No matter what you tell your college professors, we all know that Wikipedia is everyone’s go-to source for basic information about pretty much everything. So when women are massively under-represented on the site – both in terms of editors and in terms of subjects – it’s a big problem. Which is why Britain’s Royal Society, a 350-year-old institution dedicated to science (not that I got that off Wikipedia or anything), is working to fix this problem by hosting an edit-athon to bulk up entries for female scientists. […] The organizers also hope that simply by training more women in the ins and outs of Wikipedia editing that these women will feel more confident making edits and that, slowly, the gender imbalance among Wikipedia editors will become smaller. […]
On March 4, Wikipedia held its “Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” at the Royal Society in London. According to the Guardian, “40 volunteers used the society’s resources to expand and create articles about women in science and engineering. ”
Bustle understands that a Wikipedia BLP can’t just present a few dry facts about a person’s professional career. For instance: “Marie Skłodowska-Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry”; that’s just boring, and we can find that kind of information anywhere. Wikipedia, in contrast, gives us all the facts we need to judge Mme Curie as a woman:
In 1911 it was revealed that in 1910–11 Curie had conducted an affair of about a year’s duration with physicist Paul Langevin, a former student of Pierre’s. He was a married man who was estranged from his wife. This resulted in a press scandal that was exploited by her academic opponents. Curie (then in her mid-40s) was five years older than Langevin and was portrayed in the tabloids as a foreign Jewish home-wrecker. She was away for a conference in Belgium when the scandal broke; upon her return, she found an angry mob in front of her house, and had to seek a refuge, with her daughters, at a house of a friend.
So Bustle has helpfully included some real excerpts from Wikipedia biographies of high-profile women, to show the scientists to be newly included in “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” what their biographies might look like after a week or two.
“Stewart dated Sir Anthony Hopkins, but ended the relationship after she saw ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ She stated she was unable to avoid associating Hopkins with the character of Hannibal Lecter”
“Fox has revealed that she is not too social, stating, ‘You won’t believe this, but I never go out. I don’t like drunk, sweaty people whose only goal is to have sex. I stay home and play computer backgammon. Every once in a while, I go to Color Me Mine to do pottery.’”
“During her early months there, she went to a Hollywood Boulevard bank to cash a check her mother had sent her to help with the rent. When the teller refused to cash it, Theron engaged in a shouting match with him. Upon seeing this, talent agent John Crosby, in line behind her, handed her his business card and subsequently introduced her to casting agents and also an acting school. She later fired him as her manager after he kept sending her scripts for films similar to ‘Showgirls’ and ‘Species.’”
“Her pregnancy announcement earned a Guinness World Record for ‘most tweets per second recorded for a single event’ on Twitter, receiving 8,868 tweets per second, and ‘Beyonce pregnant’ was the most Googled term the week of August 29, 2011.”
“Stone’s low-pitched husky voice is a result of having baby colic, a condition of frequent screaming as an infant, resulting in the development of nodules.”
“Francois Navarre, the proprietor of the X17 photo agency, said Cyrus’s market value had picked up considerably after the Vanity Fair photo controversy: ‘She’s started to sell more. […] It used to be $300, and now it’s $2,000 for a picture.’ Estimates for a picture of the then-15 year old’s first kiss ranged from $30,000 to $150,000.”
Does Wikipedia’s TMZ-like biographical coverage also extend to men? Are they as likely to be trivialized as their female counterparts, or are they treated more seriously? This matter bears investigating.
Image credit: Flickr/Boston Public Library, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic