Wikipedia Needs More Female Artists -- So Go Add Them, Says Stanford

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Editors hard at work at the first annual Art+Feminism edit-a-thon hosted by Stanford's Bowes Art and Architecture Library in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Karampelas)

Depending on which estimate you prefer, 10-23 percent of the people who collectively edit Wikipedia identify as women, according to the non-profit that runs the digital resource, the Wikimedia Foundation.

When you consider how many of us use Wikipedia as a reference, even Wikipedia agrees that’s a problemWhen the vast majority of people who contribute to Wikipedia are male, you’re going to see bizarre gaps in what’s covered and how.

In recent years, a group called Art + Feminism has been trying to make an art-sized dent in that problem by hosting “edit-a-thons.”

This month alone, there are four Art + Feminism edit-a-thons in the Bay Area, including one at Stanford’s Bowes Art and Architecture Library on International Women’s Day.

Organizer Vanessa Kam says it makes a lot of sense to host an edit-a-thon in a library. "Lots of reference materials: encyclopedias, dictionaries, wonderful exhibit catalogues, as well as books on feminist art and art history around the world, in multiple languages," Kam says.

Solid citations are key to making sure your contributions “stick” on Wikipedia, where collective re-editing is par for the course.
Solid citations are key to making sure your contributions “stick” on Wikipedia, where collective re-editing is par for the course. (Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Karampelas)

Opinions vary as to why women haven’t entered the editorial fray in larger numbers, but one theory holds many women find bro-culture of any kind off-putting. Hence the appeal of a group effort in real time and space.


"There’s nothing like the feeling of collaborating with people, you now, arm to arm, shoulder to shoulder, trying to make a difference," Kam says.

Eleven people came to the first edit-a-thon. More are expected this year, from on and off campus. “The sky’s the limit.”

Kam is hoping for as many new entries about female Bay Area artists as possible Thursday, (especially if Stanford houses archival materials for them as it does with, say, the sculptor Ruth Asawa). But the edit-a-thon welcomes all comers, of all genders, with all interests. Which would describe the original intent of Wikipedia.

For more information on where to participate in an Art + Feminism edit-a-thon in the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Berkeley, click here.