Philly edit-a-thon seeks to close Wiki gender gap

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 A stained glass window, previously on display at Eastern State Penitentiary by Judith Schaechter, one of last year's  Art,Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon entries. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

A stained glass window, previously on display at Eastern State Penitentiary by Judith Schaechter, one of last year's Art,Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon entries. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

Wikipedia may be the largest online encyclopedia in the world, but it suffers from a major gender gap when it comes to its editors.  A 2011 survey found that just 8.5 percent of its contributors were women.

It shows in its pages, where often you’ll find that women aren’t “artists,” they’re “female artists.” Or they’re defined by their relationships. For instance, when you search Lee Krasner — herself a famous artist — one of the first things you learn is that she was married to Jackson Pollack.

The organization Art+Feminism is out to right these inequalities, by hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon focused on updating the pages of women in the art world.

One of its remote edit sessions will take place at the University of the Arts library in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.

“This is a really concrete way to do something, to keep a focus on women artists and the continued need of promoting and increasing the presence of women and the arts,” said Sara MacDonald, a UArts librarian who helped organize the event this year.

MacDonald found out about the event last year through Sian Evans, coordinator for the group Women and Art — an extension of the larger Art Libraries Society of North America.

Evans cofounded Art+Feminism late in 2013, and ran its first Wikipedia edit-a-thon last February. She said it’s not just about fixing content issues, but also to encourage women to edit.

“Part of our mission as a group isn’t just to close the gender in terms of content, but also to close it in terms of participation,” said Evans. We want to train women how to get involved, how to edit articles and feel comfortable doing so. It’s partially about empowerment as well.”

More than 600 people in 31 locations pitched in last year. At least a hundred new pages were created, and another ninety changed.

Sarah Gantt, a senior at UArts, was working in the library last year when she was recruited by MacDonald to try out the edit-a-thon. She came across the Lee Krasner disparity and got hooked.

“It was just so upsetting that she was only represented by her husband and she had made all this work and it was totally unaccounted for,” said Gantt. “At that moment I was like, ‘OK, this is a really important thing to be a part of.'”

Gantt says she’s got a few artists in mind for this year — she’s been doing some research on Joan Jonas and says her page could use some beefing up. Last year, the group created pages for a few local artists likes Diane Burko, Judith Schaechter and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller.

This year, Philly’s edit-a-thon comes a week before the main New York City event on March 7, which is a day before International Women’s Day.

MacDonald says that it helps to come on Saturday with an artist in mind — it doesn’t have to be a local one — and your own computer. Library resource materials will be available for proper citations, one major factor in getting Wikipedia pages to “stick,” she said

The session starts with an hour-long course of Wikipedia editing basics, so beginners are welcome. MacDonald anticipates between 15 and 20 people but hopes for more. 

“It’s difficult to tackle the gender language issue,” said MacDonald. ” You have to be aware of it first of all, you have to find other ways to say it which can be difficult. It’s a real issue and it can be hard to see. But that genderization of language ultimately diminishes whatever information is in there.”

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