I’m not a particularly technical person, I did not do better than average at math or science. In China for the most part, whatever your college Major is that’s what you do- there’s not a whole lot of self-learning or continuing education. So without much natural talent or a local support system I rely pretty heavily on perseverance and stamina. I don’t solve any problem first, but usually I’ll be there working on it long after others have given up and moved on.
I try to split my time between Western and Chinese tech communities. Obviously being a female coder and a Maker makes me extremely eccentric by Chinese standards, and ours is not a society that entirely approves of eccentric behavior- particularly from women. We don’t have any well known male Makers here yet, until we have one I won’t get any sort of official recognition. The first Chinese person in space was not a woman, and the first well known Chinese Maker won’t be one either. It’s just a cultural thing and there’s no point in fighting it. At an unofficial level people are very encouraging.
As for the West- I’m 23, I don’t come the sort of background where overseas education was even a possibility. I’ve never left Asia- never even left my time zone or seen snow. So learning to deal with Western cultural sensitivities has been a slow process and not one most Westerners are very patient with.
There is an assumption that somehow the Mainland Chinese education system or media covers all the fine points of feminism, gender issues and social justice and I should just know about these things. My appearance is a novelty in Shenzhen that brings smiles, laughter and requests for pictures together. In Western online communities it elicits anger, unkind comments and worst- silent exclusion. “You don’t look like us, so you don’t belong here” is the constant underlying tone. Whatever the rules are they seem to change often depending on whom is breaking them, people are quick to find reason to take offense and call on supporters to denounce you. The people you think would support you don’t, and the people they say are the enemy are the ones who speak up in your defense.
Honestly for someone who just wants to make things and have people see that China is changing, that some of us are trying hard to be creative it can be quite frustrating. Oh my project is great but you can’t show it because of my…shirt? Wrong style shoe? Because my taste body modification is different from yours? Chinese women face huge obstacles to participation in STEM- but thankfully the fashion police are not one of them.
In any event, as I said- where I lack ability or knowledge I do have stamina. So despite all this I will just keep making things, learning and doing my best to contribute to whatever community will have me.