Wikipedia in sexism row after labelling Harper Lee and others 'women novelists' while men are 'American novelists'

Feminist campaigners say they are 'disappointed' and 'shocked' at the online encyclopaedia's policy

Wikipedia has become embroiled in a sexism row after it emerged that its editors are giving less prominence to articles about women than to those about men.

Feminist campaigners said they were “disappointed” and “shocked” at the news that many female novelists born in the US were being placed in a subcategory on the online encyclopaedia named “American Women Novelists”, while their male counterparts were listed simply as “Novelists”.

“It is just horrendous,” said Caroline Criado-Perez of the feminist website The Women’s Room. “It perpetuates the idea that men are the default and don’t need to be marked in any way, whereas women are still seen as the outliers. If it is a prominent woman, it is a special case; it is a really Victorian attitude and shocking to see in 2013.”

She added: “It exemplifies how far we have to go for women just to be as accepted as men are; as the default.”

The “American Novelists” category on the site does contain some women’s names. However, the New York Times reported this week that many of those placed earlier in the alphabetical list had been moved into the subcategory for women.

The paper’s Amanda Filipacchi wrote in an opinion column: “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.”

She added: “If you look back in the ‘history’ of these women’s pages, you can see that they used to appear in the category ‘American novelists’, but that they were recently bumped down. Male novelists on Wikipedia, however – no matter how small or obscure they are – all get to be in the category ‘American novelists’.”

An internal note to editors of the “American Novelists” category on Wikipedia reads: “Pages in this category should be moved to subcategories where applicable. This category may require frequent maintenance to avoid becoming too large. It should directly contain very few, if any, articles and should mainly contain subcategories.”

A second note suggests that editors on the site are considering re-merging the two, with the issue currently being debated.

Professor Uta Frith of University College London led a session last year during which Wikipedia articles about under-appreciated women were extended and given a more appropriate weighting.

She said: “I certainly feel disappointed by this division into an unmarked form (novelists) and a marked form (female novelists). This kind of division has been studied by linguists a lot. I certainly would be most upset to see a distinction between scientists and female scientists.

“I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that there was once an unmarked class ‘men’, meaning all mankind, and ‘women’, meaning a special subcategory, a special case of man,” she observed wryly.

A spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, did not respond to requests for comment.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz