The modern feminist’s greatest frenemy is the internet. Despite a wealth of feminist content and support — not to mention Google’s policies designed to bury hate speech — the world wide web still suffers from a pervasive, and seemingly unsinkable, demographic of misogynists.
Among the most widely-attended virtual tea parties for these misogynists stands Wikipedia, bastion of information sharing (and arguably the closest thing we have to the sum of all human knowledge). Wikipedia’s page on its own gender bias cites a 2011 study that found only about 12% of the site’s editors were women. In a recent article covering the digital encyclopedia’s implicit sexism, The Atlantic described Wikipedia as an “Internet Oligarchy.”
But for the past few years, a burgeoning collective called Art + Feminism has sought to change the game by hosting annual feminist war rooms known as Wikipedia “Edit-a-Thons.” In cities all over the world, women and LGBTQ individuals and their allies come together once a year to edit Wikipedia articles, chipping away at misogynistic censors and censure alike.
This year’s Edit-a-Thon even has two nodes in Brooklyn! The first is at the Silent Barn on Saturday March 5, and the second is at The Interference Archive on Sunday, March 6. Head to either one with your laptop next weekend, and help smash the patriarchy — one Wikipedia entry at a time.
Silent Barn’s current mayor, Ari Spool, told us the Barn’s event will be a fairly pared-down version of the simultaneous Manhattan edit-a-thon at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). You can expect the same communal atmosphere, introductory tutorials on editing, research materials for those who arrive with a page already in mind, and hands-on guidance to help you as you go.
There’ll be free snacks by the Silent Barn’s caterer extraordinaire, Izzy Kagan, as well as free coffee at the event. Resident projects, The Mellow Pages Library and Bad Seeds Vintage, will also be open and available to browse on breaks. Those without laptops are welcome, and those who are blessed with more than one are encouraged to lend their machinery to the cause.
There’s even a handy Wikipedia Meetup page for The Interference Archive‘s event on Sunday, that offers additional resources for those who want to help the cause but don’t know where to start. (You can also consult the Women in Red WikiProject, which offers a comprehensive list of pages about women that need updating, or need to be created entirely from scratch.)
We caught up with the co-founders of Art + Feminism — Siân Evans, Jacqueline Mabey and Michael Mandiberg — to ask them why the Edit-a-Thon stresses the need for female participants on a global scale.
“Women’s edits are more likely to be deleted, according to a 2011 study,” Evans, 32, told Brokelyn. “This means that a much higher percentage of women at having their contributions negated by other editors, which is an extremely disheartening experience and contributes to their continuing lack of presence.”
(If you need a modern-day visual of the above, check out this Wikipedia article on the Memphis Group, which has working links to all of its male members but dead or deleted links to all of its female members.)
Evans first noticed the gender disparity herself on Wikipedia in 2014, when she was viciously trolled after trying to engage in discussion on one of the website’s talk pages.
“A page made for Cecily MacMillan — the [Occupy Wall Street] activist who was indicted for assaulting a police officer — was up for deletion, and the AfD (Articles for Deletion) page with rife with questions about her notability, despite more than 1,600 articles in international press discussing her case. When I got involved on the Talk Page, I was accused of being a ‘meatpuppet’ [which, er, apparently means this] and of only participating in Wikipedia to further our political goals.”
Evans also cited the reddit thread that tore into Art + Feminism for trying to “make Wikipedia feminist.”
Don’t let the word “edit” scare you away from attending the Barn’s event. Even if you have educated opinions but terrible grammar, you’ll be among a community of writers who can help you get your ideas across. This is the edit-a-thon’s third year running, and just from the looks of last year’s event at the MoMA, it’s an experience shared by professional editors and internet luddites alike.
“The interface of Wikipedia can be intimidating to the uninitiated,” said Mabey, 33. “Meeting in groups, in a welcoming environment, is a more realistic way to encourage the participation of women and women-identified new editors on Wikipedia.”
Not in New York or Brooklyn? You might still be able to attend an edit-a-thon near you on March 5! Check out the Facebook page for a list of all satellite edit-a-thons happening across the world.
The Brooklyn Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons take place at the Silent Barn (603 Bushwick Avenue) on Saturday, March 5 from 1-6pm, and at The Interference Archive (31 8th St.) on Sunday, March 6 from 2-6pm.
Follow Sam on Twitter for more patriarchy-smashing previews at @ahoysamantha