Art + Feminism's Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons Work To Promote Visibility For Women & LGBTQ People — Here's Why That Matters
If you're anything like me, editing Wikipedia articles doesn't sound like the most exciting way to spend your weekend. However, there's an awesome intersectional feminist reason this notion has suddenly peaked my interest: The collective Art + Feminism's Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons work to increase the visibility of women and LGBTQ people in Wikipedia articles. Sam Corbin over at Brokelyn puts the cause in context, saying that once a year, volunteers unite and "chip away at misogynistic censors and censure alike" by digging through the girth of knowledge that is Wikipedia and fleshing out the mentions of women and LGBTQ people.
These editing events take place primarily in New York — the third annual Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon will be occurring at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Education and Research Building at the Museum of Modern Art on March 5 — although the Art + Feminism website also provides resources for organizing an editing meet-up in your own city, if you're into that. You are also free to join in virtually, which lets you connect to people from all over the world in a common cause, which I think is really neat. If you want to get involved but haven't worked with Wikipedia before, the Edit-a-Thon also features tutorials you can follow to learn the ropes from your own computer
Now, you might be wondering: Why does that matter? Why does what a Wikipedia page say (or what it doesn't say) about minority groups matter? In fact, it matters a whole lot. We're discovering that misogyny in Wikipedia is a big deal. As James Gleick over at The New Yorker pointed out back in 2013, even in lists of great American novelists, women experience sexism by having their names removed from relevant articles. This is shocking: Are people so misogynistic they can't bear to see Louisa May Alcott's name on a Wikipedia list? Or, even worse, is misogyny so ingrained in our culture that people don't even realize that removing these names is a trend?
Sadly, the lack of female and queer presence on Wikipedia isn't because it's simply a field with a lot of male interest: women also experience harassment on Wikipedia. Women report receiving insults, threats, and harassment both on and off the website, which is pretty alarming. Studies also show that on average, only one in 10 Wikipedia editors is a woman, while still others show that articles edited or created by women are more likely to be deleted. This means that the topic doesn't even need to be explicitly about women, it just needs to be created by them, in order to feel the wrath of misogyny.
To be fair, there are growing movements to encourage women to edit Wikipedia more, as well as attempts to make Wikipedia culture more welcoming and safe for women and LGBTQ individuals. Personally, I think these Edit-a-Thons are a great way of generating community while also making an impact. Given that Wikipedia is basically our every day encyclopedia for knowledge and reference, it's more important than ever we have diverse voices contributing to our wealth of information.