Earlier this month, Dale Dougherty, CEO of DIY magazine Maker, accused Naomi Wu, a female tech icon in China, for being a fake person.
Wu, 23, who’s also known online as “SexyCyborg“, has built quite a following online for her tech-focused videos on YouTube that show off some of the cool gadgets she’s made herself.
The now-deleted tweet essentially destroyed Wu’s career in the tech field, leaving misogynists and trolls cyber-bullying her and questioning her years of hard work. In addition, at least one company pulled a sponsorship deal from Wu following the controversy.
“[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 issued a quick apology, but it was too late — Wu’s career was practically ruined with one tweet.
— Dale Dougherty (@dalepd) November 7, 2017
“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.” Wu told NextShark. “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.”
After tremendous backlash, Dougherty finally released a more comprehensive apology earlier today. It reads:
“Two weeks ago, I did something really stupid. I tweeted that Naomi Wu, @realsexycyborg, was not who she claimed to be, pointed to a conspiracy theory on that subject on Reddit. That would be wrong in any circumstance, but I’ve come to realize a couple of important things about this particular interaction: my response reflected my unconscious biases; and the negative impact of my tweets was amplified by the fact that I, a white, Western, male CEO of a key company in the Maker community, publicly questioned a young, female, self-employed Chinese maker. I specifically apologize for the tactless use of quotes around ‘her’ in a tweet of mine that was offensive to Naomi and all women.
“It was completely inappropriate of me to question Naomi’s identity. My reference to a web page that claimed that a white male was responsible for her projects was insulting to Naomi, to women, and to the technical and creative capabilities of the Chinese people. Naomi is what she says she is – an authentic maker who receives no more assistance from others than is customary in a traditional makerspace – and she discloses such assistance when she receives it. Naomi’s results both when working as an individual and when working with Chinese engineers on her sino:bit project demonstrate that she and other Chinese makers are every bit as capable and creative as their Western counterparts. I deeply regret what I have done to suggest otherwise. I apologize to Naomi and the entire Maker community around the world.
“Naomi shared pointed criticism around diversity at Maker Faire Shenzhen, including the very important issues of not being sufficiently inclusive of female makers, and the over-representation of foreign-born makers. I should have put more effort into addressing those issues myself and I fully accept responsibility for not doing so. I realize that I contributed to the marginalization of women and local makers in China and I apologize for that.
“With feedback from Naomi, we are working on a set of actions Make: will take to address her concerns.
- With permission from Naomi, we will feature Naomi and her work on the cover of the next issue of Make: along with a full-length story about her work.
- We will invite her and help her obtain a VISA to a USA Maker Faire in 2018, covering her travel and expenses.
- We will be publishing a diversity audit of Make: as a company and our properties, and will be setting goals to drive progress on these issues.
- We will be assembling advisory boards to work with our Maker Faire organizers to ensure our events are representative of our entire community. We will invite Naomi to be part of any advisory board for events in China.
“We have learned a lot in the past week here at Make:. Learning and growth are not always easy and we appreciate how Naomi and the Maker community have pushed us and held us accountable. Inclusion, be it gender, culture or technology, is a core value of ours and in this situation, I fell short of living that ethos. While I grapple with that, Make: is committed to carrying on this conversation and affecting change across our community.”
Wu has accepted Dougherty’s apology and considers the matter to be closed, tweeting her thoughts and thanking her supporters.
I consider the issue with me resolved. This apology is more comprehensive and I have been promised tools with which I can repair my reputation here in China. https://t.co/smPygIJKeh
— Naomi Wu (@RealSexyCyborg) November 19, 2017
I owe a huge debt to the community for advocating on my behalf, but specifically to @adafruit (Limor and Philip) @bunniestudios and to @lizthegrey. There is no chance I could have resolved this on my own without their help. https://t.co/kD17wQR8LC
— Naomi Wu (@RealSexyCyborg) November 19, 2017
For now, Wu is just trying to recover what she’s lost due to Dougherty’s careless tweet. “I’m still trying to deal with the damage,” Wu told NextShark. “I lost a sponsor for three builds. My Patreon is funded — I can now take weekends off coding to work on builds, which is very nice but I have to be realistic. I don’t know how reliable that income is. Focusing on coding might be smarter. I’m not really sure right now.”
Hopefully, Wu’s hard work will help improve diversity and inclusion in the white male-dominated tech world.
Feature Image (left) via TED Talk