Feb 5, 2011

Is Wikipedia sexist, ctd

TNC adds his typically astute two cents:
For whatever reason, I think Internet sites that allow trolling and aimless idiocy to run roughshod have a disproportionate effect on women. (Terri Oda hints at exactly that here.)  I don't know if that's because trolls and idiots are more likely to say something sexist or what. But I don't think the problem is aggressive argumentation, so much as its weak people saying these behind a cloak of anonymity which they'd never say publicly...

Incorporating women voices isn't just a matter of getting a bunch of people with a different make-up of chromosomes to nod along. It's a matter of opening yourself to people who, fairly regularly, will dispute what you have to say, in ways that, initially at least, don't even seem credible to you. But often the most interesting lines of attack are the ones that seem preposterous at first glance, and yet stick with you. For my money, that's the real "strong debate"--one that occurs along lines that you don't simply disagree with, but that you've never even bothered to consider.

In effect you trade one group of critics for another. Which is fine. I'm kind of sick of dudes who are "internet-smart." At least the fucking feminists are interesting.
One of Sullivan's readers, a female Wikipedia administrator, chimes in:
First, Wikipedia articles about topics that are typically "women's" topics is atrocious: these articles are often tiny stubs or are missing entirely. To give a trivial example, look at the Wikipedia article on blush. It was created by a user that I believe is male (though I'm not sure). The photo accompanying the article doesn't even look to be blush at all. Based on the texture of the product and the size of the accompanying brushes, it's almost certainly lip gloss. Would a woman have put that photo up? Probably not. The article is also insubstantial and lacks footnotes. (The "references" section consists of three unhelpful links of dubious accuracy.) This is a product that most Western women use every day, yet the article is an embarrassment...

Second, Wikipedia is increasingly the arbiter of important truths. These truths are shaped by negotiations on "talk pages," and the resulting "consensus" version will be accepted as fact (more or less) by thousands of readers passing by. For women to be absent in these negotiations means that women's perspectives are not accounted for, and that readers will be deprived of these perspectives. (And these perspectives are certainly somewhat different, considering that we live in a world where gender roles and gender inequality are a part of day-to-day life.) Would society want only men writing textbooks, or academic journals, or newspaper articles?

The problem of absent voices is not limited to the lack of participation by women. It also includes the lack of participation by those older than the Gen-Y and Gen-X crowd. It includes the lack of participation by the poor. It includes the lack of participation by those in the global south, or those who are not internet-connected. It includes the lack of participation by ethnic minorities. It includes the lack of participation by people who are not tech-savvy.

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