|Other names||SexyCyborg, "机械妖姬"|
Naomi Wu, also known as Sexy Cyborg (simplified Chinese: 机械妖姬; traditional Chinese: 機械妖姬; pinyin: Jīxiè Yāojī; lit. 'Machinery Enchantress'), is a Chinese DIY maker and internet personality. As an advocate of women in STEM, transhumanism, open source hardware, and body modification, she attempts to challenge gender and tech stereotypes with a flamboyant public persona, using objectification of her appearance to inspire women.
Wu was raised as a boy due to the one-child policy in China at the time. She remembers wanting to look like the beautiful ladies who were mistresses of Hong Kong businessmen. She discovered her own gender and sexual identity when she was a teenager. She identifies as a dee lesbian.
Wu's maker projects often center on wearable technology, including cyberpunk clothes and accessories, along with other projects. One of her early designs (2015) was 3D-printed "Wu Ying" (Chinese for "shadowless") platform heels, with a compartment that hides hacker tools including a keystroke recorder, a wireless router, and lock-picking tools. She explained to an interviewer that women's clothing often lacks pockets, but "chunky platform style shoes that many women in China wear to appear taller—have a lot of unused space."
In addition to her public work as a maker, Wu says she also works as a professional coder in Ruby on Rails, using a masculine pseudonym to protect her identity and preclude gender discrimination; she also reviews electronics. Wu maintains active Reddit and Twitter accounts under the pen names SexyCyborg and RealSexyCyborg, respectively.
On International Women's Day 2017 she was listed as one of the 43 most influential women in 3D printing, a male-dominated field, by 3D Printer & 3D Printing News. She regards the usage of 3D printing to teach design principles and creativity in the Chinese classroom as the most exciting development of the technology, and more generally regards 3D printing as being the next desktop publishing revolution. She regards "Chinese gadgets" as good as or better than foreign.
In 2013 the Post-Polio Health International (PHI) organizations estimated that there were only six to eight iron lung users in the United States; as of 2017 its executive director knew of none. Press reports then emerged, however, of at least three (perhaps the last three) users of such devices, sparking interest among those in the makerspace community such as Wu (who had never heard of iron lungs before) in the remanufacture of the obsolete components, particularly the gaskets, and prompting discussion of the regulatory and legal issues involved. Wu hoped to achieve a solution with help from her followers on Twitter and YouTube, saying, "Anything from the 50s and 60s, we can whip up in a makerspace, no problem."
On November 5, 2017 Dale Dougherty, the CEO of Maker Media, publisher of Make magazine, doubted Wu's authenticity in a since deleted tweet: "I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people." On November 6, 2017, Dougherty publicly apologized to Wu for "my recent tweets questioning your identity," saying they represented a failure to live up to the inclusivity Make magazine should value. Wu herself considers the matter settled. Wu appeared on the February/March 2018 cover of Make, which also included an article about her experiences with open source hardware in China. Wu was the first Chinese person ever to appear on the cover of Make.
In 2018, a reporter from Vice spent three days with Wu in Shenzhen, exploring the city, meeting Wu's friends, photographing Wu's home, and describing in depth the local creative history and Wu's recent creation, the Sino:Bit, a single-board microcontroller for computer education in China, and the first Chinese open-source hardware product to be certified by the Open Source Hardware Association.
The article which revealed details of her personal life drew criticism from Wu and from others when according to her agreement with Vice, such details should have been left out of the article, out of fear of retaliation by the Chinese government and also to protect her own private life. Vice refused to comply with the agreement and published the details regardless.
After Vice refused to retract the story, Wu created a video in which she made boots with tiny video screens, which displayed Vice's editor-in-chief's home address. Wu's Patreon account was suspended for doxxing. Wu says this temporarily stalled her independent maker career, and she returned to freelance coding for a brief period of time.
After the Vice article
In November 2019, Wu was detained by Chinese authorities for an interstitial Wall Street Journal interview expose piece on Chinese censorship in an episode of Netflix's Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
- Ong, Alexis (September 14, 2015). "Sexy Cyborg is Dismantling Cliches About Women in Tech, One Boob Shot at a Time". Vice.
- Gaudette, Emily (November 7, 2017). "How a gorgeous Chinese engineer pissed off Silicon Valley". Newsweek. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
What Dougherty and the other sexist Americans writing about Wu don't understand is that Wu's home of Shenzhen, China, has allowed femininity to exist at the intersection of technology and art.
- Alfonso III, Fernando (June 30, 2016). "For This Chinese Reddit Bombshell, Tech Is Sexy". Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
- Hollingsworth, Julia (December 15, 2017). "How Naomi Wu Wants to Change the Tech Scene's Sexist Wiring: Online firestorm against prominent maker highlights wider gender issues in male-dominated tech world". The Sixth Tone. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- Suleik, Danielle (February 27, 2018). "'Sexy Cyborg' Naomi Wu Turns Objectification Into Technological Inspiration". April Magazine. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- "Why Do I Look Like...This? The SexyCyborg Origin Story". YouTube.
- China, Radii (November 25, 2017). "Photo of the Day: Cyberpunk LED Skirt by Naomi Wu". Radii. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
- Pick, Rachel (September 9, 2015). "A Q&A with the Woman Who Designed Her Own 'Hacker Heels': SexyCyborg's Wu Ying shoes combine femme fashion with some clever tech". Vice. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
Built by Reddit user SexyCyborg, the Wu Ying shoes ("shadowless" in Chinese) contain a USB keystroke recorder, a wireless router, a retractable Ethernet cable, a shim for opening padlocks, and a set of lockpicks.
- QUYMBEE, CHEN (December 7, 2017). "#CodingIcon Naomi Wu - Dismantling Stereotypes!". JewelBots. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
- "The Girl With the Augmented Body and a DIY Manufacturing Habit". Exlolymph. June 15, 2016.
- Nylander, Johan (June 24, 2017). "Meet China's SexyCyborg, the goddess of geeks Naomi Wu is a self-taught and self-motivated maker who wants more women in tech". Asia Times.
- Tess (March 8, 2017). "International Women's Day 2017: 43 Most influential women in 3D printing". 3D Printer & 3D Printing News.
We at 3Ders want to highlight and celebrate some of the women who have made an impact within the 3D printing industry (a still male-dominated field), and who have not only contributed to the advancement of the technology, but who have helped to challenge gender barriers in the tech field.
- Andre, Helene (November 29, 2017). "Naomi Wu – "My visibility allows me to direct more attention to important issues and other deserving women"". Women in 3D Printing. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Chiu, Joanna (June 28, 2017). "Hong Kong's allure fading in mainland China". AFP.
- Brown, Jennings (November 20, 2017). "The Last of the Iron Lungs". Gizmodo. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Lewin, Day (November 25, 2017). "A Callout: Parts for an Iron Lung". Hackaday. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Deng, Boer (December 2, 2017). "Woman in failing iron lung turns to internet for help". The Sunday Times. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- Naomi Wu [@realsexycyborg] (November 23, 2017). "Via @NireBryce- we've got a nice old lady running out of collars for her iron lung. Lot of 💩 going on in the world we can't do anything about- but this seems 100% doable. @hackaday, @make, textile tech folks- any ideas? From gizmodo.com/the-last-of-the-iron-lungs-1819079169 …" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "A Callout: Parts for an Iron Lung". Hacker News. November 25, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Kobie, Nicole (November 28, 2017). "A woman on an iron lung is running out of the spare parts she needs to live. Cue the maker community..." Wired UK. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
Shenzhen-based Naomi Wu started helping to coordinate a solution through her Twitter and YouTube following of nearly 200,000 people...'It should be pretty simple,' she says. 'Anything from the 50s and 60s, we can whip up in a makerspace, no problem.'
- Dougherty, Dale (November 6, 2017). "An Open Note to Naomi Wu (and Makers Everywhere)". Make. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
Naomi, I apologize for my recent tweets questioning your identity. I was wrong, and I'm sorry.
- Meyers, Jessica (December 9, 2017). "China's 'sexy cyborg' took on Silicon Valley bro culture — and won". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
- Tess (February 28, 2019). "Maker Profile: Naomi 'SexyCyborg' Wu on being a woman in tech, 3D printed wearables, more". 3Ders.org. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- Torrone, Phillip (January 8, 2018). "Naomi Wu on the cover of Make: Magazine @realsexycyborg @make". Adafruit Industries. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- Wu, Naomi (January 9, 2018). "Cyborg and the Sino-bit:Shenzhen's prolific maker details her journey, her inspirations, and putting together China's first certified Open Source Hardware project" (PDF). Makezine. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
I created 3D printed heels with pentesting (hacking) tools built in, arm-mounted micro drones, a skirt made of infinity mirrors, a burlesque-inspired top made of LCD shutters (I had something underneath for modesty, of course), a makeup palette with a Raspberry Pi built in for more network pentesting, a device for a small drone to deposit a Wi-Fi-hacking payload and fly away, and more.
- Emerson, Sarah (March 25, 2018). "Shenzhen's Homegrown Cyborg: Three days with Naomi Wu, the face of China's cyberpunk city". Vice. ISSN 1077-6788. OCLC 30856250. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
In the past few years, she's been forced to fend off vile and unfounded conspiracy theories on Reddit and 4chan that suggest a white man has masterminded her career. I've seen Wu's speech and technical skills dissected at length in online electronics forums. Some have accused Wu of faking English proficiency, despite her being open about the fact that she receives help and proofreading with her written communication.
- Sino:Bit Hardware on Github
- "Why Vice's Reporting on Naomi Wu Could Get Her Arrested in China". nextshark.com.
- Wu, Naomi. "Shenzhen Tech Girl Naomi Wu, Part 2: Over the Wall and into the Fire". Medium. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
- Wu, Naomi 'SexyCyborg' (November 17, 2019). "Shenzhen Tech Girl Naomi Wu, Part 3: Defunding, Deplatforming, and Detention". Medium. Retrieved September 6, 2020.