Earlier this week , Tenured Radical (aka Claire Potter) reported on gender bias in Wikipedia in an article titled “Prikipedia? Or, Looking for the Women on Wikipedia.” TR writes, “It is no secret that Wikipedians are mostly male. Two years ago, Noem Cohen pointed to the fact that, according to the Wikimedia Foundation’s own study, only 13 percent of contributors to the site were female (New York Times, January 31 2011). “Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation,” Cohen wrote, “has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015, but she is running up against the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women.” A little over a year later the foundation came out with new numbers: after this big push from the top, only one out of ten Wikipedians was a woman.”
Tenured Radical finds it “a slightly dubious assumption that Wikipedia’s poor showing in the gender department simply reflects a computer world that is hostile to women.” After all, look at how many female bloggers there are out there. Rather, she refers to an article by Sarah Stierch, 2012 Wikipedian in residence at the Smithsonian, who finds that “the kinds of men who are motivated to write and edit articles want to maintain a traditional intellectual hierarchy that positions white men firmly at the center of world history. In “How Many Women Does It Take To Change Wikipedia?” (Smithsonian.com, April 4 2012), Stierch argued that the consensus view among male Wikipedians reflects a vestigial consensus within the historical profession itself: that the proper status of women in history is, to paraphrase Stokely Carmichael, prone.”
This story isn’t new: two years ago, Cliotropic also reported on Wikipedia’s gender gap. According to Cliotropic, “It’s worth noting, though, that Wikipedia’s user-demographics data is entirely voluntary and that many women, offered a chance not to identify themselves by sex, avoid doing so. Sometimes it’s an effort to avoid harassment, and sometimes it’s to avoid the women-targeted ads. So their data may well be off.)
Regardless, the point about Wikipedia’s coverage biases–lots of military history and popular culture, with less and less on subjects farther away from the hacker–otaku core–is totally valid.”
After positive feedback from yours truly and other bloggers, Cliotropic launched a formal WikiProject to work on improving Wikipedia coverage of women’s history, called WikiProject Women’s History, also accessible by the shortcut WP:WMNHIST.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was short-lived. I went as far as setting up an account and fiddling with some editing. I soon got frustrated with the process (see the talk section of the entry on Margaret Sanger) and my limited technical skills. Then other things (i.e. teaching, research, meetings, life in general) got in the way. However, my brief entry into wiki-land did improve the entry on Sanger — although it was other wikipedians, not I, who did the actual work.
This week there’s a new chance to address the dearth of entries on women and gender studies, disability studies and on people of color on Wikipedia. If you’re concerned too, then join the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon this Friday. Here are the full details:
“In celebration of Women’s History Month and WikiWomen’s History Month, groups across the United States are organizing both virtual and in-person meet-ups to edit Wikipedia to include more perspectives on women and people of color on Friday: #tooFEW — a feminist Wikipedia edit-a-thon! Originally conceived of as part of a virtual way to connect the upcoming THATCamp unconferences on feminism, there are now widespread events everywhere. If you can’t find a way to physically get to one of the edit-a-thon parties, please consider just jumping in, editing entries and following on the Twitter conversations using the hashtag:
Here are some ways you can get involved in the Edit-a-Thon:
Help generate ideas for new entries or entries to be improved — you can add your ideas to our working list here
Participate in Wikipedia community
- Sign up for a Wikipedia account (consider using a pseudonym at the outset, you can always change it once you’re comfortable)
- Watch this video to learn just how to edit Wikipedia. Be sure to set aside some time for this video, it’s an hour long, and we recommend clicking on FLASH — it tends to play better that way. (Although, we will provide editing help at the edit-a-thon, if you don’t have time to do this.)
Join us virtually by doing your work during our edit-a-thon. If you’re on Twitter, send out a Tweet that includes the hashtag
#tooFEW to let us know you’re out there. We’ll be live editing from 11am-3pm EST, Friday March 15.
Join us in person at one of the following:
- THATCampFeminisms West: We will be working in person (at Honnold-Mudd Library in Claremont at Scripps College) from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. We are encouraging all THATCamp attendees to join us and we welcome those who cannot attend in person to join us virtually.
- THATCampFeminisms South @ Emory University Library — Jones Room, 3rd Floor Friday March 15 11am -3pm EST
- Duke University: We will be working in person at the Franklin Humanities Insititute Conference Room, Bay 4, C-107, Smith Warehouse from 1pm-3pm. The event is sponsored by HASTAC and the Duke PhD lab. Anyone is welcome to join in, or if you cannot come physically, do think about joining us virtually!
- Students — Do they need extra credit? Can this be a class project? Are you learning about some really cool people in POC/Trans*/Queer/Women’s History that don’t have wiki pages or have pages with bad information? You can fix it!
- Friends — Do you know other folks who should know about this? Please spread this information to activists you know, faculty, etc. Everyone is welcome!
- Organizations — These edit-a-thons work best with lots of folks working on specific things. Do you know orgs like INCITE or SONG that know specific types of folks who should be added to Wikipedia or projects folks should know about?
Too swamped and don’t want to login to Wikipedia but would like to contribute? Add your idea to this Google doc.
We look forward to seeing you on Wikipedia and the hashtag #tooFEW!”
If Friday doesn’t work for you, Tenured Radical proposes “at every history conference in the foreseeable future, there should be a women’s history Wikipedia Room, open to women and men, to change the state of play in this important online resource. Furthermore, each of us teaching women’s history should organize students next March to not only post new articles about women, but correct existing articles to reflect the presence of women at major historical events.”
So, who’s game?