Men's Rights Fight Breaks Out On Wikipedia

Earlier this year, we learned that men greatly outnumbered women among Wikipedia editors. But now the site's article on men's rights has been through a controversial edit, and some men are calling Wikipedia "feminist propaganda."

The trouble seems to have began late last month, when editors, including one Kevin Gorman, began rewriting Wikipedia's Men's rights page. Gorman explained the rationale for his edits thus:

In general, I am going to be removing any section that does not have:

  • at least one reliable source [...]
  • at least one reliable source that explicitly connects the issue to men's rights [...]
  • at least one reliable source talking about the issue that does not simply say that the issue is a concern for men's rights activist groups. [...]

I'm not going to be removing these completely, but will also be looking to repair:

  • Any section where MRA positions are presented as mainstream positions, or sections where most of the section is talking about MRA positions [...]
  • Any section that talks about issues that are specific to the global north that makes statements like "A primary concern about men's rights is..." [...]

Gorman and others removed a number of sections, leaving a men's rights article that, as of this writing, is more of a (partial) exploration of the general rights of men around the world than a description of men's rights activism. Men's rights activists, unsurprisingly, aren't happy. Says blogger Masculist Male in a post titled "Boycott Wikipedia," "The men's rights page has been altered to make MRA's the bad guys and to further the idea of female victim hood." And on Reddit, user Dude0987 says,

The truth should never be up for debate.

Feminists are thugs and can't win this debate with ideas.

The last group of thugs that famously trying to silence ideas was the catholic church.

When Galileo proved that gravity was not dependent on the mass of small objects near the earth he was silenced and banished.

We are divorced and ostricized.

By it's own admission, wikipedia facts are stricktly based on votes and so is completely political and not based on facts.

A dictionary not based on facts has a name....like Mein Kompf.....it's called propaganda. Feminist propagande.

Wikipedia has been comprimised and is now defunct in mens rights circles.....IMO. Guys boycot feminists propaganda, boycott wikipedia.

What's especially interesting about all this is that at least one men's rights activist — Masculist Male — explicitly links the edits to Wikipedia's efforts to be more inclusive of women. He links to a Wikimedia blog post that opens thus: "A key piece of Wikimedia's strategic plan is to close the gender gap by encouraging more women to participate in projects. One area where we already see progress is the Wikipedia Ambassadors program." Nearly half of these ambassadors are women, but the post actually emphasizes that they are not specifically focusing on women's issues: "They don't focus on being role models for female students. Instead, they try to ease all students into the joys of editing Wikipedia — and closing the gender gap is a nice side effect of their work." The post also quotes Ambassador Adrianne Wadewitz: "I would hope that I am providing a model for any new editor, not just women, and I would hope that I am contributing to making Wikipedia a professional and respectful environment." Or, as Masculist Male puts it, "sounds like the editors of wikipedia are man-hating dykes or self-hating dweebs."

Aside from Gorman, the gender of those who have edited the men's rights page isn't obvious (you don't have to list your gender or other personal characteristics to edit Wikipedia, perhaps in part to forestall attacks like the above). Gorman himself does appear to have worked with some of the Campus Ambassadors MM impugns above, but he doesn't seem to be one of them. And while the men's rights page is listed as part of WikiProject Gender Studies, that project has the fairly narrow goal of writing and improving "articles associated with gender studies, gender theories and gender issues (including feminism, masculism, and transgender issues)" and ensuring adherence to Wikipedia's policy of neutrality. It is not intended as a vehicle for "feminist propaganda" or propaganda of any other kind — its page reads, "This project is not a space for writing feminist, masculinist or LGBT critiques of society."

It's true that people coming to the "men's rights" page looking for information on men's rights activism may be disappointed or confused — Wikipedia might consider adding a disambiguation directing users to a page on MRAs. Such a page exists, in nascent form, under the title "Men's movement," but there's certainly room for expansion. Men's rights activism, however disturbing some of its proponents are, is a real movement deserving of (neutral, unbiased) coverage on Wikipedia. But this doesn't mean that efforts to root out biased or poorly sourced material are part of some sort of feminist conspiracy, or that attempts to close Wikipedia's gender gap are an evil matriarchal plan to take over the world's information. In fact, women in particular and rational people in general may be scared away from Wikipedia entirely if the most basic efforts to make the site "a professional and respectful environment" are recast as meddling by "dykes and dweebs."

Men's Rights [Wikipedia]
Boycott Wikipedia [Men's Rights Blog]

Image via Lonni/Shutterstock.com