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Comment I posted to ongoing discussion on Wikipedia editing and gender - Zer Netmouse
October 10th, 2013
10:26 pm

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Comment I posted to ongoing discussion on Wikipedia editing and gender
Over on Sue Gardner's blog there's a discussion about her essay on why more women don't edit wikipedia. I subscribe to comments and sometimes I respond to them.

Since I don't get much time to write posts here, I thought I would share just such an exchange from this week. Partly because I was gratified to find that the numbers support me in my belief that media that promote/reflect stereotypically gendered "interests" don't really have as much market penetration as the industry would like you to believe.


In August, someone writing as Jim Bob said,

There are no barriers to editing Wikipedia, it is no more challenging than keeping up appearances on facebook and twitter, which women do far more than men. You can rationalize till the cows come home.

Women are more subjective than men in their interests and mindset. Many girls barely take an interest in anything which does not relate to themselves – beauty, fashion, relationships, weddings, babies etc – which is why most women’s magazines consist of the above. Few are interested in planes, jet engines, markets etc


I responded
“Women are more subjective than men in their interests and mindset.”
A statement that demonstrates its own fallacy, as it is not based on anything other than your own subjective perceptions.

I’m a woman and I have never lived in a household with subscriptions to “women’s magazines” like you describe. Instead I read the Smithsonian, the Economist, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and other publications you no doubt think are for men, since you are clearly oblivious to the existence of the millions of women in the workforce being doctors, engineers, teachers, scientists, social workers, journalists, therapists, architects, artists, police, EMTs, drivers, and hundreds of other professions that do not fit within the confines of your narrow-minded belief system.


This week Jim Bob came back to whine,

Did I say “It is a fact that all women are more subjective than all men”? It was obvious that I was stating my opinion and comparing two populations, which means two overlapping bell curves with different averages. Since I am comparing the average girl with the average man, your personal interests are irrelevant, as is the fact that there are other girls who are interested in science, engineering etc. Stating your opinion is not a logical fallacy either. Also, earning a living and one’s interests are not the same thing. How did you cram so many errors of reasoning into one short post?


To which this was my response:
You did not say "all women," but neither did you say "most women", nor, "on average." You just said "Women are more subjective than men in their interests and mindset," with no qualifications. If you intended qualifications to be read in your statement, you should have put them there.

My personal lived experience and interests (I saw your assertion that "earning a living and one’s interests are not the same thing", but I am betting interests and career align with one another far more often than not) are only irrelevant if you persist in your apparent belief that I am an outlier rather than a fairly normal person within the main part of the bell curve. If you so dismiss the reports of anyone who disagrees with you, you thus preserve your own prejudices about the world. Congratulations.

I continue to hold that your beliefs are wrong-headed, subjective, and illogical. Not to mention overly influenced by commercial media that want you to believe they are more popular than they are.

(Do you know the circulation of "women's" magazines? All the major 'style' ones together is about 14 million a year. (per http://www.cosmomediakit.com/r5/showkiosk.asp?listing_id=360478&category_code=circ&category_id=27808). The world Female population 15-64 years old is 2 billion, 270 million. So less than 1% of the female population buys those sorts of magazines over the course of a year, even assuming that none of them buy more than one title in that group, which isn't true - Cosmo elsewhere asserts that between 30 and 50% of the readers of the other magazines also read Cosmo, for instance. Assume all those sales are in the US, with a female population 15-64 of 103 million, and you still only see enough copies sold to sell to 14% of that prime adult female population. Pretty small percentage for something most of us are supposed to be interested in. )

Putting the word "average" into your argument doesn't make it more correct. There is no mythical "average" man. People are complicated. I like how you say you are "comparing the average girl with the average man" though. To me the use of the term "girl" instead of "woman" reveals more about your underlying sexism than any analysis I have written. Well done!




This is of course a waste of my time in terms of convincing that other commenter in any way. So I'm cross-posting it here so it can feel like *less* of a time waste...

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From:gerisullivan
Date:October 11th, 2013 04:38 am (UTC)
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Well put, throughout.

I'm currently giving more thought than usual to the dichotomy between the power of a single voice as demonstrated by Malala Yousafzai and the utterly predictable futility of trying to engage in reasoned, nuanced discussion with the Jim Bobs (of all genders) of the world. No conclusions as yet, nor even an increased understanding of whole, complex reality. I don't think it's a waste of time though, any more than your efforts are. Thanks for sharing them here!

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From:partly_bouncy
Date:October 11th, 2013 07:28 am (UTC)
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I get annoyed with comments like that, because they perpetuate huge amounts of sexism. Your comment is pretty freaking awesome.

I spend a lot of time on Wikipedia editing articles about sports. I contribute to a sister project to Wikipedia called Wikinews, where I write about sports to such an extent at times that it annoys the mostly male contributors who look down on it as entertainment fluff. When not writing about that, I tend to write about local news or politics. I like writing there because my work feeds out to Google news and can more clearly change a narrative than editing Wikipedia can. Lots of women defy expectations when editing WMF projects, but rarely get the credit they deserve.
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From:dionysus1999
Date:October 11th, 2013 02:59 pm (UTC)
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Jim Bob left you an excellent example of mansplaining, what a treat.
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From:deire
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
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Go you! :cheers and sends virtual chocolate confetti:
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From:novapsyche
Date:October 12th, 2013 12:23 am (UTC)
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To me the use of the term "girl" instead of "woman" reveals more about your underlying sexism than any analysis I have written.

Yep! I noticed that right away.
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