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IMPROVING the Internet might be one small step for a woman, but one giant leap for mankind.
So on International Women's Day, a group at the Mentoring Artists for Women's Art (MAWA) collective at 611 Main St. celebrated by advocating for female artists.
The rotating group of about a half-dozen women, led by MAWA's administrative assistant Alexis Kinloch, was part of a global event called the Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. The movement started in New York City last year and has grown to include more than 70 delegate locations in 11 countries this year. Laptop-wielding ladies hoped to write and edit pages about women who are deserving of more online recognition but haven't got much time in the spotlight, Kinloch said.
"It's also about increasing the editorship in terms of gender. Less than 10 per cent of Wikipedia editors are women, and so you could see how that would create a gender disparity," Kinloch said. "This (event) helps women feel comfortable to edit and it gives them agency."
MAWA organized a tutorial session for the Winnipeg women, showing them how to edit Wikipedia pages properly. Then, they set off on their mission, starting with a list of 16 local artists and performers they discovered had no Wikipedia pages or only stub articles written about them, and hoping to include more as time went on.
The list included a surprising number of notable names, such as renowned painter and founder of Art City Wanda Koop, and Aganetha Dyck, a ceramicist and sculptor who won the 2007 Governor General's Award for visual and media arts.
Acclaimed performers Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan were nowhere to be found on Wikipedia. Dempsey stopped by MAWA Sunday to update other women's pages while another MAWA member, Lindsay Joy, sat nearby working on a page about her.
Dempsey said she was excited to see her accomplishments validated on the well-known website.
"It's like the official record," Dempsey said while she worked on a new page for Eleanor Bond, an artist-turned-professor at Concordia University. "It's shocking the number of things that have no reference that are actually important."
MAWA itself didn't have a Wikipedia page until Sunday. Neither did Herizons Magazine, a quarterly national feminist newspaper that's been around since 1979.
"I think we think, 'Oh there's a person out there or a being who's going to write it if you're important enough,' but no," said Penni Mitchell, who came in to create a page about Herizons. "If they did, we'd be outraged because they'd get it all wrong."
Kinloch said she was happy to have made even a small tangible difference on International Women's Day.
"It feels like you're actually really making a change in real time, so it's really exciting," she said.
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