? :)

              • Aless says:

                Go back to your MRA subreddit.

                You really are an idiot if you think capitalism erases inequality. :’)

    • TC says:

      > “As for the side issue of whether or not Naomi is authentic, I believe she is. I believe that she has a lot of help with regards to promoting herself, of providing her with help with her English skills and of providing her with a space with which to manufacture her creations – the kind of space that she uses costs a lot of money, or sponsorship.”

      Naomi’s authenticity is not a side issue, it’s the central issue. There’s a big difference in making out someone is a noob versus making out someone is a fraud, especially in a culture that puts a high value on reputation (which bunnie suggests is the case in the article, see “4. Guanxi Bias”) and especially for those people that are easier targets for baseless accusations (see “1. Prototype Bias” and “2. Idol Effect”).

      As for Naomi’s actions prompting the reaction from Make, in my opinion that would be completely disproportionate. Let’s imagine a different take. Imagine there was an 80 year old hardware hacker who complained that Make wasn’t featuring enough older people in its publications. As you rightly said, your background shouldn’t matter, it should be about the quality of what you’re doing. There’s an argument to be made about how social perceptions influence the makeup of a community, and there’s a healthy debate to be had about that, as there are valid arguments on both sides. However, there’s a big jump between disagreeing with someone in a debate and attempting to ruin their reputation. In short, if you’re suggesting Naomi provoked Make into responding, the action does not justify the reaction.

      As for Dale’s actions, an apology that misses out the lessons learned is not an apology. Whilst it’s not my place to put words in his mouth, I’d suggest it’d be helpful if it was some variant of the following:


    • don bright says:

      Every big Youtuber has help. All of them. Some have producers, some have camera people, some have editors, some have writers, sponsors, advertisers, partners, etc. It’s why they are good at their job, because they know how to collaborate and lead others.

    • the goals of the Maker movement that Make has always promoted included encouraging people into the space. A woman not giving up on holding them to the goals they say they stand behind is a bad thing now? Maybe look at whether you’re using the stereotype of the nagging woman to trivialise someone (particularly with patronizing phrases like ‘no doubt at length’)

    • MIke Estee says:

      strongly disagree with you analysis here. you’re essentially victim blaming, tone policing and placing the burden of righting an injustice on the wronged.

      a better line of reasoning and a more compassionate view would be for you to examine why she needed to complain in the *first* place. she’s not the first woman to highlight the problem, not by a long shot.

      dale had his feet held to the fire over it, and he rightly apologized. bunnie has done a good job of explaining why that’s not enough and I hope dale spends some of his social capital to right the situation further.

      > The idea that they’re sitting there with their hands steepled and going “Muhahahaha, we’re not going to be promoting any female makers today, boys” is ludicrous.

      I’d like to point out that your hands are not steepled, they’re stuck in your ears and your shaking your head going “What problem? I don’t see a problem”.

      • Bill Simposn says:

        You don’t treat bullies with compassion, you treat them with utter disdain. Because this idiot apologized, he’s given credence to her ridiculous complaints and opened himself up to more blackmail.

        • Jan Ciger says:

          Bill, I have read several of your comments and you are truly pathetic.

          So basically Dale Dougherty is the poor victim here, being bullied around by an overly ambitious girl, right? His reputation forever soiled, his work destroyed?

          Or is he? Wasn’t it him spreading the baseless rumors in the first place? Sullying the reputation and questioning the authenticity of someone else? And when publicly called out it, issuing a half-hearted apology and waiting for the world to roll over, leaving someone else to pick up the pieces of what he broke.

          You really have a way to spin things …

          If he thought she was some sort of a pretender or someone seeking attention and self-aggrandizement, Make could have well ignored her or called her out *on that*. But no, this guy has decided for an ad-hominem reputation attack instead. That is the problem – which you specifically keep trying to ignore and try to blame the victim instead.


          • Bill Simposn says:

            He isn’t a victim, he’s an idiot. When you’re attacked by the twitter mob with baseless accusations, you don’t apologize, you push back twice as hard. Now that he’s stupidly rolled over, he’s opened himself up to the never-ending screeching about how he needs to apologize harder, differenter, and betterer.

            • I guess there’s a benefit to having a troll around who demonstrates what the problem is with male entitlement in tech…

              • kogepathic says:


                It’s like someone summoned the brogrammers here to drive the point home that women face discrimination in tech. Bunnie is writing that in his opinion the treatment of Naomi is unjustified, and you have a bunch of people piling on in the comments to say “well, actually” and then digging up excuses for why she “deserves” to be treated this way (e.g. her preferred attire).

                • failrate says:

                  >> you have a bunch of people piling on in the comments
                  I only see one idiot trolling in the comments (Bill Whatshisname). The majority here appear to be supporting Naomi Wu.

            • Tracy says:

              Billy…billy…billy…. Before we begin, I m3uat ask… Had you heard of Dale Dougherty before this? Do you know who he is, what he does or what he represents? Im afraid IRL you are very outclassed here. Enjoy your trolling, but honey, you are actually out of your league in regards to judging both of these people.

          • Maus says:

            Is Bill actually just Dale?

        • happycube says:

          I’d take your advice to the fullest, but then I’d get blocked here like you should be!

    • Andrew says:

      It’s late and I’m exhausted. I’ve bookmarked this post and will come back to it tomorrow. You earned my trust at “Burning Man” where my own preconceived notions are challenged every year. I believe what you’re saying is completely true to you, and I agree with your sentimate. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Craeig Jones says:

    Thank you for posting this – after having discovered Naomi Wu on youtube, I really got inspired by watching her figure things out and showing her dev process. I look forward to her product reviews because a lot of times, I am so unaware of where tech is going now and how it all fits together.

  5. failrate says:

    Thank you for this article. I didn’t know about Naomi Wu beforehand, but now I’m going to seek her out.

  6. Heiko says:

    Very well written. Thank you

  7. Per says:

    I’m familiar with Naomi’s mission to get more female makers at Maker Faire and other venues but I hadn’t heard of this rumour. Thanks for bringing it up.
    I feel sorry for Naomi and wish there was something I could do to help.

  8. Cqoicebordel says:

    Thanks for this piece.

    I must admit that the first time I heard about @realsexycyborg, I thought she was part of an advertising stunt, because mainly of my prototype bias. For us, male engineers, when presented with “Sexy Cyborgs”, we are more used to see them selling us something than anything else.

    I’ve since learned, and expended my “Prototype”.
    I very much like the work of Naomi Wu, and thank her for it, and for showing me (and others) that any prejudice is wrong.

  9. Alain says:

    Interesting article.

    I think you missed the main problem here: you cannot have a meaningful debate with a tool like “twitter”. Of course, the president of the most powerful nation in the world has legitimised the idea that you can even set foreign policy with that tool, so I guess now everything goes. But with 140 characters (now 280) you’re stuck with summaries, innuendos, lack of context… Imagine if engineers had to fit a microcontroller datasheet in a single tweet :-) Dale Dougherty was wrong to send that initial tweet and Naomi’s responses, pages of tweets, have nevertheless been sometimes teetering on the verge of the bizarre (like insinuating that Dale Dougherty suggested she was a transexual). Your article here is of much greater value than all this.

  10. Richard says:

    I think that the root cause that starts people down the track of questioning her work is due to the fact that Naomi is ESL (English as a Second Language) and heavy uses grammar-checked & edited scripts by native speaking friends – while making for easy-to-listen-to audio, it does make her appear scripted. It’s not because she’s being fed lines (they’re her lines), but because she want to appear professional and appeal to native English speakers. However when compared to other ESL Chinese people I know (a lot), she sounds less authentic because of it. Seeing her talk about her work in Chinese though? You can see her passion and knowledge, even if you can’t understand her.

  11. Pepijn says:

    Thanks for articulating this so well Bunny. Could not agree with you more.

  12. Luke says:

    I hope your hazmat suit is unneeded.

  13. Ger V says:

    Hi Bunnie, very well written and articulated assessment. I have checked out Naomi’s video’s and would like to make her an offer, regarding a hardware prototype with solar tiles combined with versions of a floating building. The eventual completed product could be sourced and sold in Shenzhen. At the very least it is a fun build she could do and use for her hardware video’s. Is there a way you can get her to contact me? Very much appreciated and thanks in advance. Here is a summary of the project: silodome.wordpress.com/singapore-pilot-program

    • José Xavier says:

      Such a nice text! Most of the points you analyse here can fit in everyday discussions I see in Portugal.

  14. Simmydash says:

    Here are some biases of my own that I’ve noticed:

    1) Once it became clear this was a case of a man questioning a woman’s credibility, all civility towards him went out the window. He was mobbed, mocked and insulted on social media, and nothing he could seemingly say was sufficient or apologetic enough, because he’s a white man. His initial tweets about it made it clear he was correlating stories from multiple people to form his opinion of her, rather than just going off a single blog post.

    2) Wu’s reaction was to claim misogyny and that she’s been “GamerGated”. This is extremely ironic, considering that old thing was started when a woman and her sycophants in the press used accusations of misogyny to deflect from real ethical breaches. This of course only brought up more people to her defense, because people are predisposed to seeing women as automatic victims in this day and age.

    3) It’s pretty ridiculous to act like she’s just another woman trying to be a maker and being treated differently. A simple Google search for her name brings up pictures that make a bikini shoot seem conservative. She isn’t bucking the stereotype or trend, she is the stereotype, that of the attention seeker who plays out her looks to her adoring orbiting male fanbase. That might make her unique, and quirky, and popular, but you can’t pretend like she isn’t doing this deliberately and is just some innocent lamb. The lamb is the brand, the idol effect she is banking off of.

    4) From Make’s own numbers, 80% of their audience are men. The “lack of diversity” that is complained about here, which we often hear about in STEM in general, is seen as axiomatic, despite now several decades of gender equal policy. Women do not seem as interested, even if nothing is stopping them from being interested. This is the myopic ideology of diversity uber alles, which ignores factual realities of the kind that got James Damore fired from Google.

    5) When it comes to racial statistics, the talk included here shows 97% of maker’s audience has a college education, and 80% is post graduate educated. Consider that the maker community, and tinkering in general, is a pass-time for middle and upper class people, and that racial issues in the US are often a proxy for social class, which especially upper-middle class progressives tend to be wilfully blind towards. Especially because the speaker seemingly makes a leap from “people of color” to “african american” without bothering to make a clear distinction.

    • Pettancow says:

      Haha, are you even for real.

      1 is a simple matter of “talk shit, get hit”, and I’m not even going to dignify the rest with a response because it’s the same tired diatribe quoted verbatim from some /pol/ thread that Bunnie’s own post talked down in the first place.

  15. Chris Fisher says:

    If male/female engineers and technical staff dress like a “baywatch lifeguard”, they should NOT get upset when they lose credibility among their peers.

    • boondaburrah says:

      From an engineering and technical perspective, credibility should only be based on whether your tech is good.

      • Chris Fisher says:

        People that dress like a homeless person will always be treated in a specific way, just like women with large implants that are popping out of the top of the shirt are also treated in a specific way too. ONLY a FOOL expects this to NOT be reality.

        • Matt V says:

          So people that dress like a teenager on the boardwalk probably don’t get taken seriously either, in your world. Like this guy: http://images.gawker.com/rqn8vswom5lvhp7yydcq/original.jpg

        • Ewan says:

          And where does ‘goth with brightly artificially dyed hair’ fit into your scale of credible vs not credible?

        • ah, the old’ she shouldn’t have worn that tight skirt if she didn’t want to be raped’ canard

        • pt says:

          everything the trolls are saying here has been said to and about limor in some way, and still is.

          speaking from experience of limor being called fake for years this brought up a lot of painful memories and empathy, it’s hard to work past getting called fake, even for limor, it wasn’t until WIRED put limor on the cover that we received -less- claims of that, still happen to this day. there are limor hate-sites, still to this day that we get taken down on a regular basis.

          we do a video series “desk of ladyada” to prove limor designs hardware, people come and do tours at adafruit, and at the end ask “do you really do this” to limor, in front of her. bonkers.

          limor wasn’t an entrepreneur until a magazine said she was, she wasn’t many things until someone who buy ink by barrels said she was.

          i help limor with many things, including helping with emails – videos, running a biz, all that. bunnie’s partner works with him closely, this doesn’t mean limor or bunnie are fake, it means they can work with people to amplify each other, that is what makers can do together. grant imahara has a team of people, adam savage does, this doesn’t take away from their persona, adds to it. they’re both celebrated by make from covers to events.

          additionally, limor, like bunnie, does her best engineering when sitting half-naked at her desk. she find shirts and pants to be uncomfortable. most of adafruit was and is limor in a bathrobe that is falling apart.

          be excellent to one another, publish each other’s work, celebrate the work.

          we talked about this last night on our show.


          • happycube says:

            Getting Adafruit as far as it has – and via organic growth, as stated later in that video – isn’t *just* engineering. Limor and her team (you included) have a lot to be proud of, even if Limor decided to stop engineering tomorrow to focus on the business and have others take up the engineering, she would still be legit. :)

      • Chris Fisher says:

        If a male engineer stood up to give a presentation to a group of engineers with a ranging hard cock in his pants during his entire presentation, do you really think his credibility wouldn’t be hurt? Only a fool would say it wouldn’t affect his credibility!

      • Bill Simposn says:

        And not on your gender, sexual identity, or race? LOL

    • Matt V says:

      I bet Chris Fisher is the type of guy who defends (white male) bigots in tech with “it’s a meritocracy, only the work should matter”

    • Jim says:

      Dude, when you’re in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging.

      I’m an engineer and never wore a suit or tie to a job interview. That was my test for the company–If they cared more about what I was wearing than what I could do, I didn’t want to work there.

      Anyone who cares more about what Naomi wears than what she can do is also a fail.

      • kuro68000 says:

        This is my policy too. If a company requires engineers to wear a suit, I don’t want to work there.

        Attacking how she looks is just a standard diversion tactic, designed to move the conversation away from the very real and specific issues she raised.

      • Bill Simposn says:

        Well I hope your “career” of being an engineering department’s janitor is going well.

        • Fhbcbnkh says:

          LMAO somebody’s never been to Silicon Valley, I see! Imagine thinking you need to wear a suit to get ahead in the tech industry in 2017. Amazing.

    • don bright says:

      hes not a peer, thats the point of the article. hes a “thought leader”. alot of her actual peers, other tech youtubers for example, never had a problem believing her.

    • MIke Estee says:

      really? did you just use a “she was asking for it, look at how she was dressed” argument?

      an engineer should wear clothes. a mechanical engineer should carry a caliper, an electrical engineer should carry a multimeter, and a software engineer should have their own coffee mug.

      what they wear matters not one bit. however, how *you* treat them for what they wear is entirely up for criticism.

  16. I’ve been following SexyCyborg (I suppose I should say Ms Wu now that I know her name!) for several years. I follow her projects because in the words of Joel Spolsky, she gets things done. She seems to have that reservoir of perseverance to carry projects through to completion and I admire that quite a lot.

    I think she and other diverse makers do deserve a better shake from the establishment. To me, the worst aspect of Mr. Dougherty’s behavior is due to the power imbalance. If he didn’t know the disproportionate effect of his actions, then he is unqualified to be in his position, and if he did know, then he is an abusive personality and shouldn’t be in any position of power.

  17. tech says:

    Hi there mates, nice paragraph and good urging commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

  18. Douglas says:

    The CEO screwed up. He apologized. He should have been more detached and professional in the matter. Perhaps research a little. Twitter is the wrong platform for conducting business.

    And everyone learned a lesson.

  19. VFP says:

    To any people who would gleefully feed on Dough-boy’s leavings: I don’t buy for a second that some dude or a clever syndicate came up with a tampon magazine. Get over your issues with women. At the very least, focus on making things, instead of worrying about what other people do. If what someone else does upsets you, do something better, or shut up. Don’t pretend that it’s all some kind of conspiracy that someone else is putting down designs and blowing up YT while you’re sitting there saying ‘I could do that, if only she wasn’t so damn sexy!’

    ‘Maker movement’ is more like a bowel movement if all you do is talk s**t. Face reality, not everything is a conspiracy when it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself.

    Bunnie, good on you for speaking up about this, you’re good people.

  20. Simon Ponder says:

    This was a wonderful read. I saw the tweets going back and forth and had no idea how things worked in China, by chance today I signed up for Patreon and decided to back her because I have learned a few things from her builds, now I feel I need to back her even more so she can rebuild her image a bit.

  21. k wu says:

    thank you SO much for writing this! Very well said. Naomi’s an important cultural figure and represents something in a movement; this moment not only affects her career so significantly, but it’s a real example to others who want to enter the space.

    I appreciated how you said that seemingly “even” playing ground is not equal playing ground (re: giving Jie more stage time!) Proportions adjusted to power

  22. Well written, Bunnie (and team).

    • bunnie says:

      Thanks for acknowledging my partner’s efforts! :) She did an amazing job of editing my writing and providing feedback, all on short notice…we iterated through so many drafts, this was a very difficult subject to write about.

  23. Dave says:

    >I’ve discussed injection molding with men in pink tutus and learned about plasmonics from half-naked women.
    I’ve seen C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain…

  24. Part. Urg. says:

    You forgot to mention her attentionwhoring — the “being a woman I need to hypersexualize my appearance” bias. Even in her twitter/youtube username.

    What if you presented Novena while dressing like a Nazi? What would be the effect on the vast majority of your followers? Would you then blame their “bias”, or would you understand that you added an useless ingredient?

    • Jan Ciger says:

      It is pretty sad when you need to judge people by what they are wearing instead of what they are doing …

      • Terre Tulsiak says:

        Honestly, as a woman who would be happy if they just taught kids how to solder and sew, and hope that sparks something, I do think that appearance can be a distraction. And it says more about a person’s self image than anything, but I get more done when dressed neatly than in pajamas- it just gives ME signals.

    • Person says:

      You’d prefer her to wear a Burka?

      Clearly she’s Chinese, and the Chinese are neither arresting nor molesting her, so the only place there’s a problem is in your head. Live and let live.

  25. Pettancow says:

    Man, to hell with Dale. On the other hand, thanks for giving Naomi some exposure! I tend to sit at the edge of social circles so good folk like this go under my radar more than I’d like.

  26. Jason says:

    Just curious of what we as a maker community can do in specific cases, (to help naomi for example). Im sure shes not alone or the last one…… im not a social media person, but i follow bunnies blog and naomis post ast well….thx

  27. Jen says:

    Women are challenged to prove themselves repeatedly, despite any history. No degree, publication, or thing I make will ever be enough proof that I am capable of doing “a man’s job”

    • Bill Simposn says:

      So is everyone else. Sorry that you’re not handed everything on a silver platter, like the angelic perfect Godcreature your parents insisted you were to get you to stop throwing temper tantrums.

      • Mephron says:

        Sorry, Bill, but you’re actually not just wrong, you’re anti-right.

        I’ve worked as a support engineer for most of my career. More than once, I’ve had to take a call from someone who called in for assistance and refused to talk to their initial point of contact because they were a woman. I had to deal with a programmer who refused to take an escalation seriously because the agent handling the bug report was a woman.

        I’ve had to fight to get my people decent raises because they were women – two people, one man and one woman, metrics within hundreths of a point of each other except the woman had higher customer satisfaction scores, and my superior tried to get me to accept she only deserved half the raise he got percentagewise.

        In tech, since the start of the TechBros in the 1970s (please go see the movie “Hidden Figures” to understand what it was like before then), a woman has to do twice or three times as much as a man to get half the recognition. That’s unfair. That’s ridiculous. And the assumption that a woman “can’t” do something and a man has to be responsible for it is recent, and stupid, and with luck we can stomp it out and start worrying about more important things than that.

      • Fhbcbnkh says:

        Dude, are you just being grouchy because /r/incel got shut down?

  28. DrTune says:

    It’s as sexist as the “Birther” thing was racist. This marvelous 5min video explains a lot about sexism and feminism; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYyeq3hKC2w

  29. Mattias says:

    Thank you and your team for writing this, and for making the Novena.

  30. tom says:

    Thanks for the blog entry, but it would really help if you would first explain the shitstorm a bit.

    > Briefly, Dale Doughtery tweeted a single line questioning Naomi Wu’s authenticity, which is destroying Naomi’s reputation and livelihood in China.
    Is a bit brief for what she’s actually doing, why he is questioning them and what are the people pro and contra in this case and why are they shitstorming about this tweet. Most of the stuff you need to search yourself when reading this article.

  31. Jerry Isdale says:

    Thank you Bunnie for an excellent and well thought out response. I’m sure your team contributed, at least in the discussion and editing. I missed the beginning of this storm and was rather shocked by Dale for both the initial comment and the dismissive apology. I am struck by the contrast between how he treated Naomi and how Super Awesome Sylvia got treated by Make a few years back… with no mention of Zeph (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/08/20/super-awesome-sylvia-vs-his-robots-and-your-assumptions).
    I’ve missed the last couple years major Maker Faire events. The big ones havent called me as much as they have in past years. The mini-maker faire events, grass root organized, seem much more true to the maker ethos. We’ve had 4 of them here in Hawaii, which is pretty good for our small population. Same with Make magazine and blog. There are alternatives that excite me much more.
    That said, I better get back to writing up projects for some of those alternatives!
    Keep making!

  32. Person says:

    She’s a hacker. She hack peoples’ attention, with her body and her clothes.

    Not much different from Zuckerberg who hacks people’s attention with dopamine surges and sells their data.

    Of the two, I find Naomi much less threatening.

    • Yahya Tawil says:


      I really find her disgusting, because she is promoting her maker profile using her body which is the weapon of a weak person. if she’s honest and not just want to show-up she must impress us with here projects not with here naked body.

      Sham on her.

      • Person says:

        Yahya Tawil, I think you misunderstood my point. A hacker is someone who understands systems and how to manipulate them. Not just electronics. Also how people behave and think, aka social engineering. You too can be hacked. Your brain is a system. It can be hacked. That’s what Zuckerberg/Facebook does. It’s also what Naomi Wu’s doing. It’s hacking.

  33. Anonymous says:

    If a woman wears a whores uniform, then don’t be butt-hurt when people assume you are a whore. youtube.com/watch?v=J7QNw1LRJv4

  34. Person says:

    Bunnie, since you are in contact with Naomi Wu, could your share this with her? She mentions that she knows some great makers in Shenzhen who make great things. Since she’s now a known maker in Shenzhen, perhaps she could devote a Youtube video or two interviewing them/presenting their creations?

    As to Doughtery, I frankly don’t think it matters whether he’s white or male. It’s that he has an audience that matters. Stereotypes box us in and deprive us of freedom. We should just treat each other as individuals, and not stereotypes.

    • Person says:

      (Although I will accept your point about foreigners supposedly having more credibility in China, however weird that seems to me)

  35. TerraHertz says:

    Thank you Bunnie (and partner), for supporting SexyCyborg. The world is a dark place, full of evil and unfairness, some of which makes my personal life not very enjoyable. For me, Sexycyborg represents a shining example of creative, honest goodness. A beacon to remind me that not *everything* is horrible. There’s nothing I can do to help her, though I wish there was. So when she does actually need some help, like in dealing with this Dale ars*hole, it’s wonderful to see someone with high tech-cred like you standing to bat.

    Also, while I’m thanking you, thanks too for your book Hacking the XBox. I enjoyed that very much.

  36. rasz_pl says:

    You are appealing to our sensitivities because actions of a white male with reputation are destroying Chinese girls livelihood. All very valid and on point.

    Bunnie you do know Timaz, right? Dale Dougherty does. What you missed to mention is that best case scenario she did ‘fake it till you make it’. In western world that wouldnt be such a problem because person doing it could simply say so openly, and we would be impressed over how fast she picked up technology. In China everything is a big lie, live by mianzi die by mianzi. Problem is not someone pointing out the lie, problem is no possibility of retraction once you are found/called out due to weird Chinese culture of sham pretence.

  37. statistics says:

    I’m generally interested in gender diversity and bias (my partner studies this professionally). I took a few hours to use data to see if Make appears biased by looking at past covers, featured contributors (12 issues), all authors and all pictures (for past 4 issues). It shows the distribution of female makers featured in make is greater than the demographics of 20%, showing they likely actively promote female makers to move the gender demographics in making towards parity (50%). The summary and data are here: ufile.io/ti4re

  38. One criterion: I have learned from Naomi Wu.

    I have also learned from various parts of the MAKE enterprise. The CEO’s limitations won’t change that–jist make me a less enthusiastic supporter.
    SexyCyborg clearly has hit a nerve, and she is to be applauded and supported for that. Thanks, bunnie, for your thoughtful analysis.

  39. nitro2k01 says:

    My take on this is that you are the image you’re presenting to the world. Naomi has chosen to present sexiness as an integral part of her image. She has actively and deliberately built her career on appealing to the male gaze. Now, from the videos I’ve seen of her doing actual tech work (Building stuff, soldering etc. She’s even using OpenSCAD!) I personally have no reason to believe she’s “fake”. But I can see where the thought comes from.

    She is alleging that she has been blacklisted from speaking at the Shenzhen Maker Faire despite being the “best known maker in China”. She appeals to being the underdog against an organization with “a lot of money and a lot of powerful friends”. (Source: Her video “Drone Hacking a FAKE Makerspace”, timestamp 16:33.) I have no idea whether she was specifically “blacklisted” or simply just not invited to speak. But let’s look at possible reasons why. You could argue for reasons such as sexism, misogynism or just plain jealousy.

    But you could also flip that argument on its head. What if her presence as a speaker would not just not help diversity, but actively harm it. What if the Shenzhen Maker Faire organizers considered her way of presenting herself to promote harmful stereotypes and scare women who might actually otherwise be interested in the event and the movement. They might even fear that she, despite her best intentions, might attract men who are creeps, and would come to the event only to get a real life look at her boobs.

    As an experiment I went to her Youtube channel and sorted the videos by popularity. This, as it turned out, also roughly sorted the videos after the degree of clothing, as well as the amount of technical content, both in ascending order. The top two videos consist mostly of 360 degree footage of her walking down the street. The next two videos are of her building and wearing a rather revealing 3D printed bikini. I have no problem with her personal success, per se. All the more power to her. But if we’re being honest, is this the kind of public attention the maker movement needs in order to achieve greater gender diversity? Is Naomi Wu the person little girls will look at and think, I want to build stuff when I grow up?

    • glycerin says:

      She is smart enough to earn here livelihood as a developer using a mail pseudonym, in part because she know the online image of SexyCyborg could harm her job opportunities. (This is from her own admission).

      I don’t know how any of this current controversy will negatively impact her livelihood.

      She will probably come out ahead with the publicity and patreon support.

      • glycerin says:

        Belated “auto” corrects: “her livelihood” and “male pseudonym”.

        It is troubling that this has been entirely framed as a “Dale is evil.”

        The stereotype of men viewing women only as sex objects gets amplified by someone’s attempts to get noticed, using a sexy persona as the hook.

        Naomi promotes the RealSexyCyborg image/brand and Make decides this doesn’t add to Make’s image/brand. Additionally, Make decides they don’t want to perpetuate the sex-object stereotype. From this view the “Dale is evil” argument doesn’t fit, in fact the opposite is true.

        Yes, Dale shouldn’t have tweeted what he did, and his tweet shouldn’t have been twisted as it has been either.

    • Person says:

      Wearing “outrageous” clothes that shocked society is also part of the West’s history of female emancipation. I’m thinking of the flappers in the 1920s.


      To argue people who do not follow convention harm diversity is frankly odd. Trivially, it isn’t historically true. Black people weren’t supposed to consort with white people not that long ago. If you believe in diversity, don’t you believe that breaking that societal convention was good?

      And how do you know Naomi wouldn’t be wearing conventional clothes to the Maker Fair? Should any attendee to Burning man also be banned forever?

    • pt says:

      limor has pink hair and a lip ring, we have a few hundred emails about that over the years, thousands of comments across whatever sites and video chat rooms when we’re doing our weekly live show. there were (and still are) more comments about how limor looks vs engineering questions. there are emails and physical letters demanding that limor doesn’t curse when she is engineering on video, limor doesn’t often, but it happens. there were/are sites, comments, posts, dedicated to proving limor is “fake” too. there are dudes who have tried to get limor’s videos remove because they do not like her or what she says, it had nothing to do with engineering.

      for the trolls, what women in the maker world is good enough for you to mention here by name? what have you done to support their work? what can you do?

  40. Bunnie, thanks for posting this. I’m looking forward to a follow-up at some point.

  41. The Gerb says:

    Bunnie, a really worthwhile post in support of Naomi Wu – a coder/maker who should not have been accused by Dale D. in this way. What she looks like should be immaterial to the ranking of her work; a point sadly lost on the troll crowd..
    I hope she is able to keep on making stuff..

  42. Naomi Wu, innovator, designer, articulate supporter of Open Source, subject to vicious attacks on-line, simply for being a women.

    One of the most insidious was from editor of Make magazine Dale Dougherty who made the astounding claim:

    ‘I am questioning who she [Naomi Wu] really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.’

    There are calls for boycott of Make, advertisers to pull the plug, or in turn face boycott.

    There is an on-line petition calling for Dale Dougherty to resign.

    What we are seeing, is what we have seen at Uber, what we are seeing with Roy Moore, with Harvey Weinstein, that women are there to be abused, sexually assaulted, raped.


  43. I read a few of the comments above to find it is the usual mix of vile trolls who one wonders what they did with their pathetic lives before twitter and facebook, with thrown into the mix the little women should know her place.

    And claiming she was a persona, not real, falls into that vile troll she should should know her place culture.

    It seems it was beyond the comprehension of the editor of Make that an attractive young women, even worse, an attractive Chinese young women. could possibly be capable of such skills.

    The implication being, it must be a gigantic plot dreamt up by the Chinese Communist Party, with party cadres organising everything behind the scenes, with Naomi Wu merely an attractive front for this dastardly plot to undermine the West.

    It is part of a wider cultural problem. where powerful people, usually men, think they can abuse their position of power.

    We have seen it with Kevin Stacy, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Bill Clinton, who think they are immune, can do what they like, from sexually assaulting and attempted rape of a 14 years old girl, to brutal rape.

    Some of the on-line abuse of Naomi Wu is openly calling for her to be raped.

    The editor of Make must go. Unfit to remain.

    Make should be boycotted, as should their Maker Fayres.

    I am sure if Naomi Wu and her friends put heir minds to it, could organise their own events, do a better job of it, if the hardware and software is to be Open Source, then should not the events also be an exercise in cooperation and collaboration.

    People are calling for a different couture, for people to speak out.

    Irony, I was attacked today for supporting Naomi Wu and calling for people to speak out and not remain silent.

  44. I hope we do see a backlash against the Maker Fayre.

    Is it not anomalous, to have an event for local creativity, Open Source, and rely on a foreign entity, who are making money off the back of it, to organise it for you?

    I have suggested this to Naomi Wu, organise your own event, establish collaborative commons, Maker Fayre is enclosure of the collaborative commons, which commoners than have to pay to access.

    A call worldwide, kick Maker Fayre, the robber barons, off the commons, they are not wanted, they abuse their position.

    This abuse is not only the personal abuse of Naomi Wu, it is what we see with all enclosures, they became the gatekeepers, decide who can enter the common once enclosed,and at what cost.

    This was the initial gripe by Naomi Wu, the exercise of exclusion by Maker Fayre, commoners had to doff their forelock to enter the enclosed common.

  45. Why users still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe all is existing
    on web?

  46. Ferit Orbay says:

    I just discovered your book and I am reading it so fast, I am worried it will end too soon :-).

    Your strong stance in support of a capable woman is great. Having many professional and capable women in my life (My wife – Electronics & programming, my mother-in-law – Gynecologist and surgeon, my mother – CEO assistant and organiser, a relative – CEO), I see no reason why men should feel superior, just equal.

  47. […] said he did not hear back from Dougherty until after he published a blog post supporting […]

  48. Kaleberg says:

    I gave up on Make years ago. It was too guy oriented for me, and I’m a guy. Science and engineering are things humans, men and women, do. I’ve spent the last 50 or so years working with women in science and engineering, and I’ve seen amazing stuff they’ve done and made despite the garbage they have to put up with. Thank you Bunnie for this post in support of Ms. Wu and for making this kind of thing an issue. This is not a side show. This is important. It is more important than reverse engineering the next generation of cell phone chip.

    This sure looks like the usual case of a woman calling attention to how women are mistreated, and getting slapped down for it. It’s the kind of crap women have to put up with all the time. Then, when one woman starts to get a little traction with her complaint, hundreds of women chime in “me too” and everyone wonders why they didn’t speak up or they weren’t heard when they did.

    Some of the comments here miss the point. Sure, Make doesn’t owe anyone anything, but smearing someone for making a perfectly valid complaint, and an important one is despicable. When a man speaks up, he is emphatic. When a woman speaks up, she is shrill, hysterical and/or whining. You would imagine that scientists and especially engineers would listen to what Ms. Wu has been saying and take her complaint seriously. Make has a problem.

    I went to one of the more highly ranked engineering schools. When a freshman friend of mine noticed a relative lack of women’s rooms, she was not dismissed or derided. She was asked to to document the problem. She produced a report and an amusing slide show about the bathroom situation. By my sophomore year men’s rooms had been converted into women’s rooms and approximate parity attained. (They didn’t remove all of the urinals, so at 2AM some amazed janitor insisted I drop into one of the converted women’s rooms and see something he had never seen before, a women’s room with “piss pots”. I told him the story.)

    That’s how it should work. Years later, a female professor noticed that she and other women were being given smaller research facilities than men of similar rank, and she called the school on it. They took her seriously. She documented the problem, proposed solutions, and changes were made in response. They haven’t solved the problem, but they fixed at least one piece of it, and all because some woman badgered them into doing so.

    One would think Make would their problem as seriously. It’s hard to read an issue without noticing it. Thank you for supporting Ms. Wu, and let’s hope Ms. Wu finds other supporters and makes a difference.

  49. anonymous coward says:

    the problem was Mr. Dougherty already knew what the answer was to his problem, despite having crediable and solid information that contridicted his already know true ideas.

    His inability to percive his cognative dissidence and his choosing to follow a path unsuported by data he had at hand was his whole problem.

    His choosing the data unsupported path was more influnced by his desire for an emotionaly satisfying outcome, than by a desire to discover truth.

    He wanted to belittle his critics. He ignored truth to do it.

    He, objectively, does not deserve the role of leadership he has.

  50. C says:

    I have a lot of respect for Bunnie, this write-up. Integrity. Smarts. Ethical.

  51. Karen says:

    I ran into this blog by accident.I have to say,Bunnie has an excellent understanding of China’s culture of Guanxi.I know it because I’m Chinese.

    I agree with Bunnie on this passage,people need to be more objective towards information online and we need to be nicer to others.

  52. I think all this fuss will end up being something good for Naomi, yes Dale said something bad but he already apologized and with these wave of media around it is actually gonna increase the reputation of Naomi, check the cover next makezine release, be positive! in China is bad to lose face; i know… i live here but this could be the best thing that happened to ratify her credibility

  53. David says:

    It would be nice if this blog post were to be updated to reflect that MAKE Magazine has gone beyond an online apology. Naomi is on the cover of the magazine which should serve the purpose of restoring her reputation in her local market.


    • Tom says:

      I’m glad David posted that comment – I was about to do the same. It doesn’t in any way invalidate the article, but is important to a complete understanding of this story as it evolves.

    • KBK says:

      My guess is that Bunnie’s post had quite a bit to do with it. Yes, an update would be appropriate! After reading through this post, I happened to look at the cover of the latest issue lying on my table. Wait a minute….!

  54. Timaz says:

    She is a liar and a fake. She and her boyfriend are scamming the suckers and are hiding behind the army of SJWs and militant feminists who haven’t looked at the fact themselves. Timaz was a user of Reddit, and there are pictures of his living room available to see on the net. His living room and speaker set are linked in a post when he was active on reddit’s maker and China subreddits. In the photo you can see the lab in which Naomi works, the chair she uses, the couch she sits in, and the same style of windows in her videos. Timaz was also a frequent 360 video enthusiast, and you can see evidence of this in Cyborgs youtube videos. People were critical of Cyborg, not because she was a woman, but because she claimed to do all these things and write all these articles herself. You can go to this web address to see for yourself:


    • Angus MacFeegle says:

      Ah, Voat, where people foul enough to actually get banned from Reddit often end up. Not surprised a Voat would have this mentality. Also not surprised by the total lack of… anything – members, content, proof, comments – following this link.

      Don’t feed the Voat. Literally – the only thing on this page is the ad revenue generator and the default template. My curiosity already gave them one page view of the dozen or so it’s had. Don’t let mild annoyance give them any more.

    • Person says:

      Timaz impersonator, you obviously have never been to any large city, let alone China…

      Do you think that those cookie cutter buildings have individually styled apartments inside??? With a population the size of China’s, standardization is the name of the game.

      You think that only one person in a city of 20 million plays with 360 videos when they’re “cool” over there?

      Shock, horror: China is not the US, and doesn’t fit your parochial view of the world.

      It’s generally a good idea to put one’s brain into gear before running one’s mouth.

      • TheMagneticMarvel says:

        The apartment pic has been verified using her neighbors. She has earned herself a ban from the United States for dropping the SPAM device on the Makerspace. There are a few locals that are going to post a video explaining more about her living arrangements. When people think they can hide the truth it always comes out in the end. Especially when you cry wolf.

  55. Rick says:

    This article is pretty enlightening, however there is an undertone of liberal propaganda that is probably unintentional. While these biases might be real, fighting the bias by forcing cultural norms is not the answer and won’t work anymore than voltage can be constant and force current to change in Ohm’s Law. Of the maker community, what percentage is male? If Make’s lineup split of 85% male / 15% female reflects reality, then if would be grossly unfair to force the lineup to be 50% of each gender. This “equality of outcome” can only be caused by an authoritarian state or community which should be avoided at all costs. The real way to change the bias based on social norms is to change the actual social norm, and bias will follow. Getting more women interested in being an engineer or maker rather than rejecting males to even the ratio is the solution, however one cannot expect it to match gender ratios exactly. As and aside, Jeri Ellsworth is one of my favorite engineers.

  56. Rahul says:

    Naomi just posted a video that after involvement with Vice one of her recent videos was taken down, as well as her Patreon account, so she’s going to stop making videos for now.

    • vijay k says:

      That’s good. Cause i don’t see a person for her slamming and harassing people left and right. And there are many more other female makers that really do the work

    • vijay k says:

      That’s good. Cause i don’t see a reason for her to continue slamming and harassing people left and right. And there are many more other female makers that really do the work

  57. ORBIT32 says:

    Good job! Thanks!


  58. Anonymous says:

    Can we get more info about the project designs? The electrical design and micro controller system and code design would be very educational.