I JUST noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. So far, female authors whose last names begin with A or B have been most affected, although many others have, too.Read the whole piece here.
The intention appears to be to create a list of “American Novelists” on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men. The category lists 3,837 authors, and the first few hundred of them are mainly men. The explanation at the top of the page is that the list of “American Novelists” is too long, and therefore the novelists have to be put in subcategories whenever possible.Too bad there isn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.”People who go to Wikipedia to get ideas for whom to hire, or honor, or read, and look at that list of “American Novelists” for inspiration, might not even notice that the first page of it includes far more men than women. 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.
Allison Flood, at the Guardian, follows up with an update, noting:
Their observations sparked a widespread condemnation of the policy on social media. "Women writers are consistently underrepresented, their work receiving much less attention than that of their male counterparts. In 2012 the New York Review of Books reviewed only 40 female authors, as opposed to 215 male authors," wrote Abigail Grace Murdy on the publisher Melville House's blog. "The subcategory 'American women novelists' "simply reflects a widespread and belittling perception of women writers that already exists. But in reflecting that perception, Wikipedia perpetuates it, and the sexism marches on."
Wikipedia editors have now begun the task of adding the female writers back into the wider category, while debating the situation among themselves. "This is 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)," wrote one.
Another said: "Removing women from the list of novelists is like removing black or foreign-born novelists. Its effect is inherently biased. For those who want to find women novelists, a sublist is acceptable, but it cannot fairly involve removal from the main list. The effect is too discriminatory and drastic. The same applies to all women-nationality lists (not only novelists). I think this kind of category, based on the characteristics of the novelist, is very different from a subcategory based on the characteristics of the novels, eg, mystery novelists or science-fiction novelists."Read her entire piece here.