Friday, April 26, 2013

Wikipedia and Women Novelists

Amanda Filipacchi's NYT article on the treatment of women novelists in Wikipedia's spring cleaning is worth reading.  A taste:

I JUST noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. So far, female authors whose last names begin with A or B have been most affected, although many others have, too.
The intention appears to be to create a list of “American Novelists” on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men. The category lists 3,837 authors, and the first few hundred of them are mainly men. The explanation at the top of the page is that the list of “American Novelists” is too long, and therefore the novelists have to be put in subcategories whenever possible.
Too bad there isn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.”
I just checked the page for "American Novelists" at Wikipedia, and the women novelists appear to have been put back in those categories of last names beginning with letters A and B.  Perhaps this happened because of Filipacchi's op-ed piece?   And there now is a tentative category called "American Men Novelists" though it has very few names.

Those two changes are probably good, though it looks as if Wikipedia cannot make up its mind about whether women novelists belong in the overall group of novelists or whether men novelists should be removed from that group, too.  If they remove both women and men from "American novelists", that category will be somewhat empty.

Duh.  In any case, Filipacchi's piece was about that general cultural rule which makes women into a sub-category while men, in most applications, are viewed as just individuals who belong to the main category. 

I've written about that before.  This particular example shows how that treatment can also create a ranking of the type the lower picture in my earlier post happens to demonstrate:

Deanna Zandt has more on Wikipedia and gender stuff. 

As a complete aside, the Finnish Wikipedia version of family and intimate partner violence is created by an MRA activist and includes stuff about the general characteristics of women in prison and all sorts of completely unrelated material as well as very biased sources.

There are warnings about the need for a complete re-writing (with less biased sources, I hope), but nobody seems to have done anything about that re-writing.  One can debate the reasons but a cursory peek behind the curtain suggests to me that anyone who takes that task will face a lot of aggro from the MRAs.