Women and Wiki

“What has Wikipedia’s army of volunteer editors got against Kate Middleton’s wedding gown?” Tim Walker focuses in on gender biases, particularly how they pertain to the infamous Wikipedia. He backs up his findings of the gender bias by pointing out the example of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress:

“Before last year’s Royal Wedding was even over, for instance, there was already an article on Wikipedia about Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. There was also a debate raging on the accompanying “article for deletion” page about whether it should be allowed to remain. The 1,600-word article survives to this day; so does the debate…But many were in favour of keeping the entry, including Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, who weighed in. “I hope someone will create lots of articles about famous dresses,” Wales wrote. “Our systemic bias caused by being a predominantly male geek community is worth some reflection in this contest. We have nearly 90 articles about Linux distributions… I think we can have an article about this dress. We should have articles about 100 famous dresses.”

He also goes on to describe the big difference in amount of females taking part in Wikipedia edits compared to males. To read the full text of Tim Walker’s article click on this link.

Even though the amount of men editing Wikipedia articles compared to woman is a bit baffling and sheds light on a more pressing issue, I think that Walker’s article exaggerates the issue as it directly relates to Wikipedia. One part of his argument that I find greatly misleading and just down right irrelevant is the word count of articles.

“Word count: How coverage compares

Sarah Burton fashion designer, 443 words vs Chris Bangle BMW designer,842 words

Sex and the City 6,000 words vs The Sopranos 9,000 words

Baseball cards 5,000 words vs Friendship bracelets 250 words

Author Pat Barker 1,200 words vs GTA’s Niko Bellic 2,900 words”

Ultimately, I think the word count sheds little light on the issue of gender biases, but rather focuses on characteristic traits of the genders. When I first saw the section of the article “Word count: How coverage compares”, my first thought was that the difference came in the style of writing, not a bias. For me this comparison just showed me that the writers  and editors of the more feminine article were able to get across their answers in a more succinct manner than their manly counterparts.

I think that the unfriendly environment for female editors is an issue, but I believe that it is an issue that can plague anyone. I can see how the unfriendly environment can be more detrimental to woman because many times the comments attack things that the media has encouraged us to find important, such as physical appearance. I have seen countless comments posted on youtube or instagram that say things along the lines of she’s fat or she’s ugly. Many times the comments have little to do with the real meaning of the post.

The gender bias issue is definitely an issue, but I think the issue focused in Walker’s article is not one that holds much ground on its own.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with your opinion that the word counts are misleading and an irrational way to argue the misrepresentation of women in edited Wikipedia articles. Writers have various levels of skill, some are more consise than others, and furthermore, how can anyone justify a word count as a means to prove bias? Some of the world’s greatest quotes are lengthy, say the first sentence of the Emancipation Proclamation (written by a man), whereas others are much shorter, such as Ghandi’sfmaous 10 word phrase: “be the change you wish to see in the world.” You have enlightened and developed a graet platform for argument: what is more meaningful, quantity or quality? The answer depends on the scenario.

  2. Our readings do suggest, though, that there is a style of communication that women just don’t want to participate in. Women are taught to avoid confrontation, they prefer a collaborative style. The articles present Wikipedia editorship as confrontational.

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