According to a 2010 Wikimedia report, only 13 per cent of Wikipedia editors are female. This statistic is troubling given the “anyone can edit” collaborative nature of Wikipedia. As students, our professors are always warning us about the use of Wikipedia in our academic endeavors. However, it’s hard to deny the ease and accessibility of Wikipedia. It truly is the people’s encyclopedia with over 30 million articles (and counting), and the ability to read its content in over 280 language, giving Wikipedia a strong sense of inclusivity.
But this inclusivity is merely masking the real issues that stem from Wikipedia’s stark gender imbalance.
In an effort to address the gap, an Art & Feminism editathon took place at the Dundas West artist-run art centre and bookstore, Art Metropole on February 1. On that same day, over 20 satellite editathons took place in cities such as Montreal, New York, and Amsterdam.
“Thirteen percent of the editors being female results in gaps where there should be entries about women’s contributors or expanded entries about women,” explains Amy Lam, one of the coordinators behind Toronto’s editathon. “This is not to say that male editors are not aware of feminist issues,” Lam explained, adding that having such a skewed percentage of female editors on Wikipedia reflects the type and quality of information represented on Wikipeda. For instance, at the time of publication, there exists no entries for topics such as “feminist aesthetics” or “representations of women in art.” According to the Wikipedia meet-up page for the event, there are a number of important names missing from the list of female scientists before the 21st century.
According to Lam, the goal of the edithons is simple: “Its goal is to address the gender disparity of Wikipedia editors,” she explained during an interview. It is not an attempt to make a “feminist” Wikipedia, but more so provide a “feminist response to Wikipedia,” she said.
The event itself was free and open to everyone — Wikipedia experience, optional. A large majority of the participants were new to Wikipedia editing, so a crash course in all things Wikipedia was provided by Andrew Leung.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the root causes for the gender disparity on Wikipedia, but needless to say, the skewed- or non-representation of female perspectives is quite common within the tech world. Some attribute this gender gap to the amount of leisure time women have compared to men, which speaks directly of the traditional gender roles that have been placed on women in a patriarchal society.
While Saturday’s event gave participants the tools to becoming a Wikipedia editor, the thematic focus was on art topics pertaining to women. Users had access to Art Metropole’s vast collection of art books and publications for resources as they worked to create new articles or expanded articles that were lacking in information.
Saturday’s event is just the beginning. By recognizing the importance of addressing the gender disparity on Wikipedia, users can work towards levelling the Wikipedia playing field, one edit at a time.