feminist

Robby Soave writes for The Daily Caller:

Feminist groups at more than a dozen universities are planning to participate in another mass “edit Wikipedia day,” because the free, volunteer encyclopedia website is obviously horribly sexist.

Sarah Stierch, a Wikipedia contributor and researcher for the Wikimedia Foundation, said the problem isn’t just that most Wikipedia user are male. The layout of the website is itself “very masculine,” she said.

“It’s aesthetically very masculine in its design,” said Stierch in a statement to The Daily Dot, also noting that, “The average Wikipedia editor is a well-educated white male. Well-educated white males have been writing history and the story of the world since ancient times.”

(Image: nojhan.flickr)

On Thursday, The College Fix reported on a controversial event planned by feminists at the University of Cincinnati, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, Inc.

Nearly a dozen billboard-sized photos of vaginas in various states – including shaved ones, others that are blemished, and still some with tampons inserted – are slated for display today and tomorrow at the University of Cincinnati as part of a student-sponsored “Re-Envisioning the Female Body” exhibit.

The female genitalia photos are in direct retaliation to an anti-abortion display hosted by prolife students at the university last May that included graphic images of aborted fetuses, its organizers state.

“Their billboard-sized photographs equated mutilated fetuses with genocide victims in an effort to shame women,” states Female Body exhibit organizers on their Facebook page. “Our demonstration serves to call attention to the vaginas as a site of conflict … its purpose is to incite conversation about the objectification, exploitation and discrimination of women’s bodies … it points to the negative disposition our society holds toward the vagina.”

University of Cincinnati’s student organizers included the following details on the event’s Facebook invitation:

Join us in our art display of vaginas on McMicken Commons! The display titled “Re-envisioning the Female Body” will show 12 billboard-sized photographs of vulvas. The group of photos represents a collaboration between a UC student photographer and 12 volunteer models from within and outside of the UC community. The images will be accompanied by posters sharing quotes from the models and from others about decisions that are made by us or taken from us concerning our bodies in areas of health care, queer sex, birth and abortion, and in stories of abuse and survival.

On the event’s Facebook page, reaction from online commenters was mixed:

One supporter named Jack wrote:

“I wish I wasn’t working, I’d really like to be there. I think vaginas are one of the most beautiful anatomical forms, especially when faithfully portrayed.”

Another supporter named Brian wrote:

“Proud feminist, and proud bearcat alum. Women have a right to the same freedoms as men in this world, and strong men have an obligation to support making that happen. Thank you for doing nothing less than the bold action necessary to spark the this much needed conversation.”

On the other hand, some others weren’t so impressed with the artistic value or political message behind the event.

One dissenter named Matthew wrote:

“I think any visual art that needs that many words to explain what it’s trying to communicate probably sucks as art. My best guess is it’s going to look an awful lot like porn and that’s good enough to get attention.”

Another named Erica wrote:

“This is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever seen! I am a woman, I have a vagina, but my vagina is NOT my identity! It is a body part! And any woman who thinks her vagina has to be talked about because its a part of her, is a seriously delusional and sad excuse for a woman!”

Finally, one other commenter remarked on the event page photo, which featured a photograph of a vagina–presumably one of the images from the campus display:

“If you have a pic of a vagina as your event photo, might wanna make that shit private yo. Pretty sure it’s illegal to show porn to minors.”

At the time of publication, more than 800 people had confirmed on the event’s Facebook page that they would be attending. (Fair Warning: the event page features graphic imagery.)

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You can just imagine how quickly this would be declared illegal if it were a “men only” lounge instead:

From AEI’s Mark Perry:

From the Michigan State University (MSU) student newspaper in 2011:

There are very few places on MSU’s campus that aren’t open to everyone, but one of them is the Women’s Lounge inside the [student] Union.

Tina Timm, an assistant professor in the College of Social Sciences, feels the lounge is outdated. “This will probably get me in trouble with my feminist friends but it doesn’t make sense to me to have that in this day in age,” Timm said. “If there was a lounge or study area specifically for men, I think there would be a lot of push back.”

Patricia Lowrie, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said the needs the lounge serves have changed with society. Getting rid of the private space would be equivalent to saying women’s needs that are currently being served by the lounge are irrelevant, Lowrie said.

“Women’s needs now are certainly different now than they were in 1925,” she said. “But that does not mean that public space is the appropriate space to serve those needs.”

Opening the lounge to men has been a topic of debate dating back to 1978 when Bruce Guthrie, a history and economics senior, filed a complaint after entering the lounge and being asked to leave. His complaint went on to be dismissed by the by Michigan Civil Rights Commission in Detroit in 1980.

Lowrie said she has yet to hear of male needs that could be satisfied by a lounge.

MP: According to the Title IX portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

For our part, we have no problem with women-only lounges per se. What we have a problem with is the double standard. So often in the world of higher ed, any non-white male group is allowed to have its own special facilities and administrative support staff by way of diversity officers, etc. But anything exclusive to male students, on the other hand, like a hypothetical “men’s lounge” for instance, would be banished immediately, and will all kinds of remonstrations about the evils of sexism and patriarchy.

Many universities have a “women’s center”–a campus facility dedicated to serving female students. Often these centers are run by feminist activists. But we’ve never heard of a university with a “men’s center” or a “men’s lounge.”

The lesson is: Be consistent. Don’t try to crusade against male privilege one minute and then retire to your “women only” lounge for a cup of tea the next.

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Prominent gender and media studies professors from across the country converged recently to help host what was dubbed by organizers as a “Feminist, Anti-Racist Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” to create or influence dozens of entries on the online encyclopedia.

A Claremont Graduate University endowment fund sponsored the effort, which promoted creating and “improving” entries dedicated to: feminists; feminist theories; science studies; science, technology and society; human sexuality; artificial intelligence; and film theory; according to an email that announced the event to the Claremont Colleges community, as well as the “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page.”

“This event is … proposed because an increasing number of undergraduates are utilizing digital humanities techniques in their research, as well as studying and publishing their findings using the Internet and online spaces that can be hostile, sexist, hierarchical, overly entertainment-focused, and identity neutral,” states a blog post on the Claremont Digital Humanities website. “The Feminist/Anti-Racist Digital Humanities BLAIS project encourages more complicated expressions of difference and identity in online spaces.”

The event, also dubbed by organizers as “Wikistorm,” took place in late October at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Professors involved with the effort did not respond to emails fromThe College Fix seeking comment. With that, it remains unclear exactly what additions and changes were made to Wikipedia during the event.

The “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page,” however, listed 22 women involved in feminist theory and various science, society and technology studies who either needed a biographical entry created for them, or their current articles allegedly needed additions and edits.

The Edit-a-thon page also suggested editing famed philosopher Rene Descartes’ page, noting its contemporary reception category “could include critiques and debates, including feminist philosophers who have criticized Cartesian dualism and its legacies.”

Another of the subjects targeted by the “Wikistorm” included “human sexuality.”

It’s unclear what changes, if any, were made to the entry, but its introduction currently reads that “human sexuality … can refer to issues of morality, ethics, theology, spirituality or religion. It is not, however, directly tied to gender.” It also reads that “socio-cultural aspects of sexuality include … Christian views on avoidance of sexual pleasure.”

Wikistorm was open to the public,  and students were encouraged to attend and take part. Its agenda also included a roundtable discussion on “feminist, anti-racist approaches to technology,” according to organizers.

Educators who led the talk, according to organizers, included UC Irvine Women’s Studies Professor Kavita Philip, whose essays have been published in journals such as Postmodern Culture and Radical History Review, according to the college’s website.

Also slated to attend was UC San Diego’s Professor Elizabeth Losh, who teaches courses such as “media seductions” and “digital journalism,” the school’s website states.

Claremont’s Pitzer College Media Studies Professor Alexandra Juhasz was among the mix of leaders as well; Juhasz’ professor profile page links to a “media praxis” website that promotes “media for social change,” among other causes.

Also on tap for the Wiki edit-a-thon was Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York; Lisa Parks, a UC Santa Barbara Film and Media studies professor and an affiliate of the Department of Feminist Studies; and Lisa Cartwright, a UC San Diego gender studies professor.

When asked to address the appropriateness of the effort, in terms of editing Wikipedia to promote ideologies, Rod Leveque, assistant director of media and online relations for Claremont Graduate University, told The College Fix in an email he could not comment on the question because “I haven’t seen any information to suggest the premise is correct.”

He also stated he did not know how much university endowment money was provided to fund the endeavor.

“The edit-a-thon appears to be one workshop that is a piece of larger project aimed in part at helping graduate and undergraduate students from a wide range of disciplines, primarily in the humanities, learn how to experiment with digital scholarship and expression,” he stated. “I’m not sure I could break out the costs of this particular workshop from the funding of the larger endeavor, but the costs don’t appear to be substantial.”

The BLAIS grants come from an endowed fund established with private donations a few decades ago, Leveque said.

“Grants from this fund are awarded for projects that promote collaboration among faculty and students from across the borders of the various colleges that comprise the Claremont Colleges Consortium,” he said.

Indeed, more “Wikistorms” are in the offing, according to the inaugural effort’s organizers.

Assistant Editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report.

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

IMAGE: Nojhan/Flickr

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