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Britannica, Sirens, and Sexism

I’ve hinted at this before, but in watching the discussions unfold on the Britannica blog — discussions I have contributed to directly, in part because my blog post trackbacks don’t show up there — it struck me today, while reading Jane’s parody, that the only woman cited in the entire discussion is, as she puts it, a “watery tart” (and a fictional one, at that).

While danah boyd is on schedule to contribute, and she always rocks out, we haven’t seen her yet. One woman, Rebecca MacKinnon, didn’t get her due for work she had done until I mentioned it (How many more times in my life will I have to do that?) — and because the correction was in a comment, her name doesn’t show up in a search of the site, though Google nicely scoops up the citation with this tailored search.

(How fitting that the Britannica blog limits its search function to the “authoritative” posts rather than the comments from the peanut gallery — even when the peanut gallery is where the facts reside.)

I’m for scholarship; I’m for teaching students research methods; I’m for pushing people past the world of simple Google searching. I’m even — maybe especially — for making Wikipedia’s editorial process more transparent and accountable; as I commented on one post, Wikipedia in some ways duplicates the hidden pathways of accountability used to reinforce power structures in empires big and small.

But when I hear a group of straight white men huffing and puffing about “traditional epistemological and pedagogical practices” — on either side of the argument — I remember that those practices, and the walls they build, have also been used to demonstrate the seemingly innate supremacy of their own kind.

Keep digging, Britannica; that hole is almost big enough to swallow you up for good.

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