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The Gender Gap on Wikipedia

By Ciell on Jan 16, 2017


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Defining their 'claim to fame'

On Wikipedia, there are guidelines on how to write a biographical article. In the first few sentences, you define the subject. This introduction contains what is notable about the person and why they should be on Wikipedia: what makes them important for history and how should they be remembered.

Sometimes I come across an article on Wikipedia which makes me wonder why the subject is in there in the first place. It might be some name I don't recognize, such as a woman from a different century I don't know. And I start reading.

I start reading and the article tells me in bold letters the subject’s full name, when and where she was born and when and where she died. The next sentence is about how she was some notable person’s wife, and the mother of five children. The article goes on about the relationship ties in the family and the way she supported her husband. Further on in the article, I learn that she was also a leading figure in the feminist movement of her time. Instead of being mentioned at the top, her “claim to fame” is listed at the end, almost like an afterthought.

I'm sad to say that there really are articles on Wikipedia written this way: the subjects of these articles seem to be in the encyclopedia because of the men they were married to. Is that really how they should go down in history, and is that what they should be known for? Is her marital status more important than the work she did for society?

I think those women should also be valued for the work they did, even if it was a volunteer job. They did their work with passion. I imagine them working long days, combining their household work and childcare with their social engagements. Of course, it's nice to learn something about their personal lives, but that shouldn't define them, as it does not define the men in the encyclopedia.

Do you want to get a better understanding of the gender gap on Wikipedia? Join the keynote session in the Autorium from 4 pm to 4:30 pm.

Image: Annette Versluys-Poelman end 1891 with her children. Annette Versluys-Poelman was president and member of the Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht, a Dutch women's rights organisation.
License: Public Domain.
Source: Atria, Instituut voor vrouwengeschiedenis

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written by Ciell
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