Massachusetts Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu has spent $3,000 on her hair this election cycle and bought four versions of the same dress for $280, she says.
The Eighth District Democratic hopeful says she has put considerable effort into presenting herself well. So why did The Boston Globe publish an old, unprofessional photo of her in its Primary Guide?
On Monday, the Globe released a Primary Guide with Q&As and photos of the three Democratic contenders for the race. Wu, an openly queer candidate made famous in 2014 as a target of extreme online harassment during GamerGate, is facing off against two men. Both of their photos showed them in suits and ties.
“They pick one of me from Gamergate where I’m wearing a t-shirt and have bright anime hair,” Wu lamented on Twitter on Wednesday.
Angry. @BostonGlobe publishes a guide to the election.
They choose pictures of my opponents wearing suits. They pick one of me from Gamergate where I’m wearing a t-shirt and have bright anime hair.
I literally did a photo shoot with them wearing a dress and heels a week ago. pic.twitter.com/6Wtlrfluz7
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) August 29, 2018
While photos of her opponents show them looking decidedly serious — one is giving a speech and the other is smiling in front of an American flag — Wu is looking wide-eyed, with her head tilted and bright pink hair.
Criticism over the photo erupted on Twitter, with commenters excoriating the Globe for perceived sexism.
@BostonGlobe this is an egregious and disrespectful editorial decision. All candidates should be treated with respect but special care should be given qualified female/PoC candidates who are already disadvantaged by demographic perceptions. Do better.
— Paul Moment (@paulmoment) August 29, 2018
Disappointed. Shameful commentary on current political climate when the supposedly more progressive news outlet openly favors men. Even sadder when the less progressive outlet does a better job- listed names only on the 18th.
— Cassie R (@Cass_SE) August 29, 2018
Come on @BostonGlobe. It's hard enough for women without this added sexism. Please do better.
— Stephanie Kowalski (@sdkowalski1) August 29, 2018
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that the Globe recently photographed Wu for a profile it ran of her, which suggests that the paper had better options.
“It’s so frustrating to have the Globe basically portray me in a way that I think reflects their unconscious bias,” Wu told INTO. “I think the bottom line is I don’t think the Globe takes me very seriously.”
Wu is a political outsider in the Bay State, never having held office before. The 41-year-old hails from Mississippi and founded game studio Giant Spacekat. She is best known for getting caught in the crosshairs of the GamerGate controversy four years ago, which made her the target of death threats. Wu is married to a cisgender man but is openly queer and an ardent supporter of LGBTQ rights.
Her incumbent opponent Stephen Lynch has held his seat since 2001, while her other challenger Christopher Voehl is a veteran air force pilot.
The Globe, for its part, said the selection was unintentional and regretful.
“As soon as Ms. Wu brought this to our attention on Tuesday night, we changed the photo to a more recent picture from her campaign and notified the candidate,” the paper said in a statement to INTO. “On Wednesday morning, Shira Center, Globe Politics editor, called Ms. Wu to apologize, explained that an older photo was used, and described the steps we took to rectify it. We offered to use a headshot that she submitted, and the page was updated shortly thereafter with the photo of her choice.”
Wu said she never assumed the photo selection was malicious.
“There are many reporters and editors at the Globe I respect,” she tweeted. “None of this today was personal.”
1/ I just want to say, journalism is an underappreciated and underpaid job. And despite this mess with the @BostonGlobe today, the majority of journalists are doing vital public work.
There are many reporters and editors at the Globe I respect. None of this today was personal.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) August 30, 2018
Wu also took issue with the absence of her name in metadata keywords, deprioritizing her name under her opponents in search results.
In an apology posted to Twitter, the Globe said those keywords were automatically generated but that staff had manually added her name.
— Globe Politics (@GlobePolitical) August 29, 2018
Wu maintained, however, that the photo selection was indefensible.
“Here in Massachusetts we are supposedly one of the most progressive states and yet white men overwhelmingly hold our congressional positions here in the state,” she told INTO. “I think that the odds are stacked against women in ways we are barely beginning to scratch the surface of.”
Wu said she plans to run in 2020 regardless of November’s outcome.