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Professor Sujata Moorti conferred with students Julia Kendrick '17 (left) and Kaitlyn Kuvalanka '17 during the edit-a-thon.

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Feminists Strengthen Wikipedia's Content About Women

April 18, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Concerned that Wikipedia does not accurately represent the accomplishments of women, feminists at Middlebury College decided to take matters into their own hands. On April 14, during the annual Gensler Symposium, more than 60 students crammed into a computer lab in the Davis Family Library to participate in Middlebury’s first Feminist Edit-a-Thon.

“Scholars have long noted that there is a significant gender gap among Wikipedia editors, that there are differences in how gender shapes the content of a page, and there is a significant absence of women and women’s contributions in Wikipedia,” explained Professor Sujata Moorti of the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (GSFS).

It has been well documented that “feminism and feminist ideas and people are absent in Wikipedia,” Moorti said. “A couple of years ago I attended an edit-a-thon at the Museum of Modern Art designed to bring more women artists and their contributions to Wikipedia. This year I decided to conduct a similar project at Middlebury” with faculty colleagues and students.”

Watch Kevin Moss's lecture.

A yet-to-be-determined number of Wikipedia pages were created and/or edited during the three-hour edit-a-thon, but it is safe to say that a significant number of Wikipedia pages was edited by students to include verifiable content from reliable sources – all in keeping with Wikipedia’s strict policies.

Psychology major Kaitlyn Kuvalanka '17 worked on the Gender and Entrepreneurship section of the new Wikipedia page Gender and Labor in Vermont, and said the edit-a-thon gave her a feeling of "empowerment and influence."

"There is something about sitting in a room full of students with the power to make changes at our fingertips that was truly inspiring," she said. "Although the section is still rather shot at the moment, I feel motivated and comforted that I now have the skills to go back to that page, or any other page, to broaden the feminist perspective to other Wikipedia users."

Also participating in the event were Associate Professor Laurie Essig, director of the GSFS program; Assistant Professor of GSFS Carly Thomsen; Assistant Professor of Religion Jennifer Ortegren; Writing Program Director Catharine Wright; and Research Librarian Brenda Ellis.

“We were all equally pleased with the attendance and how well the event transpired,” said Moorti. “And we have started to brainstorm what we might change next year.” Now thinking globally about feminist content in Wikipedia, Moorti is trying to connect with colleagues at universities around the world “so next year will be better, bigger, and global.”

Watch Sue Minter's lecture.

Julia Kendrick '17 agreed and said, "I hope we are able to keep up this momentum and add more feminist content to Wikipedia." During the event, the senior edited the Educational Labor section of the Gender and Labor in Vermont page.

The 2017 Gensler Family Symposium on Feminism in a Global Context also included a lecture by Professor Kevin Moss on “Russia as a Savior of European Civilization: Gender and the Geopolitics of Traditional Values,” and a presentation by former Vermont gubernatorial candidate and state secretary of transportation Sue Minter on the topic “A Woman in the Arena.” A student-produced video titled “Views on Reproductive Rights” was also screened during the symposium, which was established at Middlebury in 2008 by Drue Cortell Gensler, Class of 1957.

A fifth event scheduled during the Symposium, Winona LaDuke’s lecture on “Native Women and Extreme Extraction: Lessons from Standing Rock and Beyond,” was cancelled because Ms. LaDuke was called to testify before the Minnesota State Legislature, Prof. Moorti said.   

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“We were all equally pleased with the attendance and how well the event transpired,” said Moorti. “And we have started to brainstorm what we might change next year.” Now thinking globally about feminist content in Wikipedia, Moorti is trying to connect with colleagues at universities around the world “so next year will be better, bigger, and global.”

by Alice Martin (not verified)

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