Trolls Unwittingly Support Women Scientists On Wikipedia

Revise Wiki Pages

When Emily Temple-Wood gets hatefully “trolled” online, she does not get mad, she gets even. She has invented an innovative and most-creative way to deal with ignorant, negative, hate mongering people who abuse her over the world wide web: she will create a Wiki page for a fellow woman scientist. She has been doing this practice for four years and is now at Loyola University studying in the field of biology. Since the age of 12 Emily has received sexist, inappropriate, and abusive messages. Quite often these messages come from males via Wikipedia.

Temple-Wood simply ignore such trolls at first, until one day she decided to use her deep anger caused by the pain of hurtful comments, to drive her to write original articles about noteworthy females in science history. Her project grew into a special Wiki page: WikiProject Women Scientists. She has promoted Lorna Casselton, a famous biologist, and Caroline Herschel, who was a woman astronomer way back in the 1700s. Neither woman’s accomplishments were mentioned at all on Wikipedia before she added them.

Emily Temple-Wood Explained that she does not hold it against anyone who might disagree with something she has posted, only hateful comments. Of her early days transforming trolling into feminist progress, Emily says, “I literally sat in the hallway in the dorm until 2am writing the first women in science (Wikipedia) article… It’s specifically being sexist and gross. If it makes me want to cry, it definitely goes on the list, or if it would make my mom uncomfortable.”

A former Wikimedia Foundation member, Siko Bouterse, has said of Emily’s work, “The emotional labor of weathering this kind of harassment is huge. Amazingly, rather than deciding this particular public space must not be for her, Emily has been able to channel every instance of harassment into more fuel for her focus, so it’s backfiring against those who hope to silence women online. That takes courage.”

It has been noted in several news articles and blogs that the 15 year old Wikipedia web site has mostly been developed by male Wikipedia writers. Their male sexual bias comes through in their articles about women. Most of their wording revolves around the subject being female and on the history of their families and personal lives, instead of the details of their scientific accomplishments. This definitely constitutes gender bias, although many men find it difficult to fully understand or acknowledge.

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