Wikipedia’s “gender problem” has been in the news on and off for several years, with many articles pointing out the shamefully low percentage of female editors (13% of Wikipedia editors are female).
A troubling side-effect of the low number of female editors leads to a heavily male-biased site. Most female-related articles are pathetically short.
Consider the sad case of Helen Holmes’ Wikipedia article. One of the world’s first action film stars, Holmes appeared in a series of shorts called The Hazards of Helen in which she performed most of her own stunts and portrayed an ingenious, resourceful woman. Her article is not only atrociously short, but neglects to mention any of the extraordinary feats she performed, including fist fights on top of moving train cars and driving a motorcycle off of a bridge into a river. She crawled across the hoods of speeding cars, yet her article is a fraction of the length of Jackie Chan’s, a man whose name is known worldwide, yet whose stunts, while impressive, are nothing compared to the feats performed by Helen Holmes. Were she still alive, Holmes would wipe the floor with the likes of Jackie Chan.
Captain Nancy Wake, the most decorated servicewoman of WWII was the Gestapo’s most wanted person by 1943 due to her acts of general badassitude – such as having led over 7,000 guerrilla troops into battle against 22,000 SS soldiers (spoiler: her army won). Again, her Wikipedia article is significantly shorter than those of her male peers whose accomplishments pale in comparison to her own.
Ada Lovelace (that is, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace) is considered by many to be the world’s first computer scientist. A mathematician and writer born in 1815, most people know her (if they know her at all) as Lord Byron’s sole legitimate child. She is not nearly as well-known as Charles Babbage, the man who processed her algorithms into his “analytical machine” – an early mechanical computer.
Meanwhile, there are 45 pages of Wikipedia articles about The Simpsons.
If these facts trouble you in any way, please consider joining us for the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on February 1st (this Saturday). There are official events in 17 cities, but, through the magic of the Internet, you can join us from anywhere.