Wikipedia’s selective gendering of national team article names

In an earlier post, I talked about how some articles are over represented when it comes to article’s about men’s versus women’s national teams.  I know from my own experiences that many articles about men’s national teams are gendered while women’s teams are not.

400 gendered men, 1800 ungendered

The graph above clearly shows this pattern. The majority of women’s article titles are gendered.  The majority of men’s national team articles are not.  Beyond totals, one way of understanding English Wikipedia’s systemic bias against women in sport is to look at what happens when there is a pair of articles about a country’s national team for a particular sport, with one article about the women’s team and one article about the men’s team. Softball, water polo, pitch and putt, lacrosse, inline hockey, floorball, goalball and wheelchair basketball national teams are pretty much all have titles indicating gender, even in situations where there is no match pairs.  Tennis articles consistently do not gender both genders.  Some countries defy traditional gender categorizing, including the United States and Canada, which are both more likely to gender indicate male teams for sports when almost every other country does not.

Before going into this analysis deeper, the group “Male – gendered, female – ungendered” never appears.  There were zero matched pairs where a male article contained the word men and the female article did not contain women. There is no systemic bias in terms of article titles that favour women.

This was done using the same list of national team articles.  It mostly relied on pulling article names from the categories for national teams on English Wikipedia. All articles on the resulting list were tagged as either being gendered because they contained the word “men” or “women” in the article title, or being “not gendered” because they did not contain  word “men” or “women” in the article title. Matched pairs of men’s and women’s teams were sought by country. As there is a much larger number of articles about men’s teams and some sports are more female oriented, the number of articles covered was not going to be equal. 836 matching pairs were found for 223 different countries and 28 different sports. The pairs were then labeled “Male – gendered, female – gendered”, “Male – gendered, female – not gendered”, or “Male – not gendered, female – not gendered”.

There were 517 instances of “Male – gendered, female – not gendered”, 200 instances of “Male – gendered, female – gendered”, and 119 instances of “Male – not gendered, female – not gendered”. (All 119 instances of neither gendered are tennis.)  Total, 61% of Wikipedia’s national team articles involve selective gendering favouring men. 29% of the time, selective gendering is not done.

As mentioned previously, this pattern changes from country to country and sport to sport.  In the case of Great Britain, Canada and United States, over 60% of the time, both teams are gender identified.  If we eliminate tennis’s neither gendering, Turkmenistan, Great Britain, Canada, Tiawan, Botswana, Puerto Rico, United States, Philippines, Czech Republic, Egypt, Mexico, and Venezuela all have more than 60% of their genderized pairs both having genderized titles.  The following countries have their matching pairs both being genderized between 50 and 60% of the time: Finland, Serbia, Australia, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Peru.

Let me be clear: This looks yay! on some level, but it still sucks.  The number should be 100% of matching pairs either both including gender or neither article in a matched pair including gender.  Anything else is selective gendering of a national team article to the neutrality detriment of women.

Beyond country naming patterns, there is the sport naming patterns.  Nine sports genderized both men’s and women’s national team articles 100% of the time.  Those sports are Volleyball, Softball, Squash, Goalball, Lacrosse, Ice hockey, Water polo, Wheelchair basketball, and Australian rules.  This is absolutely fantastic, because the total articles involved are higher per sport than for most countries.  (Inline hockey is also high at 89% and floorball at 83%.  No other sports are above 31%.)  It also suggests the problem with systemic bias against women when it comes to articles titles is probably not entirely dependent on the nation but on the sport and its proponents involved in that sport’s Wikiproject.

But we also have the other side: Most sports have problems in that the selectively genderize women’s national team articles while choosing not to genderize men’s national teams articles.  The following sports have between 0% and 2% of their articles in that group: Handball, Soccer, Cricket, Rugby sevens, International rules, Baseball, Beach handball, Rugby league, Rugby union, Kabaddi, American football, and Bandy.  The remaining sports are field hockey at 30%, basketball at 20% and futsal at 14%.

And this is a problem because the sports that are violating Wikipedia’s neutrality policy by selectively genderizing one team over another to the benefit of promoting the men’s game through article title include 515 articles (total men not gendered, women gendered for sports where this represents 70% or more of the articles) compared to 175 for the first cohort (total men gendered, women gendered where this represents 83% or more of the article count).

None of the sports on the list of genderizing women but not genderizing men particularly surprise me.  These are sports where professionalism is dominated by men, some with high degrees of perceived violence or associated with male norms of masculinity.   By asking Wikipedia to enforce neutrality and stop selectively genderizing some articles, there is an implicit challenge to that male masculinity and male dominance in sport.

And that pattern appears unlikely to change, with Wikipedia selectively gendering those sports because, as I have been told before as a female editor, Wikipedia need not be be neutral and factual but should reflect the cultural norms in which it is written.

In the mean time, I ask that when you read a national team article, you look at the title and critically ask yourself about the gender found in the title.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Wikipedia audience interest and the legitimacy of preferencing working on articles about men | Laura Hale, Wikinews reporter

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