Wikipedia and the female body

David Stark / Zarkonnen
2012-06-24 11:14
So here's something I found out the other day that made me groan: Wikipedia has an article on human body shape, reasonably enough. It also has one on female body shape - but not one on male body shape.

And the female body shape article isn't just a stub: it's a long and detailed article that's been around since 2006. Of course, it was then called "voluptuous". Over time, thousands of edits by people with usernames such as "Professor Voluptuary" have turned it into a lengthy affair concerned with waist-to-hip ratios, Rubens, and the usage of the word "females" to refer to women.

The article is within the "Feminism" category but lacks any reference to societal ideas of body shape being considered harmful. It does have a quote by the British Association of Model Agents indicating their desired proportions for a model.

The talk page does have a number of people suggesting that the article be merged into "Body Shape" or that a male equivalent be created, but in the four years since the first complaint, nothing has yet happened. Another complaint about the body shape section is brushed aside as "political correctness", with the assertion that hourglass body shapes are universally more attractive to men, and hence more feminine.

This perhaps gives us the key to understanding this whole imbalance: To that wikipedian, what is feminine is what is attractive to men. Given the importance of what is attractive to men, a long, "well-researched" article is evidently necessary. As for body shape in terms of what's not attractive to (straight) men, that's perfectly well covered under "human body shape".

To put it bluntly, Wikipedia here is at its worst: written for (some) men by (some) men, who now defend their bias by throwing up walls of sophistry.

There's been a steady trickle of articles suggesting that Wikipedia's culture has become too insular, its processes so rule-bound as to make involvement by newcomers all but impossible. Others have retorted that the size of the site makes structure necessary, and if newcomers were to actually read the manual(s), they would fit in just fine.

So let's do a little experiment: I already have a Wikipedia account. I'll read up on how to formally suggest a merge back into "human body shape", and we'll see what happens...