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Editing as Activism – Wiki-events Related to Women’s History Month

Posted by on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Robert Penn Waren Center.

mary anne caton

Mary Anne Caton is the Grants and Programs Manager and Wikipedian-in-Residence for the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 and beyond, the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries are partnering with campus units to sponsor virtual Wikipedia edit-a-thons that celebrate women’s lives, achievements, and history. Why edit Wikipedia? Because editing is activism and brings women’s work and lives into clear focus.

In a 2011 survey, the Wikimedia Foundation found that less than 10% of its contributors identify as female. Further, data analysis tools and computational linguistics studies have concluded that Wikipedia has fewer and less extensive articles on women; those same tools have shown gender biases in biographical articles. This is a problem.

When cis and trans women, non-binary people, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities are not represented in the writing and editing on the tenth-most-visited site in the world, information about people like us gets skewed and misrepresented. The stories get mistold. We lose out on real history. That’s why we’re here: to change it.

Two upcoming events are Women of Digital Humanities on March 17 and ART+FEMINISM on March 25. These events are open to all and require no prior editing experience. Wikipedians will be on hand to help participants create their first entry, revisit a project, or develop a strategy for editing. Drop-ins are welcome, too.

Ada LovelaceWomen of Digital Humanities: Wednesday, March 17 from 11 am to 2 pm. While there are campaigns to promote women in STEM, like the annual Ada Lovelace Day in October, Wikipedia’s well-documented gender bias also affects scholarship in the Digital Humanities. Prominent women scholars working in this field, like Melissa Terras, Laura Mandel, Johanna Drucker, and Roopika Risam, either lack articles or have articles in need of more data.

Lynn Ramey (French and Faculty Director of the Center for Digital Humanities) will speak about important women and women-led projects in Digital Humanities. This event is sponsored by the Center for Digital Humanities and the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries. A communal edit-a-thon kicks off afterwards. Register here.

ART+FEMINISM began in 2014 to respond to well-documented under-representation of women on the encyclopedia. Since then, over 18,000 people at more than 1,260 events around the world have participated in A+F edit-a-thons, resulting in the creation and improvement of more than 84,000 articles on Wikipedia and its sister projects.

This year marks Vanderbilt’s sixth year #editing AF. Working with the History of Art Department and visiting art historians, we have run edit-a-thons to create better representation of all women artists, architects, filmmakers, curators and art historians.

210325-ArtFeminism-VanDiver-flierRebecca VanDiver (History of Art) will discuss “The Torture of Mothers: Black Reproductive Justice in Elizabeth Catlett’s Prints,” on Thursday, March 25 from 1-2 pm. As a sculptor and a printmaker, Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) believed in the power of art as a vehicle for social change. VanDiver traces Catlett’s imagery of black motherhood from depictions of maternal love in the 1940s to maternal fear in the 1970s, as the threat to black bodies through police violence and political attacks intensified. Register here.

Her talk will be followed by an edit-a-thon. We encourage students to bring their knowledge from courses, immersion work, and other projects. Editing can also emphasize collections in the Libraries and the Fine Arts Gallery from book artists Shirley Jones to photographer Donna Ferrato and more. Examples of editing projects include writing articles from scratch, correcting citations, or adding images to WIkiCommons. Since editing for Wikipedia means your work will be read widely, we can also help you link your work to ensure your efforts are broadly accessed.

If you’re curious about year-round efforts to fix the gender gap, check out these WikiProjects: WikiProject Women in RedWikiProject Women artistsWikiProject Women writers; WikiProject Women’s healthWikiProject Women’s HistoryWikiProject Feminism and groups like Black Lunch Table.

Contact Mary Anne Caton with questions about Wikipedia activism, or to plan an edit-a-thon. Drop into an event and spread some WikiLove for your favorite women.

Mary Anne Caton is the Grants and Programs Manager and Wikipedian-in-Residence for the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries.