The Cost of Being a Prominent Woman on Wikipedia – and Online

Emily Temple-Wood joined Wikipedia at 12, and became an administrator at 13. In 2016, she was honored by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales as Wikipedian of the Year. For nearly her entire time on the site, she has dealt with obscene, personal abuse.

“People have been harassing me since the first vandal figured out I was a lady,” Emily told Wired earlier this year. “Which was within a month or so of my joining the site.” She has turned that abuse into motivation, increasing the quantity and quality of women’s biographies on Wikipedia, through efforts like WikiProject Women Scientists.

On this episode, we talk about the abuse Emily has received, and how it has changed over the years, along with her methods of dealing with it. Plus:

  • The incredible contribution of teenagers to online communities and collaborative platforms
  • Why Wikipedia spoke to pre-teen Emily
  • Is there more that Wikipedia should be doing?

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Big Quotes

“It’s okay for you to feel upset and bothered when someone says vile, vile things to you. That’s a normal human response. It’s because you’re an empathetic normal human. It’s what you do with those feelings that counts. If you’re upset and you need to, I don’t know, throw a pillow and snuggle a cat and go for a walk or go for a run or cry or whatever, that’s all a very normal way of dealing with things. In the long run, when you find a way to do something productive with these really heady emotions, that’s how you survive it for the long haul.” -@keilanawiki

“Not only do I get inspiration from these women, and I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, absolutely, in every way, I’m also getting to share these stories and get knowledge out there about women who have been kind of neglected and forgotten. That work will stand the test of time. [The abuse I receive] won’t. So, I’m playing the long game.” -@keilanawiki

“I was on Wikipedia at age 12… for me at first, participating in this online community, where I was respected for my contributions, was really important to me because I felt like I was a valued member of a community – when I wasn’t that offline.” -@keilanawiki

“I think a more productive way of approaching the [online abuse] conversation, at least right now, is not say, ‘How can we engineer our way out of this? How can we create technology to get us out of this?’ It’s encouraging communities to grow healthy patterns and healthy ways and encouraging resilience among more marginalized members of communities who are marginalized for discriminatory type reasons, not because they should be marginalized because they’re terrible.” –@keilanawiki

About Emily Temple-Wood

Emily Temple-Wood is an American Wikipedia editor who goes by the name of Keilana on the site. She is known for her efforts to counter the effects and causes of gender bias on Wikipedia, particularly through the creation of articles about women in science. She was declared a joint recipient of the Wikipedian of the Year award by Jimmy Wales at Wikimania in 2016.

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