Australia has a rich and diverse tapestry of feminist writers who continue to be sidelined by a public that cannot move beyond the 1970s.
At 33, I'm old enough to remember more than a few aged trends. Slap-bands, for example, and shiny bike shorts worn unironically. I grew up with Archie comics and rollerskates, Coca Cola cans with a ring pull that ripped all the way off, and movies starring the two Coreys. Some of these things have since made a comeback (alas, not the two Coreys - rest in peace, La Haim) while for others it's only a matter of time.
One childhood playtoy that's almost certainly gone the way of the dodo is the set of hardback encyclopedias that seemed to belong to every family with kids born before 1983. For friendless children like myself, the Britannica was a wonderland of information. You could retrieve any of the alphabetical hardback listings and spend fascinating hours, or perhaps even just minutes, reading about birds with names like the crumplehinged horbyscoot or the catterbobble winkydinkler. Perhaps the French Revolution would take your fancy, and you'd settle in for a sobering exploration of the various manners of executions used against the aristocracy.
Most of those books are gathering dust in garages or landfill now. We have no more need for them, because broadband has literally reduced our quest for information to the simple click of a button. Instead of gold trimmed encyclopedias, we now skim read Wikipedia before bluffing our way through topics on which we are still almost totally ignorant. Praise Wikipedia! I have sometimes projected silently into the sky. Helping factory line writers since 2001!
But recent times have seen Wikipedia called out for rampant sexism. For a start, female participation in Wiki editing stands at only 10%, a fact that may be due to the gross and sexist treatment of women within the ranks. In the New York Times in 2013, Amanda Filippachi observed how Wikipedia's female entries in the 'American Novelists' category were being gradually moved to a page called 'American Women Novelists'. A project conceived in that same year by Siân Evans and Jacqueline Mabey organised for Edit-a-thons to redress the woeful imbalance between male and female representation on the website. This past weekend, the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon took place as part of an "all-day mass update of Wikipedia entries pertaining to art and women".
It's easy (and accurate) to point to the fact that Wikipedia retains all the possibility for hostility and gender based harassment that exists on the rest of the internet. But none of that changes the fundamental problem, which is that over 80% of those people volunteering to edit the world's being user aggregated source of encyclopedic information are young, white, predominantly child-free men. In an article titled, "Yes, Wikipedia Is Sexist - That's Why It Needs You", writer Deanna Zandt argues, "It's not enough to sit back and hope for the best when finding sexist, racist, homophobic, trans*phobic, etc., language or information on Wikipedia. In order to fix it, we need lots of different kinds of people to jump in and start editing Wikipedia, too."
Which brings me to this point. Recently, editors at Daily Life discovered that the Wikipedia category page for 'Australian Feminist Writers' contained only eight women. All of these eight women are over the age of 50; two of them were dead, with one of them (Louisa Lawson) having passed away at the ripe old age of 72 back in 1920.
Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with feminists over the age of 50 and I strongly believe that their work and tireless contributions to gender equality activism should be proudly remembered and honoured. But to have no acknowledgement or listings of women under this age who write with even the vaguest of feminist sensibilities is just astonishing. Australia has a rich and diverse tapestry of feminist writers who continue to be sidelined by a public that cannot move beyond the 1970s. (For that matter, this list of Australian feminists is also pretty scant.)
So we want to change that. And as part of celebrating International Women's Day 2015, we want to encourage the people who care about this issue to help broaden the database of information available on those women who are in turn helping to change the world that we live in. Using the hashtag #womenonwiki, we're asking readers to join us in not only nominating the Australian women they'd like to see added to this category, but to put their hands up to create and edit page entries where they're needed. Yes, it's a big job - but as Zandt says, there's no point in just 'kvetching on blogs and listservs' about these stark absences. Editing Wikipedia pages is remarkably simple. We all have the power to do it - the question is whether or not we have the will.
For my part, I'm going to begin by nominating updates and edits on the following well deserving women:
This is by no means an exhaustive list! There are so many women that deserve to be here. This is just a start. Let's get as many #womenonwiki as we can. No, it's probably not going to change the world. But at the very least, it helps to show that women are actually a part of it.
Instructions: Anyone can create a page in Wikipedia. After you've created a page or if you're adding an already existing one to this category, you just need to add [[Category:Australian feminist writers]] to the bottom of the edit page. You can find more instructions here.