Contributing to (the) Wikipedia (Gender Gap)

It turns out barely 13% of people who contribute to Wikipedia are female.

(As a fundraiser, when I first saw the headline, I thought the contributions referenced were gifts to the Wikipedia foundation, not actual adding or editing of articles.)

Have you ever contributed to Wikipedia? Edited or added something? Well, I’m guilty of not being part of this crowd-sourced resource, but read an entry yesterday that highlights exactly why women need to be a part of Wikipedia.

A CBS reporter was brutally assaulted while covering the protests in Egypt. In the Houston Chronicle‘s comment section, not surprisingly, comments ran the gamut from “women should know better” to this gem from commenter Brackomatic, whose profile identifies him as a man from Kingwood, Texas:

She is basicly [sic] on 60 minutes because she is hot. I have often wondered why the CBS insiders feel the need to subject us to her accent when we have plenty of American Journalists who could do just as good [sic] at ther [sic] role, unless that role is “sexy foreigner”. And now, throwing a looker like that into a lawless mob in a foreign country? I bet the crew that was filming her feels pretty bad about it. Kind of like taking the high school girls to Mexico for Spring Break and losing one to the thugs down there. Sorry it happened. I’m sure she gained a new perspective of the danger in reporting from the fire.

On the news because she is sexy? Idiot. I get so tired of seeing women accused of having a job strictly because of their looks while their extensive experience and hard work is ignored. I went to Wikipedia to read up on her background, perhaps thinking that I would post a comment outlining her credentials to refute Brackomatic.

I should know that feeding trolls makes them worse, and that logic or facts never make the situation better. Anyway, for whatever misguided reason, there I was, reading the Wikipedia entry. The copy on the site says as of yesterday afternoon says this:

In 2011, while covering the Egyptian protests against Hosni Mubarak, Logan was arrested by the Egyptian police in Cairo.[16] On February 15, CBS released a statement revealing Logan was physically and sexually assaulted by a mob after becoming separated from her crew while covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square following the resignation of Mubarak. She was eventually rescued by “a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers”. Logan later reconnected with her team and returned to the United States the next morning.[17]

That’s not what it said when I looked.

I won’t quote directly, because what was written when I checked was almost as offensive and violent as the attack she suffered. Basically, it was a pornographic and racist description of her attack, managing to graphically slut-shame her while taking a few digs at Egyptians to boot.

I have to tell you, I can cuss a blue streak and have been accused of making sailors blush. Very little shocks me, but what this Wiki-troll wrote stunned me to my core. It was deeply upsetting, and I shudder to think that even for the span of a few minutes these violent, racist words were floating around the internet masquerading as an encyclopedia entry.

I’m encouraged by how quickly the troll comments went down, but if I’d been a registered user of Wikipedia, I would have gotten them down even faster.

It is possible to edit Wikipedia as a guest, but your IP address is then recorded. Frankly, I hesitated. I didn’t want to expose myself to the same hateful, racist, misogynist idiot who had put up this terrible information in the first place.

And that’s a damn shame.

I felt as exposed sitting as my computer, knowing someone this vitriolic and nasty was out there, as I’ve ever felt in the dark parking lots and dank stairwells women are taught to fear and avoid.

That fear has never stopped me from going into those parking lots or stairwells when necessary, and it won’t keep me off Wikipedia. I’m going to set up an account and try to bridge the gender gap.

I’ve got more to say about the response to news of Lara Logan’s attack.  Bear with me while I gather my thoughts.

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