Is Wikipedia Truly Egalitarian?

Some might say: who cares? After all, if its output is useful, we should not lose too much sleep over whether Wikipedia’s editors and contributors are truly egalitarian.

But since Wikipedia depends on lots of people doing lots of unpaid work, it would be nice if that work was shared out in a fairly equal way.

It is not shared equally. Just 13% of Wikipedia editors are women and the average female editor is responsible for fewer edits than the average male editor. Calling attention to this, Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, assumes the situation is greatly unfair to women. It must be a case of the glass celing, of women’s under-representation due to patriarchy, or misogyny, or something like that.

Or, maybe not.

Let us assume that about 90% of Wikipedia’s editing and content is contributed by men.

A few questions arise:

  • If men are doing all this work for free, how is that an injustice to women?
  • If ~90% of the unpaid work is being done by men, are women failing to contribute their fair share to a cooperative, not-for-profit initiative?
  • If one class of people is doing ~90% of the unpaid work, is that class being exploited? If so, is Wikipedia a matriarchal or misandrist plot against men?
  • Why would men do this sort of thing? Is it that males have been disproportionately involved in all extensive non-kin forms of social cooperation, often in competition with other male coalitions, for millennia?
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