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Gender Equality At Wikipedia – Who Cares?

Well, clearly, some of the people who run Wikipedia care but the more interesting question is should anyone care? The answer is, no, it matters not the tiniest jot the gender – or sex – of those who write Wikipedia. The reason being contained within the very logic that is being used here:

But, admits Katherine Maher – who has headed up the Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit that runs Wikipedia) since early 2016 – the strategy suffers one major flaw: women have been pitifully slow to join the party. The website’s gender figures are “not good”, she says.

Wikimedia’s privacy policy prevents it from mining user data from the site, but the working assumption of Maher and her team of 350 is that women make up between 15-20% of total contributors.

The website’s content says it all. Articles about men exceed those about women by about four to one. For Maher, correcting Wikipedia’s huge diversity imbalance represents an “incredibly important priority”.

As she openly accepts: “If our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, then all knowledge has to be written by all people, which means that it has to represent all people.”

So, what is the argument in favour of trying to ensure that gender balance? That different genders portray things differently. That there is a women’s angle to to at least certain topics and without women writing the explanations that different attitude won’t be represented.

Well, OK, we can accept that for the purpose of the argument here. Women need to be represented ‘cuz women are different.

But if women are different then why should they be equally interested in something as men are?

Entirely true that if there are barriers put in the way of women becoming these unpaid editors simply because they’re women then that would be bad. But that’s not actually the point being made. Rather, that fewer women than men are interested in becoming such editors.

That is, women are different from men in their desire to edit online encyclopedias. But our very reason for insisting that women should edit online encyclopedias is because we’ve just insisted that men and women are different. Our insistence therefore is the cause of our complaint.

If we insist that men and women are the same except for the odd plumbing difference then we could indeed be wondering why the difference in the desire to edit. But if we make that insistence then it doesn’t matter either, for the articles will be the same because men and women are, in this facet, the same.

That is, our entire claim that the difference matters means we should be expecting different numbers of men and women to be interested in certain facets of life. ‘Cuz, you know, different?

Either men and women are different in which case representation matters – but the desire to do something will be different – or men and women aren’t different in which case representation doesn’t matter.

But then logic is just mansplainin’, ain’t it?

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4 years ago

The complaint “Articles about men exceed those about women by about four to one” is an odd one. As an encyclopedia it is covering the entirety of all history, and until modern days “men doing things” outnumbered “women doing things” by probably something over 20 to one, so you’d actually expect something that documented something *other* than the the world *today* to be skewed 20 to one. Four to one is massively skewed the other way.

4 years ago
Reply to  jgh

Indeed. Wikipedia touts women almost as tirelessly as it ensures that every article on a nation spells out whether you can have anal sex there. I maintained an article about a women’s sports “league” but finally petitioned for its deletion as the club of dues-payers had been inactive for a decade. Nothing doing; documents the “movement.”

Same phenomenon as the US “Black History Month,” as if those in chains for one-third of our existence made their share of history.

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