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Wikipedia's sexism; Yuri Gadyukin hoax

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By Andreas Kolbe and Go Phightins!

Categorisation of women novelists sparks media debate on Wikipedia's sexism

Journalists have cited Wikipedia's gender imbalance as a major factor in the women's categorisation controversy.

On 24 April 2013, novelist Amanda Filipacchi published what turned out to be an influential op-ed in the New York Times. In her piece, "Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Female Novelists", Filipacchi explained that she had just—

Noting that there wasn't a category for "American men novelists", Filipacchi said that readers looking at the category listing for "American novelists" might not even be aware that women had been excluded. It is "small, easily fixable things like this", she argued, "that make it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world."

Other publications weigh in

Her point was picked up and endorsed by other mainstream publications including –

These writers generally expressed incomprehension at why even the most minor male novelists remained listed in Wikipedia's "American novelists" category, while major American novelists such as Harper Lee were moved to a subcategory purely on the basis of their gender. The Independent quoted Caroline Criado-Perez of feminist website "The Women's Room":

Sarah Ditum, writing for the New Statesman, pointed out that Wikipedia appeared to sift Victorian novelists the same way as American novelists:

"Revenge editing"

American novelist Amanda Filipacchi, whose Op-Ed in the New York Times, titled "Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Female Novelists", kicked off the ongoing media debate on 24 April.

The controversy deepened when Filipacchi published a follow-up in the New York Times on 28 April (this also appeared in the paper edition), reiterating her earlier points and noting that her Wikipedia biography as well as Wikipedia articles related to her and her work had come in for unfavourable attention from Wikipedians:

Articles in Salon and The New York Review of Books followed a day later. Focusing on the edits that Wikipedians had made to Wikipedia articles related to Filipacchi, Salon writer Andrew Leonard asserted that "Sexism isn't the problem at the online encyclopedia. The real corruption is the lust for revenge".

Leonard then quoted various talk page contributions by Qworty that he felt reflected very poorly on Wikipedia:

Both Andrew Leonard in Salon and James Gleick in The New York Review of Books stated that a large number of recategorisations performed by a single contributor, named by Gleick as User:Johnpacklambert, had been responsible for precipitating the crisis.

In his article, Gleick reviewed User:Johnpacklambert's edits in some detail, and gave John an opportunity to put his point of view:

Gleick added that the problem seemed to be "more general and pervasive than most had originally thought", pointing out that African-American and other non-white writers also regularly found themselves "diffused" from the default category to subcategories. He gave the example of Maya Angelou—Gleick found that her biography was categorised in African-American writers, African-American women poets, and American women poets, but not American poets or American writers.

NPR also covered the story, featuring an interview with Wikimedia Foundation employee Ryan Kaldari, who said:

The third act

With discussions ongoing in Wikipedia, on 30 April Amanda Filipacchi published a new piece on the controversy in the Atlantic, titled "Sexism on Wikipedia Is Not the Work of 'A Single Misguided Editor'. It's a widespread problem."

In this latest piece, Filipacchi took issue with the assertion made by Leonard and Gleick the day before, that a single editor—User:Johnpacklambert, according to Gleick—was to blame for the controversy. Listing a number of edits made to women novelists' biographies in Wikipedia over the past few months, with dates and the names or IP addresses of the editors who made them, Filipacchi showed that User:Johnpacklambert was only the latest in a line of editors who had recategorised major women novelists in the manner she had described in her op-ed.

In the process, Filipacchi also rebutted claims made by Liz Henry in a widely-tweeted post on, titled "Journalists don't understand Wikipedia sometimes". Henry, stating that she was "a bit annoyed at the facile reporting that does not seem to take into account the complexity of how information gets added to Wikipedia", had claimed in her post that two of the novelists named by Filipacchi, Donna Tartt and Amy Tan, had in reality never been in the "American novelists" category, and thus had never been removed. In response, Filipacchi provided verifiable dates and times when they were so removed, along with the names of the editors making the edits.

Filipacchi noted that User:Johnpacklambert had done "something particularly interesting and annoying" after her biography had had the American novelists category restored to it: he removed the category again, and instead added Filipacchi to a new category he had just created: "American humor novelists". The change was undone, and at the time of writing, Filipacchi's biography is categorised among American novelists in Wikipedia.

Yuri Gadyukin: hoax with a difference

In a piece listed by The Verge among the week's best writing on the web, Kevin Morris of The Daily Dot illuminated the unusual background of the Yuri Gadyukin hoax, which was discovered and deleted from Wikipedia in early March. The hoax, detected by Yaroslav Blanter, had remained undiscovered for three years and seven months.

It turned out that the Wikipedia and IMDB articles for Gadyukin were part of a viral marketing campaign for a faux documentary project by film makers Gavin Boyter and Guy Ducker.

Ducker explained that the viral campaign was "a way of us starting to tell a story, starting to create the world, while in the meantime we waited for people to give us the money. We were determined not be to be stopped from getting that. You have to make sure nobody stops you. That's the key to making a film."

Yuri Gadyukin may well survive the deletion of his Wikipedia and IMDB biographies—the film project is still on.

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Categorisation of women novelists

I understand that it's not the easiest for non-editors to figure out how to climb over into the "behind-the-scenes" area on here to discuss things they find inappropriate and to raise concerns. However, Ms. Filipacchi has demonstrated cluefulness in that she figured out how to find out if articles have been removed from categories. I don't see any attempt from her to contact anyone on here, via the article's talk page or any other page (including the talk pages of the two categories in question). I understand that Ms. Filipachhi feels like an outsider, but it really would have been more appropriate (and less dramatic for all of us) is she had attempted to engage with the community first. Likely someone would have hopped on over to WP:GENDERCAT and gone "Oh hey, removing those people from that category was against guidelines!" Maybe consensus would have gone the way of re-adding the category to the pages, or maybe we would have had an RfC that changed our guidelines.
Now to address Ms. Filipacchi's accusation of "revenge editing". Here's the diff between the article before Ms. Filipacchi wrote her op-ed and how it stands as I write this comment. It's gone from 7,007 bytes to 10,903 bytes. It now has good formatting, the prose is more encyclopedic and it has good references and the inappropriate external links are gone. It's a given that her article would receive attention after what's been going on. Prose has been removed and rewritten, but none of it has been to get revenge on Ms. Filipachhi. I see edits that have been to improve the quality and tone of an article that has had a sudden uptick in attention. It would be really nice if we could just all sit down and talk it out without the angry emotions getting in the way.
TL;DR: Nobody gets off scot-free here (but nobody gets huge amounts of the blame either); I have two X chromosomes and a vested interest in gender equality and I don't view this as sexism; and as a very wise and very funny woman once wrote, "I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy." Cheers, — Preceding signed comment added by Cymru.lass (talkcontribs) 14:18, 4 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Dkreisst, I apologize for forgetting that irony is poorly conveyed in this medium. I didn't actually mean to give the impression that I would want to have "Men's Studies" departments in universities. I do indeed recognize that women were not given their due prior to the 1960s (or 70s or 80s, depending on the region and school). My point would be that, rather than creating women's studies as a separate entity in the university, that this problem would have been better addressed by forcing inclusion within the canon of women's literature and historical and scientific (and other) contributions. Essentially, the creation of Women's Studies sends the message that separate is equal, i.e, it creates a modern-day gender based Plessy v. Ferguson situation. Had women been given the right to sit anywhere on the bus, they would not today find themselves relegated to the back, in silly matters such as these categories. If equality is desired, then segregation is probably not the best idea. HuskyHuskie (talk) 07:31, 12 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Hi HuskyHuskie, Thank you for the response. I would be better persuaded argument if the segregation that you mention were enforced and if women had not, themselves, worked so hard to create women's studies departments. Since the creation of women's studies does not mean that non-women's studies departments are forced to omit women's literature and history and other contributions from their curriculum, I see little separation and little correlation to Plessy v. Ferguson. Also, it seems that there has been little resistance to, and perhaps quite a bit of work done on, "forcing inclusion" of women's contributions into non-women's studies departments from those that created women's studies departments. If that had worked as well as they hoped it would, perhaps they wouldn't have felt they needed their own department. Clearly, though, that was not the case. Finally, I think I agree with your statement that, had women been "allowed to sit anywhere" in the past, that they would be today also be "allowed to sit anywhere". The question is, since they were not allowed to sit anywhere they wanted to in the past, what is the best way to ensure they will be able to someday in the future? Dkreisst (talk) 01:09, 13 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Well, your last point is the most important question to answer. I strongly believe that the path taken in the past, in creating segregated disciplines, while appearing expedient, have yielded a poor outcome, a ghettoized area of study. But it is here to stay, because you can hardly change it without being accused of "taking away from women" something peceived as important. So what should we do? Damned if I know. I think we're just cementing more and more divisions among people. Academia, which is where the greatest integration should exist, is becoming the most Balkanized part of American life. HuskyHuskie (talk) 04:54, 13 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I recognize, Viriditas, that you had no way to know that you were not addressing a twelve-year old, so I suppose your patronizing comments should be chalked up to a good faith effort to enlighten a child. Suffice it to say that I walked the halls of academia before Women's Studies existed (at least at my university), so I'm well-versed in the rationale and development of women's studies. And while I respect the motives of those who created such courses and departments, you can see my comments above to User: Dkreisst to see why I feel such well-intended persons were nonetheless misguided. HuskyHuskie (talk) 07:31, 12 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]

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