Wikipedia is a very large wiki in the form of an online encyclopedia. The English edition exceeds the size of printed encyclopedias by orders of magnitude, and in addition Wikipedia is extremely well-known by web users.
Geek feminists have the following concerns about the Wikipedia community and website:
- Wikipedia's restrictions on Notability mean that bias against women in other fields is perpetuated and even enhanced in Wikipedia. There have been complaints of systemic bias in Wikipedia's tendency to find women or subjects of primarily female interest "non-notable".
Lack of female editors Edit
According to a study conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation in 2011, 91% of Wikipedia editors are male. Male editors also edit Wikipedia far more, generating many more edits during the lifetime of their user accounts. Fewer than 1% of editors self-identified as transgender or transsexual.
In recent years, a growing proportion of new editors of Wikipedia have been female. While only around 9% of editors were female in 2011, women represented over 16% of the new editors who joined the project.
The majority of female Wikipedia editors (78%) stated that they have not had any unpleasant experiences within the community. Seven percent reported receiving inappropriate messages or comments either in their userspace or elsewhere in Wikipedia. Four percent of women editors in the sample said that they had been stalked online, and 5% said that someone had tried to flirt with them.
Possible reasons for limited female participation Edit
- Women's lack of leisure time compared to men. Access to an internet-connected computer may be comparatively more difficult for some women. In many nations, female literacy and educational rates are lower than men's.
- Wikipedia editing on controversial articles requires a great deal of tolerance for argument, something that is more difficult for women due to social expectations. Similarly, women may be less motivated or willing to intervene in public discourse than men, for reasons relating to their socialisation.
- The 2011 study reported that "Contrary to the perception of some, our data shows that very few women editors feel like they have been harassed, and very few feel Wikipedia is a sexualized environment." However, this does not mean that harassment does not occur, and its effects may have broader effects beyond the original victims.
- There are many more Wikipedia articles devoted to male individuals or topics (e.g. sports teams) than female. Women may be less interested in contributing to these topics than men.
Effects of lack of female participation Edit
The 2011 Wikimedia study found that "The survey data showed that the majority of female editors are not harassed and do not believe that Wikipedia is highly sexualized".
However, the effects of a lack of female participation may include the following:
- The assumption that editors with unstated gender are male
- Systematic bias with regards to the quantity and quality of articles relating to notable female figures, sports teams, etc
- Sexism and harassment (see below)
Editing culture Edit
- Wikipedia editing, while notionally free-form, is in fact governed by a large number of rules. (Even the Ignore all rules policy links to five other documents about how best to ignore all rules.) This makes it difficult for outsiders to get involved.
- Wikipedia's Talk: namespace, where editors conduct discussions of what to put in the articles, has had many incidents of harassment, misogyny and other oppressive behaviour. For example:
Biographies of living people Edit
Encyclopdedia articles about living people, and especially living women, can have a variety of problems:
- Wikipedia articles about living people are restricted to well-sourced content, largely to avoid defamation actions and to some extent to mitigate privacy concerns (for example, the years of subjects' births are included where possible, but the birthdate of lesser known subjects is excluded). However, disagreeable content can remain if well-sourced. This has obvious advantages (it avoids subjects challenging all unflattering information in their article even if it's true), but some ethical considerations are not part of the biography guidelines:
- placing subjects in danger of either violence or career disruption by, eg, revealing them as a whistleblower, as long as there is a source for it (even though Wikipedia is better known than most of its media sources), see Outing
- protecting the mental health of readers by, eg, observing the same restrictions on suicide reporting that the mainstream press uses
- Wikipedia (like international media) does not typically observe the suppression of names in, for example, custody cases when ordered in a jurisdiction that does not affect it.
- Some subjects of Wikipedia articles find that the mere fact of them as the subject not liking the article's existence is perversely enough to cement it, even if they feel that otherwise they would not be a notable biography subject
- Some women subjects have found that their appearance, sexual attractiveness, personality and demeanour are fair game for discussion in Wikipedia's Talk: namespace even if such discussion is not present in the article. See Wikipedia:HOTTIE.
- Some women subjects have objected to, for example, detailed tracking of their relationship status in their Wikipedia article even if they are not notable for any reason related to their personal life (eg, they're known as the author of a book). Similar issues apply with the inclusion of statements about subject's sexual orientation.
- Biographies of women often use the subject's first name. In articles about men, when the subject is described as part of a couple (e.g. a married or dating couple), the wording will often be "subject's last name and partner's first name"
- Catamorphism's Wikipedia RfA
- A male editor responds to an explanation by a female administrator on his talk page. He writes: "There are a bunch of women editing that article, and I can't help but think that biases the content... there seems to be a concerted effort -- conscious or unconscious -- to make men feel unwelcome there." In reality, there is only one woman who edits the article Wikipedia:Men's rights movement: the female administrator to whom he addresses his "concerns". The woman admin responds, pointing out that this is the second time that he has tried to discredit editors based on personal characteristics. Previously, he remarked that he "saw a lot of interest in Lesbian issues" when he checked the contributions of editors working on the article. The male editor is unapologetic about his statements and continues in the same vein.
- An IP vandalizes the Pregnancy article and writes that women "are naturally bitchy and easily irritated, so pregnancy can be difficult to detect compared to the normal habits of females" . An established editor applauds the IP's sense of humor and wants to reward him with a "Barstar of Evil" . When confronted on his talk page, the established editor argues that the IP "was not actually being misogynistic"  because "the stereotype is accurate" , "Women are naturally bitchy and easily irritated", and how dare someone criticize him for talking about such "facts" on Wikipedia . The editor then goes on a rant about being oppressed by political correctness  and feminism, et al., He continues to insist that the IP's addition was "an expression of human truth" and therefore "not hurtful"  and even compares the "joke" about women to a joke about beards or traffic cones, with the only difference being that traffic cones and beards have no "advocacy group" .
- An editor attempts to point out biased editing on the article Patriarchy and is then subjected to a blatantly misogynistic attack. The attacking editor is given a warning on their talk page.
- Female editors try to remove a demeaning Did You Know hook and are attacked by a male admin who calls them "feminazis", "harpies", and "cretins". When the incident is brought to the Administrator's noticeboard, the issue is debated with some admins defending the misogynistic behavior. Eventually Jimbo Wales steps in to desysop the attacking admin, who then refers to the incident as being "gang-raped".
- After a female editor questions the notability of Neg (seduction) she is demeaned and insulted. After the insulting editor is warned against making personal attacks by another editor, he comments that "You're just siding with this chick because you think it'll help you 'get somewhere' with her."(edit deleted) After further attacks, the editor is eventually blocked for 72 hours.
- An editor goes on a misogynistic rampage, adding demeaning and insulting comments to several articles and then attacking any editors who object with blatantly misogynistic personal attacks. When his behavior is finally reported to the Administrator's noticeboard he is simply given a warning. The editor repeatedly makes misogynistic attacks and is blocked 7 times before becoming inactive four years later.
- Editors attack the use of a trans person's chosen pronoun, with one editor referring to the trans person as 'it'.
- A reader asks a serious question about orgasms on the Wikipedia Science reference desk and is then subjected to demeaning jokes and sexist banter.
- A male editor in a dispute with a female editor makes suggestive remarks on her talk page, even after being rebuffed. The male editor is blocked and apologizes.
- An editor recieves a warning from an admin to refrain from personal attacks. When a female admin leaves a second, similar warning the editor calls her "misandrist scum". After he is blocked for 31 hours, the editor continues to assault the female editor, calling her "slut", "senseless cunt", and ugly.
- An editor makes a joke about sodomizing women on the talk page of the Pregnancy article. Another editor replies with "LOL". The original editor is warned on their talk page.
- A male editor asks another editor, "But you're just a girl (...), what do you know?" He frames the sentence as a "joke" by adding a smiley face and the phrase "As a serious aside..." in his next sentence.
- A male editor argues that women who look like Andrea Dwokrin are probably lying when they say they were raped.
- Wikimedia Foundation page on the Wikipedia Gender Gap
- Unlocking the Clubhouse: Five ways to encourage women to edit Wikipedia (Sue Gardner's blog)
- Nine Reasons Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia (in their own words) (Sue Gardner's blog)
- Wikipedia's Gender Gap (feministing)