Dear Wikipedia Editors,

By

Not all of you, just the ones who decided that it was a good idea to start removing women from the category “American Novelists” and putting them into a new category: “American Women Novelists.” You guys.

What the hell, man? What’s wrong with you?

It would have been bad enough had you decided to replace the one category with two separate categories, one for American Men and one for American Women novelists, since that division would have suggested that the gender of the writer is the most important distinction (as opposed to, oh, genre or era) and since it would leave out genderqueer novelists completely.

But you didn’t even do that. The dudes are going to get the default category “American Novelists,” while women get shunted off into a cozy little ghetto, the easier to ignore, which is pretty much been the case for most of human history. Men are the normal, everyone else is the other. Hey, good news for sexist readers: this way, a person searching for American Novelists on wikipedia won’t accidentally end up reading a woman’s writing. No, no. Now that can only happen if the person is searching specifically for women novelists. What a relief.

But here’s the thing that confuses us. It’s not like you haven’t been called out for sexism before or anything. You’ve had a problem with this for a while, and despite your claims that you want to change the culture among the editors, you really haven’t done much about it. Instead, you do this. You once again diminish women.

And you’re doing this at a time when we’re more conscious than ever, thanks to groups like VIDA, of the huge disparities in attention that books by men receive in terms of reviews in big publications over books by women, as well as the disparities in space that men receive to write reviews as opposed to women reviewers. We’re talking about massive inequalities here, and you’re aiding and abetting that. As Amanda Filipacchi said in the piece linked above, “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.”

So Wikipedia Editors who thought this was a good idea, do us a favor here. Even if there’s something in your brogrammer code that refuses to allow you to undo this, at least stay out of the way of the editors who are cleaning up the mess you made.


Amy Letter is the Rumpus Digital/Electronic/New Media Literature Editor. Brian Spears is the Rumpus Poetry Editor. More from this author →