Have you ever edited a Wikipedia page? I never have, for a few reasons. I have plenty of undone work to do every day. It feels sort of daunting, too. How do you know when to stop? I mean, I’m a workaholic, justice-seeking, perfectionist, do-gooder as much as the next guy, but I’m just not up to cleaning up the most massive compendium of everything ever assembled, rest Britannica’s soul.
I mean, you’d have to start with the Wikipedia page for Sisyphus and take it from there.
This week Wikipedia is an editing battleground. Apparently in a misguided attempt to organize a large category Wikipedia editors decided to move the authors who are women off of the “American Novelists” page and onto a new sub-page called “American Women Novelists.”
Obviously this received pushback when people learned about the migration. Why are men authors simply Novelists but women are Lady Novelists? Sexism, that’s why. So now people are trying to undo those edits, and/or place ALL novelists in gendered categories by creating a American Men Novelists page, and wow, it’s all a mess.
I belong to an e-mail group of published female writers called WOM (it stands for Word of Mouth). Some of the members are extremely well known. On Tuesday morning, when I made my discovery of this sexism on Wikipedia, I sent them an e-mail about it. I have since then been deluged with scandalized responses from these female authors. Word is spreading at a phenomenal rate, on Facebook and elsewhere. Already, changes are being made to the category “American Novelists.” A couple of female authors have started appearing on the first page, when yesterday there were only men.
Wikipedia is created and edited by its users. Hopefully, those users are starting to get the point.
I don’t even like shared Google docs where collaborators make a bunch of changes you can’t see. I’m a Track Changes kind of control freak. This sounds chaotic. Cool and empowered, but crazy in the way that reminds me Wikipedia is a precarious authority. I believe in the intelligence of crowds to manage things, and perhaps this is a good example of a crowd-catch, but mercy. On a logistical quality-control level, Wikipedia is a nightmare.
Perhaps like you, I use Wikipedia every day. Usually not for research of major import, but my use is frequent and the information available undoubtedly shapes my worldview. It’s such an easy, useful, omnipresent resource that we forget it is user-edited.
I never take note of the little “edit” tab that appears on each page as I’m scanning for whatever trivia rabbit hole brought me to Wikipedia. I know I should verify information and I caution my kids from using it as a serious research resource, but it never occurs to me to edit a page, truly.
Does that make me part of the problem?
But I just can’t. I can’t seem to let the Wikipedia editing problem onto my to-do list. I’m so glad people do, but I just can’t. What about you? Have you edited a page, or are you a frequent flyer? Does this new ridiculous, sexist way of organizing writers by removing women authors from the American Novelists section inspire you to try?
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