Naomi WuIt would be easy to miss amongst the current trash fire that is North American news, but the founder of Make Magazine, Dale Dougherty, recently accused Naomi Wu of being fake. Not just of faking her knowledge of the ‘maker’ culture but whether she was a real person or not.
“I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.”
The above is from a tweet he’s since deleted, and apparently issued a half-hearted apology, but as any woman on the internet knows, the damage this kind of comment can cause is massive when it’s from someone (usually a man) with the number of followers Dougherty has.
image from Makermedia.com
The links above have more information if you’d like to read about the situation, but what I’m going to talk about today is how Cosplay is linked to –and largely ignored by– the Maker movement.
It happens with all things everywhere. Men elevate what they do. Women ruin it. From being a doctor to food, it shouldn’t surprise me that the ‘Maker’ scene is any different. There are absolutely women Makers. Naomi Wu is one. Kamui is one. Yaya Han is one. Cosplayers that make their own costumes are Makers, but yet somehow cosplay is seen as separate from the Maker community.
We use many of the same tools, from 3D printing to circuit boards and ‘hacked’ items. Cosplay feeds off the knowledge developed by the Maker community, and in return has developed its own community, experts, resources and materials.
“What you see in the Maker Movement is a wide range of people, young and old, who are developing their talents and discovering new ways to solve interesting, everyday problems by working together on projects. Making is a meaningful form of personal expression that fosters creativity, builds community and encourages the collaborative practice of innovation.”
– Dale Dougherty, Founder & CEO, from Maker Media’s homepage
Just check out that quote from the founder of MAKE magazine saying that making is for everyone. Just not women who he thinks aren’t real people, apparently.
The problem here is similar to one across STEM (which my day-job falls into). Women, especially women of colour, are often seen as fake, using their bodies, looks or sexuality for attention or are getting help from some secret man who is the real brains behind her success.
It’s not just limited to Maker culture and STEM. How many times have you heard that a cosplayer is only famous because she shows off her body? Or that it’s because she’s pretty? It’s pretty pervasive online, too. Twitch in particular has a nasty problem with female streamers.
For frame of reference, here’s the suggestions on a search for ‘male’ twitch streamers.
Hm. It’s almost like… there’s…no negativity there? weird.
Anyways, back to cosplay and women like Naomi Wu. I believe we aren’t mentioned in the same frame of reference as ‘Makers’ because what we do make and how we present ourselves doesn’t mesh with the preconceived image of a maker being a (white) man who stays up late tinkering with things in his workshop and being smart but also an everyman at the same time. He comes up with a wonderful new solution and he’s a proud Maker because he has Made Something. He’ll attend a maker faire to share what he’s learned with others, or write a blog post about it.
Cut to our preconceived notion of cosplayers: a woman who really should have gone to bed several hours ago, forming thermo-plastic into organic shapes and attaching it to a wearable rig that holds the battery housing for the LED circuit she’s wired into acrylic forms that she moulded herself. Later, she’ll put it on and wear it for hours and talk to other enthusiasts about what she learned, and maybe she’ll post a tutorial for it.
Oh, aside from gender that sounds pretty similar doesn’t it?
Anyways. I’m tired of this crap. I’m co-opting the portmanteau of ‘CosMaker’ now. We’re both cosplayers and Makers and to pretend we aren’t Makers because we wear what we make is ridiculous.