Closing Wiki’s Gender Gap With Art+Feminism

Art+Feminism’s Edit-a-thons are bringing some changes to Wikipedia in a big way.

In 2011, a study found that only a small fraction of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are female. The same study found that there are a lack of Wiki entries about women or topics relating to women. The study concluded that this gender gap might be due to Wikipedia’s primarily male-dominated environment that is often unwelcoming to female contributors.

Even more recently, a highly debated article by the New York Times reported that female writers were being removed from the “American Novelists” category and transferred into a new, “American Woman Novelists” subcategory. The report, which was widely shared on social media, brought Wiki’s gender gap issue to a whole new public light.

Enter: Art+Feminism’s Edit-a-thons. Art+Feminism is a collaboration founded in New York between artists, scholars, curators, librarians and Wikipedia users. Art+Feminism’s Edit-a-thons are communal, all-day events, typically taking place on or around International Women’s Day (March 8th). The premise is simple, but effective: participants gather in public spaces and update Wikipedia entries on subjects related to art and feminism.

The very first Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon took place in 2014, and on the heels of the New York Times piece. Since 2014, the Edit-a-thon has grown. The inaugural event had 600 participants in 31 locations, while the 2015 event saw approximately 1500 participants in 17 countries on four continents.

This year, Ottawa will be participating in Art+Feminism’s Edit-a-thon for the very first time to mark International Women’s Day. Impressively, two Ottawa locations will be hosting this meetup: The Carleton University Art Gallery and the Ottawa Art Gallery. Michelle Gewurtz, a curator at the OAG, is a strong supporter of the Art+Feminism collective and is excited about the event.

“We’re learning some technological skills, we’re also bringing awareness about artists in our collection, we’re bringing people together,” says Gewurtz. “It’s very much in line with a lot of current conversations that are happening around the gallery at the moment.”

Gewurtz will be helping to edit Canadian painter Paraskeva Clark’s Wiki page during the Edit-a-thon. Gewurtz, who is also the the curator of the Clark exhibition at the OAG, tells me that the OAG will be looking to expand on underdeveloped or non-existent Wikipedia entries on Ottawa artists whose works are featured in the gallery.

Both meetups at the CUAG and OAG will provide tutorials for beginners, reference materials, and, of course, refreshments. Folks of all gender identities and expressions are invited to participate.

To learn about how you can get involved with Ottawa’s Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon, visit Art+Feminism Ottawa’s official Wiki page.