Written by Laura Callaghan – Feminist Wikipedia Takeover project participant
I access Wikipedia multiple times a day. I use it for things like reminding myself who the current Ontario Minister of Education is (it’s MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris), or for looking up the climate in the coldest city on earth when I need to console myself that it’s not really that miserable in Toronto in March.
Wikipedia is the 5th most popular website on the internet. I think it’s wonderful that we have this vast open source repository of information at our fingertips, but I also find it unnerving how much power Wikipedia has to inform our understanding of the world, and our conception of what is worth knowing.
Presence in Wikipedia is a marker of notability and importance, so it matters who and what is included. Who gets to determine this? Technically anyone can, but in reality certain populations have much higher influence. Wikipedia editors tend to be English speaking and from the global North. They tend to be white, and over 90% of them identify as male. This has left a lot of communities on the fringes of one of the world’s most powerful information sources.
The lack of diversity among Wikipedia editors translates into a lack of diversity of content. Only 16% of biographical articles are on women, LGBT+ issues are extremely underrepresented, and the contributions of Indigenous women and women of colour are often rendered invisible.
This is what motivated me to participate in the Amnesty International’s Feminist Wikipedia Takeover for International Women’s Day. Today I added a profile of Bridget Tolley to the Wikipedia page devoted to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Tolley is an Algonquin woman from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation who founded the Sisters in Spirit vigils. She also co-founded Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS): a grassroots, anti-colonial, volunteer-run organization that supports community-led action for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. You can now read about her work here >
I will continue volunteering my time as a Wikipedia editor, because there are many more human rights defenders missing from its pages. (My next project will be a profile on Wendy Porch-Liszka and her work promoting the rights of people with episodic disabilities.)
Editing Wikipedia is something tangible we can do to increase the visibility of women, trans, and non-binary people online, and it’s a lot easier than you’d think. So create an account and give it a try.
Wikipedia is only participatory if we all participate.
Follow #IWDwiki to hear stories about the inspiring women, trans & non-binary #HumanRightsDefenders being profiled on @Wikipedia to mark #IWD2018 for the @AmnestyNOW Feminist Wikipedia Takeover. #womensrights #LGBTI