Updated on the Wikipedia's slang words for women

Evan reported yesterday on the entry for "woman" in the Wikipedia, which contained slang words for women in the entry, most of which were of the offensive sort. With my feminist linguistic gene tickled, I looked last night into how this might either be equalized with the entry for "man," which contained no slang terms offensive or otherwise, or repaired in a way that stayed true to the nature of the Wikipedia.

It's difficult to work with the Wikipedia idea sometimes, where you have to maneuver through a paradigm of sharing and cooperating that most of us haven't seen since grade school. When we read something we don't like or don't agree with, our instinct is to edit out the offending material (as was mine yesterday, at first). In the case of these slang terms for women, after I took a step back and thought about the situation, though, it made more sense to just add slang terms to the entry for men. Wikipedia's response to "m," as documented by Evan, resonated with me: they're trying to document all human knowledge, which certainly includes slang terms for both genders.

So, off I went to edit the Wikipedia, but when I went to check the entry for Woman for formatting, I found a note: "For terms for women often considered offensive, see Misogyny." Reading the "discussion/talk" page, where users discuss the merits of the entry, I found a lively discussion at the bottom of the page about the offending terms.

In the end, all the users participating agreed that Misogyny was the best place for the slang terms, since the character of "woman" is a debatable topic that doesn't belong necessarily in the definition of what it means to be a woman. Looking through the rest of the entry, it's quite a success story for the Wikipedia overall, despite all the recent bad PR. The references to transgendered folks, sexism, and culture roles aren't things I'd necessarily find in a regular encyclopedia edited in a top-down, hierarchical fashion.

It takes the wisdom of a large community to document our collective knowledge, which is not the easiest and most painless experience. It challenges us to rethink our paradigm of who holds the "key" to knowledge and expertise, and question why we empower others to be gatekeepers of information. Have you edited your Wikipedia yet today?


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