On Sunday, March 8, many Wikipedians, both new and seasoned in editing, filled the Walker Library and Art Lab to contribute to the second annual Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, in celebration of International Women’s Day. This satellite event was one of more than 70 that took place internationally over the weekend. The goal of this event is to narrow the vast gender gap that exists on Wikipedia by representing more feminism and art related topics. In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation found that women only account for 8.5 percent of Wikipedia editors. This enormous disparity accounts for the general lack of women in the arts being represented on the world’s largest online encyclopedia and seventh most popular website, globally.
Art + Feminism’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon event was in February of 2014. Following the success of this event, organizers of the event were included in Foreign Policy Magazine’s List of 100 Leading Global Thinkers.
The day started off with an introduction to the event and its deeper purposes by Walker hosts Amy Fox, Jill Vuchetich, and Margit Wilson, followed by an informational crash course in Wikipedia editing led by Wikipedia experts. They went over the Wikipedia coding language, which included the general layout of an article, how to bold and italicize words, and how to add citations. There are also many rules and guidelines for editing and creating Wikipedia pages that must be taken into account to avoid criticism from the Wikipedia community experts. Articles must be written objectively, have citations from reliable sources, be respectful, and be notable subjects or considered important by the rest of the Wikipedia community.
In a recent article from Hyperallergic, Sarah Cowan writes about the flagship event that took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She comments on, “how deeply skewed Wikipedia’s measures of importance are.”
What actually makes something important? Wikipedia’s five pillars state that they, “strive for articles that document and explain the major points of view.”
If the majority of editors are men, then subjects and points of view that women may find to be very important can easily be shot down and deleted. Cowan found this pillar to be a bit ironic for the purposes of the event, in that part of the feminist initiative is to, “give underprivileged members of society a voice.”
Thirty-five topics and artist pages were created or improved upon during the afternoon. Pages were created for artists internationally such as the Canadian artist collective, FASTWÜRMS, and Chinese multimedia artist, Cao Fei. Pages were also created on American painters, Sarah Crowner and Dianna Molzan, whose works have been featured at the Walker Art Center exhibition, Painter Painter.
It is likely that participants will take their editing skills home with them, continuing their efforts on expanding topics on art and feminism. What was accomplished by the participants on Sunday was a fantastic addition to the ever expanding topics on art and feminism being represented on Wikipedia. However, the more important accomplishment of this event was empowering both men and women, alike, to create a more equal representation of gender on Wikipedia.