These Indian Women Are Fixing Wikipedia’s Gender Bias Problem, One Page At A Time

This media company edits pages on women every month to eliminate gender bias.

Credit: @FeminismInIndia/Twitter

Despite teachers and professors urging students to use virtually any source except Wikipedia for research, the crowd-sourcing online encyclopedia is the fifth most visited website in the entire world. It’s been given a bad reputation in the eyes of scholars simply because anyone can contribute to it, but the non-profit site has made great strides in ensuring that the material posted on pages is as accurate as possible.

With that being said, what’s posted on different pages can sometimes be subjective because of the way people leave things out or add things relative to how they feel about the subject. Even worse, some important role models, leaders, artists, politicians, and more don’t even have a page because people haven’t bothered to create one. Since only 9% of editors globally for the Wikipedia pages are female, with that number jumping to 15% for the U.S., this means that women editors are highly underrepresented and the pages inherently have some bias.

“From a pure content perspective, men and women may bring different interests and preferences, and they may focus on different issues,” said Julia Bear, a professor at Stony Brook University. “If we have such a small percentage of women contributing, then there are a lot of issues that will potentially be skewed or get less attention than they should.”

That’s where Feminism in India (FII), a media platform that aims to educate youth about issues relating to intersectional feminism, comes in. The company partners with organizations every month to conduct a specialized “Edit-A-Thon” in which editors, primarily women, get together to edit or create Wikipedia pages informing the masses of gender issues and marginalized groups.

For the month of September, they teamed up with Khoj International Artists’ Association and 17 editors came together on the edit-a-thon day to work on editing and creating pages about female artists from India. Khoj put together a list of artists for the editors to claim and research, some of which needed information added to their severely lacking pages and others which needed a new page altogether. When the editors got together, they first had a discussion about Wikipedia and its “gender gap and on the whys and hows of Wikipedia editing for new-comers.” Then they got to work.

“Each participant chose one or more Indian woman artist absent from Wikipedia, and started digging through the internet looking for interviews, news reports and e-books as well as through the Khoj library that mentioned their chosen artist to write comprehensive Wikipedia articles on them,” it says on FII’s website about the latest edit-a-thon.

Credit: @FeminismInIndia/Twitter

By the end of the day, the editors had accomplished an amazing feat: they had edited a total of 18 Wikipedia pages (all in English), 14 of which were brand new pages created for the following female Indian artists:

  1. Gargi Raina
  2. Navjot Altaf
  3. CAMP (Studio)
  4. Rohini Devasher
  5. Prajakta Potnis
  6. Seher Shah
  7. Shilpa Gupta
  8. Nilima Sheikh
  9. Madhavi Parekh
  10. Mrinalini Mukherjee
  11. Anju Dodiya
  12. Surekha
  13. Archana Hande
  14. Homai Vyrawalla
  15. Vasudha Thozhur
  16. Gauri Gill
  17. Neha Choksi
  18. Mithu Sen

This isn’t their first edit-a-thon, nor will it be their last. In previous months, the editors have worked on Wikipedia pages about Indian women freedom fighters, women in politics, queer pride marches in India, online social movements, and many more topics. Each time, they partner with a different organization and are able to educate youth about how to edit and create Wikipedia pages.

Studies revealed that women feel less confident and knowledgeable enough to edit or create Wikipedia pages, which would explain why there are significantly fewer females than males contributing to the platform. The editors at FII and their partnering organizations are doing a great job at adding to the site and informing the public, but with millions of pages in 300 different languages, we should all be helping to rid the pages of gender bias as often as we can.

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