These Ivy League Colleges Will Give Students Credit For Making Wikipedia More Feminist

Ivies Yale and Brown have found themselves on the receiving end of intense criticism for their course "Wikistorming: Feminists Engage Wikipedia."

Critics charge that integrating feminist theory into technology-related Wikipedia articles will compromise their factual accuracy. They say they worry that while moving away from unintentional male bias — the articles will gain a feminist one. However, these critiques miss the point of both the course and the endeavor.

The online course — which will be tailored by instructors at each school using provided materials — was created by FemTechNet, a self-described “activated network of scholars, artists, and students who work on, with, and at the borders of technology, science, and feminism.” The group alleges that Wikipedia articles are “skewed toward male participation.” Unsurprisingly, the idea has generated backlash. While Fox News predictably accuses the group of "personal bias," they miss the point in favor of the soundbite. Here's the truth: the program is aimed at technology-related articles in particular, and was created in part in response to a sexist New York Times article with the telling title, “Men Invented the Internet.”

There is a real need for such a project, but students will not be randomly injecting feminist theory into whichever articles they can get their hands on — they'll target the trouble area of technology. Female accomplishments in the field have been largely ignored or underrated, and are essentially absent from Wikipedia articles. Students will not be changing facts or removing male accomplishments from articles, but will be adding to them.

FemTechNet say that the main goals of the project are to highlight female contributions to technological innovation and “advance feminist principles of social justice in future educational models and pedagogies.” This does not mean giving articles a feminist slant or changing their facts to serve an agenda. Just because a theory is offered, doesn’t mean readers need to accept it. Users of Wikipedia can think for themselves but it is necessary that they are offered multiple perspectives. As a user-edited site, it is indisputable that Wikipedia is currently biased.

Regarding the critique that universities should aim to make courses "objective," anyone who's taken an advanced class knows that high-level courses aim to develop and promote theories. Yale and Brown are not necessarily taking a stance on this course as institutions, but they are allowing their highly opinionated students to make their mark on the public domain.

Most importantly, this course is invaluable to women in technology. With the idea running rampant that women just aren’t as interested in STEM fields as men, it is important that we ensure that women interested in the field know that it isn’t completely male-dominated. Wikistorming will create a digital archive of female work in STEM fields that finally showcases their important breakthroughs in technology. It will also highlight their work to young women interested in technology and encourage them to reach for their tech-y stars — which could prove invaluable to the rest of us.

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