Crowdsourcing Gruwell’s “Wikipedia’s Politics of Exclusion” article

Here, we’ll continue the discussion we began in class today about Gruwell’s recent article, “Wikipedia’s Politics of Exclusion: Gender, Epistemology, and Feminist Rhetoric (In)action.”

We did some freewriting already on what ways Wikipedia “privileges partriarchal methodologies and epistemologies” that are “exclusionary” and then considered in our class discussion how “Wikipedia functions as a rhetorical discourse community” (118).

This is a challenging article (on many levels), so let’s first tackle what the article is actually saying by crowdsourcing Gruwell’s main claims (thesis, points, evidence in support of those points) here. Then we can also unpack them, asking clarifying questions, complicating them, challenging then with provocations and counter-arguments, etc.

Don’t forget to include citations in MLA format when you refer to the text.

14 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Gruwell’s “Wikipedia’s Politics of Exclusion” article

  1. Gruwell’s article ” Wikipedia’s Politics of Exclusion: Gender, Epistemology, and Feminist Rhetoric (In)action” is an explosion of ideas that sparks the conversation of how women are excluded in the discourse community. It is almost ironic since women are engaged in the conversation however they are to separate who they are from the conversation which makes them disengaged. Throughout the article she touches on how Wikipedia prides themselves on be a forum that praises open communication and discourse however for certain people. These certain people are “privileged”.

    I’m a little confused as to where she mentions women being privileged. I’m not sure she if she means that women should feel “privileged” to be a woman. That the major affordance of being a woman is that we experience what it means to be woman and in turn we exemplify that in the world. In that way we create a false image of what women are and create a dissonance. The idea being that the expected idea of a woman is different from her soul. . . Did anyone else interpret it that way? Or does that make sense?

      • Gruwell definitely makes that point in the first sentence of the abstract when she says, “compositionists have celebrated Wikipedia as a space that privileges collaborative, public writing and complicates traditional notions of authorship and revision.” But the privilege is ultimately disproportionate when only 13% of women contribute to Wikipedia’s forum, making men more privileged than women.

    • Jodie, can you provide a quote + citation (page #) for where you see Gruwell discussing women as privileged? That will help to work through what she means, in context.

      (I like how you discuss gender as offering “affordances” 🙂 )

  2. I found these read to be a doozy but as I took a second look I came to see that there is a big injustice here. From my perspective I came to theorize that the same way woman had to fight for equality in the work place and other aspects or real life so must we do so in a virtual space. There is an assimilation that men are masters of the web due to their know how of numbers. The fact that men are given the upper hand to write about issues they have no experience in such as feminism and abortion addresses the primary issue of gender equality.

    • i agree the reading was alot but i agree with your point that like real life women are downcast on the web as well. I believe she was saying that opinionated pieces by men on the same subject would get totally different replies where a woman might get called hysterical or over reactive a man might get called strong minded and outspoken.

      • Sam, I agree that audience responses to females may differ from those to males, but where do you see Gruwell making this claim about “opinionated pieces on the same subject”? Let’s ground our discussion of a very complex/controversial in the text & her argument specifically.

    • I agree that this article is a challenging read, or, as you put it, a “doozy” 🙂

      But this is a good forum to work through some of the difficult aspects of the readings, getting deep into the text (by looking at specific passages / ideas). Where do you see Gruwell arguing that “men are masters of the web due to their know how of numbers”?

  3. Gruwell points out that Wikipedia does not ask editors to register and as a result, it is difficult to know who the contributors are (119). So that makes it hard to tell how much of the writer’s self is actually being embodied in the article and whether there are any “biases and assumptions” (119). I don’t think that it is a clear case of black or white, especially as one of Wikipedia values is that it is “objective and detached” (118). I wonder how many male contributors interject their personalities into their writing and it is not even an issue.

    • The last line of this stands out to me because it happens in the workplace both on and offline. If a man writes a piece that clearly showcases his personality hes praised where a woman gets critized for not knowing how to seperate work from emotions. Its a blatant double standard for a site like wikipedia thats based around people sharing their information and views.

      • Pam, thanks for using specific textual evidence (with citations!) in your comment. Your question about embodiment in reference to men (whether it is allowed, or even acknowledged) is an important one, and we should try to interrogate it a little further. If one of Wikipedia’s principles/requirements is to write in an objective sense, then, does that mean that all forms of embodiment are disallowed? Or that male’s forms of embodiment that might come across in writing are naturalized and become the norm, that we don’t even recognize them as embodied (they just seem like the standard to which writers should aspire)?

        Sam, again, I agree with you that there may exist a double-standard in terms of expressing one’s personality/emotions, but is that actually what the article is discussing? Is Wikipedia allowing men to showcase their emotions in their writing? If Gruwell is discussing this, please point to places in the text that we can look at.

  4. Gruwell argues that “its important to recognize that feminism, as a political movement and as a philosophy, arose from women’s lived experiences” hence there should be a lot more contribution of women to the Wikipedia site (119). Remember, not all women are feminists and, not all feminists are women, men too are openly allowed to contribute to the epistemology behind feminism. However, the gender gap is just another example of gender inequality that has been protested against for many years. Its about time changes should be made and why not start in a digital space where technology is steadily increasing to greater heights and demand. Women should be more accepted and invited into producing content in a digital space whether their emotional feelings are involved or not. Embodied subjectivity is not a weakness.

    • Just to elaborate on Fola’s point, a few pages later Gruwell speaks on the experiment she conducted in which educated women also fed into the gender stereotypes.
      “Lekha and Janet both insisted that women’s “real life” material conditions account for the lack of women on Wikipedia. Janet, speaking specifically in terms of Western women, explained that women are strapped for time. She suggested that while more and more women enter professional careers, they are still expected to do most of the work at home. Lekha also shared this perspective, even though she clarified that she was speaking about Indian women in particular. Her outreach work has led her to talk with many women who say “that they do not have the time.” She continued, noting that, in her experience, Indian “women are traditionally to stay at home.” Notably, both Lekha and Janet linked women’s material conditions—a lack of time due to domestic and work responsibilities—to a lack of confidence online. “Everything has to do with the way people are raised here,” said Lekha, “so they lack confidence.” Janet agreed, claiming that “women are still a little bit less confident.” She provided an example to illustrate her point: she said that her mother-in-law, who is in her early eighties, read Wikipedia regularly but did not contribute—even when she noticed errors or a lack of content in specific articles. When Janet encouraged her to edit articles, her mother-in-law (who left school around age 15) “deprecate[d] her [own] knowledge.” Sylvia also recognized that Wikipedia’s contributor base reflects “real world” biases.” (124) In this decade its hard to believe that while pursuing a career, women still believe in the excuse that there is no time aside from domestic duties. Also, addressing the point on a lack of online confidence, I feel Gruwell truly gets her point across. IF more women took the time to contribute to Wikipedia, there would be less of a doubt that their knowledge is not enough.

  5. I wanted to raise another point I thought was very thought provoking to me. In section 4.1 the second paragraphs reads, “…we want to give free knowledge to everyone, everywhere. Words to that effect…You know a world where everyone has access to knowledge of the impediments. And I think that’s where I really kind of emotionally bought into it.” (Gruwell, 123). We have been focusing on the gender gap and women’s ability to contribute, but what about the cost of that investment? What are women really losing by investing so much time and effort? What are they gaining? The access might be free but then again slavery was ‘free’ in the sense because men were taken at little to no cost but was a system that generated millions of dollars in capital. If this access is free then why are those who voice their opinion in such a way that may be seen as feminine being persecuted again?

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