Wikipedia, which turned 20 this month, is big. Really big. It’s read 8,000 times per second and visited more times per month than Netflix or Instagram. We’re so used to seeing it at the top of Google when we go to settle arguments, check facts, or educate ourselves on an unfamiliar topic that it’s easy to forget what a sprawling, miraculous, precarious thing Wikipedia really is.
“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales likes to say. But the scope of Wikipedia is too big to comprehend. If English-language Wikipedia alone was printed and bound into books, it would make up almost 3,000 volumes. I know this because I read it on Wikipedia.
Right now those people are men.
Close to 90% of the editors of Wikipedia are men. The majority of those men are white. Fewer than one in five biographies on Wikipedia are about women, and those articles have been found to be significantly shorter than articles about men.
It was not supposed to be like this. Wikipedia aspired to create a totally democratic community library open to every person, comprising every piece of available knowledge. But the gender imbalance has stuck, even though the Wikimedia Foundation—the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia—has been outspoken about its attempts to fix it for years. As things stand, Wikipedia may simply replicate all the biases and narrow ideologies of history books and Western models of thinking, rendered for the internet.
But not if these women can help it.
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The Women of Wikipedia Are Writing Themselves Into History