Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Does Wikipedia eat every female contributor's edits every time she writes them?

The Spearhead:
There’s a reason women don’t generally contribute to Wikipedia, and it has little to do with sexism, “culture,” or lack of rules. The reason is, simply, that they don’t care. That’s right, it may be amazing to some people, but the overwhelming majority of women simply couldn’t care less about an online encyclopedia.

The New York Times article quoted by The Spearhead indicates that Wikipedia is sexist against women because only about 15% of the contributors are women. Does Wikipedia eat every female contributor's edits every time she writes them? Because so far, they haven't done that to me, nor have they taken down my Wikipedia entry since I am female. Heck, they even called me on the phone once to ask if they could use a picture for the entry. If they were that sexist, wouldn't they have caught onto the fact that the name Helen is most likely female and deleted my entry? The point here is that, for whatever reason, women may not spend much time contributing to Wikipedia. So what?

30 Comments:

Blogger pst314 said...

That's a very strange article at the New York Times.

On the one hand, the article does not cite any actual culture of hostility at Wikipedia, and in fact it acknowledges that the problem is not men excluding women but rather women not bothering to participate.

On the other hand, the article does begin with this passage with implies the opposite:

"Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation, has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015, but she is running up against the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women."

What "traditions of the computer world" are excluding women?

Sigh.

9:04 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

pst314,

"What "traditions of the computer world" are excluding women?"

I would guess the underlying assumption is the whole Carol Gilligan theory of relationships where women "just want everyone to get along" and are afraid of confrontation. Perhaps women should learn how to present facts and learn to engage in healthy confrontation in the computer world instead of insisting that the computer world abide by their standards of interactions. Or maybe many women are just not interested in an online dictionary and would rather use their talents elsewhere.

9:12 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

I haven't created new entries for Wikipedia, but I have modified and added content to existing content. I don't remember Wikipedia asking about my gender, and if they had asked I doubt I would have told them what it was. Are they placing a gender designation on contributors based on female-sounding names like honneypie234? Cham can be either gender. I checked and all my entries are still there so Wikipedia hasn't placed any cookies on my computer and also hasn't applied an algorithm to my personal websearches to make a judgment about my genitalia. So far so good.

9:34 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Remember when sexism meant a pattern of discrimination instead of a pattern of utilization?

I think that was in the black and white tv days.

Trey

9:38 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

This just in: NYT declares urinals sexist.

Trey

9:39 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Novaseeker said...

The article was indeed odd. Wikimedia was trying to skirt the issue, saying that they wanted more female participation but also adding that there wasn't any "discrimination" involved.

I suspect that the reasons for this are many, ranging from different interests (women apparently spend much more time online in social media sites than in places in Wikipedia), Carol Gilligan's stuff about not liking confrontation, and perhaps a lower overall interest in the project.

10:12 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

You have to remember years ago the media was complaining that women didn't have any interest in technology and computers. Now women are the majority users of both computers and cell phones. I like Wikipedia as an encyclopedia but I don't really care to read pages and pages of written content. IMHO, I think a few more images would help. But it isn't my site so Wikipedia can do whatever it wishes.

10:18 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger BrutcherSP said...

An "obsessive, fact-loving realm" is "uncomfortable for women?" Why? Do women have a problem with facts? Does the NYT think Wikipedia should be more about...feelings?

I've rummaged through some of the talk pages on Wikipedia and yes, some of the discussions do get nit-picky, intense, even confrontational. Is that supposed to scare women away? I don't get it.

11:13 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I have the strongest urge to say "They don't care about online encyclopedias? of course not, they're too busy caring about themselves."

But, that'd be unfair to the women who aren't egocentric. Yet, I can't help but think that has something to do with it. There seem to be plenty of women on social networking sites where they can relate the most trivial facts of their daily lives.

11:49 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Women, on average, have a 250% larger area of the brain that maps relationships than men do. They are compelled to care more about relationships than men do (again on average.)

Given this neurology, it makes perfect sense that they are the prime users of social media. When they comment on the most trivial aspects of their daily lives they are mapping relationships by seeing who cares, who supports, who ignores, and etc.

I had a childhood friend get her feelings hurt because she poked me on FM and I did not poke her back. I never saw the poke as I was busy scanning for content instead of relationships. That is the way most of us are, and it is more than OK.

Trey

11:56 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

A law should be passed requiring women to participate, thus gaining equal numbers.

11:57 AM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

I've edited Wiki entries and no one asked if I was female nor did the edits get deleted. File under: who cares? Why all the hand-wringing because women aren't as interested in any particular thing as men? Most women aren't that into Ultimate Fighting either, oh whatever shall we DO?! Think of the children!

12:10 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger BobH said...

"A law should be passed requiring women to participate, thus gaining equal numbers."

Somebody once commented that the real underlying philosophy of feminism is that women should have options and men should have obligations and that the BS about equality is just that, BS. By that standard, Oligonicella's law would almost certainly make feminists scream bloody murder about patriarchal oppression of women. However, these same feminists would probably applaud a law prohibiting men from participating and allowing women to participate when they wanted.

Consider this: only men have to register for the draft. When was the last time you heard feminists demanding equality in that?

1:26 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

A law should be passed requiring women to participate, thus gaining equal numbers.

We need a federal agency whose sole duty is to empower women to post on Wikipedia.

1:50 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger kmg said...

Dr. Helen,

Glad to see you link to The Spearhead.

You may even want to write a guest article there, from time to time. There are many authors, both male and female.

2:39 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Novaseeker said...

However, these same feminists would probably applaud a law prohibiting men from participating and allowing women to participate when they wanted.

The attitude pops up in other areas as well. One interesting example has been the flirtation of some hotel chains with female only floors. This has kind of stopped for the most part due to the economic situation, and the disinterest hotels have in making investments for this kind of thing, but it appears that quite a few women business travelers wanted their own special floor, together with their own lounge/breakfast-area which would be "male-free". Some claimed this was based on security concerns, but surely a hotel isn't going to say it has better security on the women's floor than on other ones, or that the security situation in the main breakfast area is lacking. No, it's really about not wanting to have to deal with men. Want a glass of wine after a long day of presentations? Well, just go to the women's-only lounge where you don't have to worry about any pesky men noticing you. That kind of thing.

The irony here, of course, is that the feminist forebears of these women were relentless in running around, in the 70s and 80s, and delegitimizing virtually all male-only spaces. About the only thing left that is reliably mostly male is the sports bar, and even that isn't really such very often. This was done to "include women" and to "get rid of unhealthy attitudes about women that men may cultivate in male-only spaces" and so on.

But here we are only a decade or two later and women are asking that their own, female-only spaces be constructed.

The irony seems lost on many feminists. But it's that exact contradiction -- the same thing is bad when men do it, but justified when women do.

3:00 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

"The irony seems lost on many feminists."

I do not think feminists posess even a passing understanding of and appreciation for irony.

Q. How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. That's not funny.

Trey

3:29 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Trust said...

@: "The New York Times article quoted by The Spearhead indicates that Wikipedia is sexist against women because only about 15% of the contributors are women. "
____________

Where is the New York Times article stating family law and courts are sexist against men because fewer than 5% of their rulings are favorable to men?

3:33 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger randian said...

This article makes pretty much the same feminist assumptions as Title IX articles do: if men don't act like women, men are wrong, defective, or sexist.

5:45 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger pst314 said...

"I would guess the underlying assumption is the whole Carol Gilligan theory of relationships where women 'just want everyone to get along'...."

My question was actually rhetorical (should have expressed myself better), but thank you for reminding me of Carol Gilligan. It's been awhile since I've read anything about her.

"Doctor, I get a terrible headache when I read the New York Times."
"Well, then don't do that!"
:-)

8:19 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

The point here is that, for whatever reason, women may not spend much time contributing to Wikipedia.

I think it might be because contributing to Wikipedia requires that you actually make cogent arguments that are logically- and, insofar as they can be, factually-correct. As we all know, making a cogent argument that is logically- and factually-correct doesn't come easily for the vast majority of human beings with a vagina. Most women might get away with making nonsensical or simply stupid arguments with their pathetic boyfriends and husbands who are all-but forced to listen to their drivel, but they can't on Wikipedia. They will be called out on their BS and will get a internet-sized boot right up their behind before they know what hit them.

So what?

I've seen conservatives and libertarians say this before and every time I see it I just laugh inside. One of the biggest things that conservatives and libertarians like to whine and bitch about is the size and scope of government (which is ironic given that the size and scope of any government is too great to anyone who doesn't want to submit to it, but that's besides the point). You know why the size and scope of government grew to such a critical mass? It grew to such a critical mass because a bunch of conservatives and libertarians said "so what" in response to something that someone else considered to be a problem, thereby giving that other person a free pass to frame the issue how they wanted to so as to convince enough like-minded people to get the government to do something about it. By saying "so what" you're giving up the debate before it even began. You've not even tried to frame the issue and you've given up. Every time you complain about something, just remember that someone (and it might have been you at some point) said "so what" and let the other side win.

9:11 PM, February 01, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

J. Bowen,

I didn't mean "so what" in response to government or regulation in gender issues, I meant that women might not be participating on Wikipedia because it does not hold their interest, or they are afraid. So what? The government or an organization has no business getting involved. That is an issue for the woman herself to work on. As for the size of government? I would never say so what. I think we should fight back as much as possible, especially in the area of gender discrimination against men.

6:38 AM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

It's the usual little girl whining at not being prefered and not given deference from males in an activity in which they have little interest.

I am tired of women who think that men exist to provide them with extra opportunities and to put them in the front of the line simply because they have vaginas.

People like that are rank bigots and need to be called out on it.

9:13 AM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I do not think I have read a discussion with a higher vagina quotient than this one. That includes a post on Althouse about the Vagina Monologues.

Trey

9:43 AM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Now I have it, I just said vagina.

Oops, I did it again.

Trey

9:43 AM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger pst314 said...

"Does Wikipedia eat every female contributor's edits?"

Eats them? Imagine a fifty foot tall lizard monster, each scale a Western Digital hard drive and with a spine of WiFi antennas, devouring unwanted edits as it bellows "CITATION NEEDED!"

3:56 PM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

I meant that women might not be participating on Wikipedia because it does not hold their interest, or they are afraid. So what?

Here's the problem. While you think this is something trivial that doesn't merit anybody's attention simply because you think that women might not be participating because it doesn't hold their interest, someone out there is hatching an evil plot to figure out a way to fix this (lest you forget, people once said that women weren't interested in owning and running businesses; now there is a federal quota that requires that a certain percentage of all government contracts go to women-owned businesses). From the NYT article:

But because of its early contributors Wikipedia shares many characteristics with the hard-driving hacker crowd, says Joseph Reagle, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. This includes an ideology that resists any efforts to impose rules or even goals like diversity, as well as a culture that may discourage women.

Someone's identified a problem that A) they've framed as a big-bad-evil-misogynistic-men versus poor-delicate-little-oppressed-flowers issue and that B) they think needs to be fixed (scroll down for proof of that).

There's more:

The public is increasingly going to Wikipedia as a research source: According to a recent Pew survey, the percentage of all American adults who use the site to look for information increased to 42 percent in May 2010, from 25 percent in February 2007. This translates to 53 percent of adults who regularly use the Internet.

Already we have the FCC doing the work of big-government types who believe that the internet ought to be a government-owned entity rather than private property. Do you honestly believe that once politicians have taken control of the internet that they won't start to force organizations like Wikipedia to adopt their own twisted ideas of diversity and equality and freedom and all that nonsense as a precondition of being able to use what will then be a "public good"? Look at every other social institution out there that the government has taken control of. Teachers, police, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, lawyers, soldiers (and airmen, sailors, and marines); they've all been co-opted by politicians to help those politicians reach their goals (which are really some other person's goals). To become a teacher, police officer, fire fighter, doctor, nurse, soldier, or a member of any other government-owned organization, you have to play by the government's rules - which change according to who's in control of the government.

12:17 AM, February 03, 2011  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

There's more:

Ms. Gardner said that for now she was trying to use subtle persuasion and outreach through her foundation to welcome all newcomers to Wikipedia, rather than advocate for women-specific remedies like recruitment or quotas.

Not the use of the phrase for now. Someone thinks that the lack of female contributors is a problem. Targeted recruitment and quotas have been brought up as possible solutions to the problem. For now, they've been rejected. However, if people continue to make noise about this problem and if it doesn't get any "better", it's not unreasonable to assume that people will bring up these proposed solutions and that they will then be given strong consideration by the powers that be.

There's more:

Kat Walsh, a policy analyst and longtime Wikipedia contributor who was elected to the Wikimedia board, agreed that indirect initiatives would cause less unease in the Wikipedia community than more overt efforts.

But she acknowledged the hurdles: “The big problem is that the current Wikipedia community is what came about by letting things develop naturally — trying to influence it in another direction is no longer the easiest path, and requires conscious effort to change.”


Whether you like it or not, someone's identified the lack of female contributors to Wikipedia as a problem, someone's come up with possible solutions to what they've identified as a problem, and someone believes that those possible solutions involve "conscious effort". She's not being quoted as believing that the market be allowed to do its job; she's being quoted as believing that someone needs to take concrete action to solve what she thinks is a problem, regardless of whether it actually is a problem or whether you or anyone else thinks it is a problem. For now, her and her comrades are content with using "subtle persuasion" and outreach to try to solve their problem. Once they become impatient (because they have vaginas, it's only reasonable to assume that they're going to become impatient at some point in time in the not-too-distant future after they see that their efforts haven't worked) they'll no longer use "subtle persuasion and outreach and will probably resort to more direct methods (like resorting to smear campaigns, calling on politicians, and attacking fundraising efforts).

The government or an organization has no business getting involved.

So? It doesn't matter whether you - or anyone else for that matter - believe that the government ought not do this or that. If someone convinces enough people that the government ought to do something about anything, the government will do something about anything. Theoretical limits on the government's power like a written constitution are meaningless if enough people accept (or demand) that the government ought to ignore those limits. There is nothing that is not a matter that the government ought not get involved in. Everything is up for debate, which means the government can get involved in everything.

12:18 AM, February 03, 2011  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Sometimes, conscious effort works. After seeing the short entry on Ms. Barker, Ms. Gardner added a substantial amount of background. During the same time, Niko Bellic’s page has grown by only a few sentences.

Yes, they're winning the war.
The author demonstrates how it's done to herself - some woman decides to get off her ass and write or update an article.

Same rules as for the guys writing or updating.

3:33 PM, February 03, 2011  
Blogger Tscottme said...

But revolutionary-truth is true even if all the facts and premises are disproved.

8:44 PM, February 04, 2011  

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