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No Voice for Men on Wikipedia?

by James P. Persica

From the Wikipedia article on "Men's Rights movement" - Two protestors from UK-based fathers' rights group

Super! From the Wikipedia article on “Men’s Rights movement” – Two protestors from a UK-based fathers’ rights group

How much do Wikipedia articles influence the way in which their corresponding topics are perceived by the general public? The Wikipedia article for the men’s rights movement seems to be well referenced, with 155 sources in total. This is not far from the 236 sources used in the article for the feminist movement, a considerably older civil rights movement that certain Wikipedia editors often compare to the men’s rights movement. There are problems with this particular comparison, namely that their theories, methods, and history, are entirely different. Still, it is the criticism of the article that comes up most frequently. However, there have been complaints within websites associated with the movement that articles such as this are biased against them. Writing for A Voice for Men, a publication considered to be particularly influential within the movement, Canadian men’s rights activist John Hembling referred to Wikipedia moderators and admins as “censors”, claiming that a “rewriting [of] reference material to obscure and minimize the topic of that reference material” had taken place. Similarly, Dean Esmay, managing editor of A Voice for Men, again attacked Wikipedia, referring to it as “Orwellian” in an article titled “Fighting Wikipedia Corruption & Censorship”.

He went on to write:

One of the areas where [censorship] is an acute problems [sic] is Wikipedia’s grossly discriminatory practices on men’s rights issues; they tromp the Men’s Human Rights perspective whenever possible, while bending over backwards to accommodate Gender Feminist ideologues. These feminist ideologues frequently and often hatefully tromp dissent and insert gynocentric gender ideology all over Wikipedia, poisoning much of Wikipedia’s content.

A Voice for Men write themselves a Wikipedia entry

This particular article by Esmay was published a few months after he created a Wikipedia article for A Voice for Men himself, a potential breach of Wikipedia rules concerning conflict of interest, an issue which he duly acknowledged at the time in the edit summary at the top of the page. A day later, he declared his position on the article talk page, stating “I am Managing Editor of this publication, it would be better if a neutral Wikipedian were in charge of this page”. However, aside from some structural changes, like the addition of an infobox, the main text of the article is largely the same at the time of writing as it was at its creation, meaning that it must have somehow escaped the “gynocentric gender ideology” that Wikipedia is supposedly infested with, unless Esmay wrote the article with this in mind.

In comparison, there have been multiple attempts by editors to remove mentions that A Voice for Men has been referred to as “misogynist”, something that Esmay himself included in his original write up. Indeed, in response, one editor asked: “Can we please prevent editors too close to the subject from hiding the issues A Voice for Men covers which they don’t want shared with the public?” Considering that these accusations of misogyny are well sourced, including articles by The New York Times, ABC and The Huffington Post, it seems that, if anything, it is those who align with A Voice for Men who are attempting censorship.

Famous WPA photo by Lewis Hine – according to Wikipedia, an “iconic representation of masculinity.”


Activist editing by Dean Esmay

Dean Esmay, using the handle Desmay, has been a Wikipedia participant since 2003. His very first edit was to the Wikipedia article for masculism, where he wrote:

Masculist defenders would note that most self-described Feminists are white, middle class women who claim that being women makes it difficult for them to cope in a “man’s world,” and object to being stereotyped as haters simply due to their belief that males are often given the short end of the stick in Western society.

He then removed content stating that feminism exists outside of the Western countries, justifying it with the explanation that:

Feminism as a political force is practically nonexistent outside of Western nations, and men in other nations have their own hardships that masculists feel are also elided and dismissed wrongly.

This is peculiar, as feminism clearly does exist outside of Western nations, such as in postcolonial feminism and transnational feminism. Would stating otherwise in that article affect the way that people understand feminism? Possibly, if they didn’t read further on the subject. Regardless, it is likely that this generalisation concerning the race and social position of “most self-described” feminists may have passed Wikipedia’s policy for neutral point of view, which states that “opinions should not be stated in Wikipedia’s voice”, as Esmay structured his inclusion in a way that puts the words in the mouth of masculists. The problem is that, as it is unreferenced, the opinion is most likely his own.

Further removals

Members of the men’s rights movement have been editing a number of hot-button articles on Wikipedia since the site’s inception in 2001. One example is a section about a men’s rights forum within the article on Controversial Reddit communities. It includes information concerning its listing by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a misogynistic website, its doxxing of a feminist blogger, and hundreds of false rape reports made by the forum in protest of a US college’s rape report system which allowed victims to post anonymously. Multiple attempts have been made to remove this section of the article after some links were made to it from within the forum, and a deletion attempt was put forward by an editor who is on the men’s rights movement article probation list. Again, the contributors were far less concerned with rewriting Wikipedia content to better follow its sources than removing an entire section of well-sourced information.

Activist editing by David Usher

Dean Esmay is not the only notable member of the men’s rights movement to dabble in a spot of editing on Wikipedia. In late 2006, David Usher, legislator for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children and president of the Center for Marriage Policy, began to contribute to an earlier version of the men’s rights movement article. His efforts largely consisted of making assertions that the movement “opposes same-sex marriage”, posting a lengthy explanation of why exactly this is on the article talk page, stating that “the only men who support same sex marriage in my experience are feminist men, who are not legitimate participants in the men’s rights movement”. He later received criticism from the press for repeating these exact same views in an opinion column:

Forget the adjectives “same sex” and “gay” marriage. These are victim-based marketing ploys invented by NOW to send us off into a heated debate about homosexuality and equal rights – distracting us from seeing their real goal of establishing “feminist marriage.”

Usher’s activist edits to Wikipedia provide a good illustration of what can – and will – go wrong on a site that presents itself as a neutrally-written encyclopedia while allowing anyone to participate. In this case, “neutrality” won the day, given that the only available sources for for Usher’s claims were those written by himself, and were therefore not considered reliable.

When criticism is reliably sourced

When the only reliable sources available for a topic are largely critical of it, be it to document that demographic’s spreading of perceptibly misogynistic content or taking it to task for publishing sensitive information about their political opponents as in the case of Paul Elam’s anti-feminist hate site Register-Her, it may be considered necessary to include such content in the topic’s Wikipedia entry. If there is no acknowledgement that these issues exist, then the topic is not covered adequately. Of course, in this context, efforts by members of the men’s rights movement such as John Hembling and Dean Esmay to denounce Wikipedia as censored or biased are also perfectly understandable.

As for removing references to press articles, the Wikipedia guideline for identifying reliable sources states “Whether a specific news story is reliable for a specific fact or statement in a Wikipedia article will be assessed on a case-by-case basis”. When multiple sources assess the same thing about a movement, then it must have due weight. Last month, A Voice for Men held an International Conference on Men’s Issues. The media coverage was largely negative, including articles by Jessica Roy of TIME magazine, Adam Serwer of MSNBC, and Monica Hesse of The Washington Post. Although other news outlets covered the event, the above mentioned publications have a reputation for being particularly above-board, making them likely to qualify as “reliable sources” for Wikipedia. Therefore, it is telling that, in response to them, A Voice for Men published what can only be described as character assassination articles on all three journalists: “Unprofessional reporting from TIME Magazine’s Jessica K. Roy”, “Rage-Filled, Unprofessional Adam Serwer Embarrasses MSNBC & Now With Alex”, and “Monica Hesse of The Washington Post: Anatomy of a Hatchet Job”. There is no way of knowing for sure what the exact intention of these articles was, but, considering the tone and inclusion of personal photographs of the journalists, I would assume the intent to intimidate in the event of future journalists’ articles about A Voice for Men. Again, there are parallels between this and censorship, as journalists are less able to discuss subjects freely.

It would probably be safe to assume that an organisation such as A Voice for Men has no discernible influence within academia, which is the gold standard for sourcing on Wikipedia. Thus, news reports, such as the ones mentioned above, make up the majority of the publications quoted for its entry.

It is unlikely that Dean Esmay would have created a Wikipedia article for A Voice for Men if he hadn’t assumed that his organisation deserved a place within the encyclopaedia, despite the fact that the coverage on A Voice for Men in reputable publications is on a par with that about white nationalist groups and journals such as The Occidental Quarterly. These thoughts inspire an important question for “The Project”. Is it possible to be uncritical in coverage when the subject of the article itself is so controversial that its actions inspire fear among, or condemnation by, news reporters?


Image credits: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Gwydion M. Williams ~ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

18 comments to No Voice for Men on Wikipedia?

  • Bielle

    Good work, James P.!

  • anon

    You are a silly person.

    Check out the history of woozle on wiki, which is documented as being brigaded and put up for deletion expressly by reddit feminists who feared its entry would damage feminism.

    Best wishes

    • R

      Anon you are an idiot. You have decided to completely ignore all the points raised by the author RE: MRA’s, their censorship, and their dubious credibility, and instead chosen to attack feminists.

      Feminism is the idea that women are PEOPLE, and that they deserve to be treated as such in ALL areas of life. It is not to attack men, and it never has been. It is a very established movement that has made actual, tangible change in womens’ lives. It is still needed, as situations such as employment, safety on the streets are still damaging to women.

      MRA’s are a bunch of silly men who feel attacked when women point out the damage that men have done to them.

      • gush

        Feminism is none of this. Feminism is an ideology, it behaves like one.
        The belief women are people and at equal standing to men is called common sense.
        (or egalitarianism, that’s also an ideology, but one that is consistent with reality. Usually, the less content an ideology has, the more likely it is to be consistent with reality instead of dogmatic)
        feminism has three cores:
        One is patriarchy (one is patriarchy that is a completely ideological construct removed from it’s original meaning, and that is treated as an organization or something that permeate society, but to which anything can be attributed and used as evidence of it’s existence)
        The other one is that gender norms are a social construct (or at least not natural, of some biological origin).
        And that striving for equal gender norms (meaning, no more gender construct) is something desirable for a better world.
        1. Patriarchy means men with society oppress women as a cohesive, coherent goal driven group.
        2. That men and women have the same potential without external pressures.
        3. That we should strive to remove societal constrains that lead men in one path and women into another.

        See there is nothing about rights there? Because feminism isn’t a human rights group, it’s not about equal rights. When it comes to the law, feminism always gave women more rights than men, firstly on the wording, and when they were called out on it, they resorted to keep the bias on the application.
        One example is infanticide law. Only women are benefited from this.

  • Bielle

    Perhaps someone who knows anything about woozles, save that they are characters in Winnie-the-Pooh, could explain the immediately preceding comment from anon. I can make no sense of it whatsoever.

  • Woozle is a word borrowed from A.A.Milne in order to win arguments.
    It refers to (primarily) sociological data being cited improperly and then other sources picking up the incorrect cite and using that to come to a conclusion.
    It is not widely used except by activists who want to shut down a discussion by claiming that certain widely-quoted statistics are ‘woozles.’
    There. I have pooh-poohed the argument of the fellow two comments up.

  • metasonix

    I had a feeling that this blog post (accurate and useful though it is) would attract incoherent criticism. “Men’s rights” types are essentially “extreme libertarians”, meaning they aren’t real “libertarians” at all, they’re wannabe feudal lords.

    The internet was not built for them, yet they tend act as if it was their personal playground. All of it.

  • Radiant Orchid

    The author of this blog post might want to get in touch with Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post about her latest piece “Men’s rights activists think a “hateful” feminist conspiracy is ruining Wikipedia”. I think she owes you some credit.

  • metasonix, you claim it was not built “for them,” but it was certainly built “by them.” So it’s no surprise the end result became a playground for people “like them.” Sad really, back in the day we had such high hopes for Internet I.

    • Luchog

      A bit of a necropost, but to correct this for anyone else reading the archives; this is definitely not true. The Internet was built on the backbone of DARPANET, which was a government communication initiative; BITNET, which was an academic information-sharing network; and multiple commercial networks which joined up later (such as AOL and Compuserv). While some of the extremist “libertarian”/anarcho-capitalists had a small hand in the early days; the vast majority of the infrastructure as we now understand it was and is academic and commercial in origin.

  • J/A

    The author here missed the point. My reading suggests that Esmay wanted it to be known that MRAs are often smeared as “misogynists,” and that the edits removing this information are exactly the sort of censorship he’s complaining about.

    I suppose I can’t expect the average person to grasp that sort of subtlety.

  • […] acríticxs para lxs que los "nuevos #commons" son la nueva panacea. No Voice for Men on Wikipedia? wikipediocracy.com/2014/07/27… […]

  • guest

    Wikipedia is Maoist joke. Anyone who believes it is a credible encyclopedia has never tried editing on controversial articles ganged by Good Faith goons. Only useful idiots like the author above waste time on WP.

  • I’m an editor on Wikipedia as well and I’ve seen the articles you’ve written about as well as being active on Jewish history articles.

    MRA’s/AVFM attack everyone who doesn’t agree with them (they’ve linked your article on AVFM) and they have different ways of going after women and men. Women get doc dropped, stalked online and given rape threats. Male journalists like Bucky Turco just get called stupid. All journalists who cover AVFM’s misogyny are probably less likely to cover them in the future.

    Elam thinks he can strong-arm the media by attacking individual journalists and well, maybe a few women will walk away. Look at what happened to a few female journalists in the video game industry. It’s a disgusting tactic but not unsurprising as over the years I’ve monitored their attacks on individual women.

    Elam’s argument is that he doesn’t hate all women because he doesn’t go after ALL women just individual women. This is ridiculous of course but some people don’t even notice the problem.

    Since MRA’s have little or no sources that support their position they started a new ‘wikipedia’ on another site where they have total control of the sources and the rhetoric. I won’t link it here but it’s quite funny to read some of it.

    Giving MRA’s a platform on Wikipedia is wrong for the reasons you’ve stated. They’re always quick to point out that people are entitled to their own opinions but not facts. It seems MRA’s don’t take their own advice.

    I still keep my Wiki account but I don’t use it much anymore because it just gets tiring arguing with people on talk pages. I tried including some elements of Jewish history but couldn’t even get past a biased editor on a talk page who had more editing power than I did.

    Wiki is good for basic stuff and it does allow a researcher a good jump off point for further knowledge but on its own it’s not a good source.

    • Daniel Andersen

      Considering your past efforts to vilify AvFM and your blatant editing of their content, I’m going to completely disregard anything you have to say, ever.

      I suggest people check out Mancheeze’s channel on youtube, it is truly a grand example of rampant quote mining and slander.

  • shmiggen

    The author appears to be striking a pose of impartiality, but let’s be clear – he isn’t. He does not believe men have legitimate issues. Only women do. Oh and feminism is strictly about equality.

  • There are obvious biased arguments in this article.

    Firstly, to claim that a men’s movement is inferior to a women’s movement based in feminist obscure claims is unwarranted, except in the writer’s feminist POV.

    Second, to claim that an editor of AVFM couldn’t write about AVFM, allegedly because he would have an special interest, while (by the first fallacy) feminist writers writing about feminism on wikipedia wouldn’t, is absurd.

    Third, 2 articles wrongly classifying AVFM as a mysogynist site doesn’t equate to a claim from certain feminists to be “well sourced”. Well sourced would be to link to AVFM’s articles where hate and dispise towards women and girls could be shown. Some faux argument supported by AVFM classifying all female human beings as evil, or advocating violence or suppression of civil and constitutional rights to women just for being women, or something like that. That you don’t have, because that doesn’t exist. It is just imagination born in feminist fanatic imagination.

    Therefore, the author is just being dishonest and/or as fanatic as “Mancheeze”/”Manboobz”/”Wehuntedthemamooth” and the other people to whom the feminist movement is to be made immune to criticism. In other words, fanatics just can’t reason. They can even have a privileged education and speak quite well, and still that’s all they can do.

  • J.M.

    Dear Mr. Graciano from AVfM:

    please notice the discrepancy between your reading and what the article actually says:

    Aldir Graciano: to claim that a men’s movement is inferior to a women’s movement

    James P. Persica: feminist movement, a considerably older civil rights movement that certain Wikipedia editors often compare to the men’s rights movement. There are problems with this particular comparison, namely that their theories, methods, and history, are entirely different.

    Nobody claims that your movement is “inferior”. What was said is that feminism is completely different and that the comparisons made by your MRA friends do not hold up under scrutiny.

    One MRA strategy is to flood the comments section of all articles that have anything critical to say about the MRM. This is what is happening here.