Thursday, May 31, 2012

WikiWomen's Edit-a-Thon 2 (and my views on gender)

 Been having an on-going conversation with Sarah Stierch from the Wikimedia Foundation Community.  You might remember her from her work at the Smithsonian archives where she had the first WikiWomen's Edit-a-Thon. 
She is having another, this time on the west coast at Wikipedia headquarters in San Francisco.  All the information you need is available at this link.  

I'm unsure if I will be able to attend, I may be out of town that weekend.  But I will be there in spirit if nothing else.  

I've been pretty public that I don't care if the editor is male or female, I just want people on board that do a good job, follow the rules, ask for feedback, accept helpful criticism with a smile, and oh yeah, don't flake.  The quality of their edits is more important than their gender. 

Sarah mostly agrees with me, but raises one really important point.  "I do believe though that if we do want to write the sum of all the world's knowledge we have to do it with all genders participating."

She is exactly right, I'm sure someone will find the percentages pretty quickly for me, but I think only 9% of Wikipedia editors are women.  That's pretty sad.  Women want to be represented as equals yet they aren't stepping up?  I know Wikipedia is concerned with these numbers, and are willing to listen.

Some say that women don't edit Wikipedia because they have been harassed by men.  (citation needed)

The following is my opinion.  I've never been harassed, discouraged or reverted by anyone on Wikipedia because I'm a woman.  It is very possible that it is unknown that I'm a woman unless they go to my user page when they will quickly discover from all the pictures of me that I'm very much female.  

Keep in mind that just because it has not happened to me, does not mean it doesn't happen.  In my experience I can say that this holds true in the skeptic world as well, I've never had any negative experiences with-in our community because of my gender.

I've been giving this a lot of thought and I'm not sure how valuable my opinion is on this subject, but I'm wondering if I have a different threshold of what is harassment and discrimination than younger women?  I'm about to be 50 this summer and have lived through some not so nice times where I was shut up, talked over and worse because I was a woman trying to get my point across.  I attended school where it was required for me to take homemaking (sewing and cooking) classes.  I wanted to take drafting but it was filled with boys and I knew I would have been uncomfortable.  The world I grew up in is NOT the world I'm experiencing now.

I know what sexual harassment feels like.  I have a Harley, I play pool.  Those worlds are still a bit behind, but they have improved a lot.   

Then again, my mother would probably laugh at what I call harassment.  She wasn't even allowed to wear pants, the idea of riding a motorcycle was impossible to her.  What I have gone through was nothing compared to what she went through.  And if we looked back to my grandmothers life she would think my mom was totally liberated compared to what she went through.  So I'm wondering if these on-going discussions about gender might just be a matter of relativity.  

If women are being harassed on Wikipedia because they are female then on a case by case basis that should be dealt with.  As well as in the skeptic universe.  No one should feel uncomfortable at a conference, male or female, but we need to be clear.  Talking behind the backs of our male speakers or attendees does not give the man a chance to clear his name.  If there is a problem, get it out in front and discuss it.  He should be able to defend himself.  Same on Wikipedia, if there seems to be harassment then they should be called on it.  Give them a change to apologize and explain themselves.  Then move on.  If the behavior continues then the discussion and consequences should escalate.

So there is my two-cents for what its worth.  I would love to see more women editors.  I would also love to see more diversity in age, culture, language, people with children and anything else that makes for a well-rounded group of people.  

We need a lot more female Wiki editors.  But even more, we need people who care, who do good work and won't flake.  Please join us today, contact me at 


  1. I enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing your experiences.

    PS. Sorry I haven't been around much on the project after doing just a little bit. I have every intention of being involved still, it's just that my time has been in high demand lately.

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