Wikipedia stands accused of sexism and being the “encyclopaedic embodiment of the male gaze” after it was revealed the website is moving female authors from its ‘American novelists’ category into a sub-section called ‘American women novelists.’ As today’s The Post (UK) reports
“Successful novelists such as Donna Tartt, Harper Lee and Amy Tan have all been relegated to the sub-category by Wikipedia editors and the process is ongoing. American novelist Amanda Filipacchi says female writers whose surnames begin with A or B have been “most affected” so far. The explanation given by Wikipedia at the top of the page is that the American novelists category is “too long” and authors have to be put into sub-categories wherever possible, Filipacchi notes in the New York Times.
“For Filipacchi the relegation of women authors to a sub-category is a pernicious process as people “get ideas” about which authors to “hire, or honour, or read” from Wikipedia lists. “They might simply use that list without thinking twice about it. It’s probably small, easily fixable things like this that make it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world”, she writes.
“Abigail Grace Murdy, an intern at New York based publisher Melville House says the sub-category “reflects a widespread and belittling perception of women writers that already exists”. She goes on: “But in reflecting that perception, Wikipedia perpetuates it, and the sexism marches on.”
“Since the New York Times drew attention to the problem, Wikipedia, which is created and maintained by volunteers, has been working to move some women back into the main American novelists category while internally debating the controversy. One volunteer wrote that the sub-category was “embarrassing us on a global basis”. “If you don’t segregate males and gender unknowns, then don’t segregate women (and that’s how it’s being perceived)”.