Category Archives: womens issues

Great Expectations: Pixar anoints its first female protoganist in “Brave”

Dear Pixar: You had me at her hair…

With a resplendent mane of fiery red curls, Merinda, the hero of Pixar’s latest animated feature “Brave” is truly the hallmark of a princess whose time has come. And not just because the animation of her volume of hair required a technological breakthrough, which it did.

Six years in the making, Merinda is the first female protagonist to join Pixar’s all-male cast of leading heroes, breaking the mold of the damsel-in-distress princess archetype that punctuates virtually all films produced by Pixar’s predecessor, Disney.

Associate producer Mary Alice Drumm describes “Brave” as a movie about redefining expectations for female protagonists:

“I think when people think about a girl as a hero, they think less strong, less brave. But Merida is brave like her father and brave like her mother. She’s a very relatable person, and I think people are going to have some interesting things to talk about after they see the movie.” ~SFGate

Producer Katherine Sarafian adds:

“There’s the bravery of adventure, with sword fights and chases and all that,” she says. “Then there’s the bravery of being seen for who you are. If you see yourself in a certain way and the rest of the world sees you in another way, that’s a struggle. It’s brave to look at who you are and speak your truth and find your way in the world.” ~SFGate

Brave opens June 22, and although its leading lass is garnering attention for her gender, Sarafian says the film is still a Pixar movie, with “big action, big heart, big humor, big adventure.”

If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?

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Twilight Screenwriter To Women In Hollywood: We Need Some Fighters

melissa rosenberg amy senger 300x224 Twilight Screenwriter On Women In Hollywood: We Need Some Fighters

Twilight Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg with Amy Senger

When screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, previously known for her work on the television series Dexter and The O.C., was offered the chance to adapt the vampire series, Twilight, she was promptly informed she’d have only five weeks to write it. “Five weeks? You can’t write a screenplay in five weeks!” she replied, to which the studio asked her, “Well, you want to get it made?” She did, and as a consequence, all she did for five weeks was write: “You don’t shower, you don’t pet the dog, you don’t eat.

At the recent Future of Film Summit, where she participated in a panel discussion on why women matter in Hollywood, I sat down with Melissa and asked what her biggest challenge was in adapting the Twilight series. Her answer? Meeting the expectations of the fans. In order to have the experience of the viewer, she refused to read ahead, wanting each installment to stand on its own.

With the fourth movie Breaking Dawn Part 1 opening to a $139.5 million domestic gross this weekend and touting a wedding, a honeymoon and a birthing scene, Rosenberg says Part 2 still leaves lots to anticipate: “The thing I’m looking forward to is seeing Bella as a vampire. It’s a very different character. The fidgeting, the stuttering, the insecurity, the awkwardness- it’s gone. I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to seeing vampire sex versus human sex [laughing].

When asked what advice she had for women looking to succeed in Tinseltown, Rosenberg had this to say: “Be prepared to compete. Be prepared to take a hit. Pick yourself back up, and get in there. It’s not an easy field to get into but we need you…we need some fighters.”

Here’s my talk with Melissa and, yes, Robert Pattinson is just as lovely and charming in person as he is on screen.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Today, October 7, 2011, is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in technology, engineering, mathematics, and science.

A day for all the geek girls out there. Yes you. You are beautiful and smart and talented.

We love you and the work you do.

Now, here is the life-story of the woman we celebrate.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

“Her life was an apotheosis of struggle between emotion and reason, subjectivism and objectivism, poetics and mathematics, ill-health and bursts of energy.”

  • Born: December 10, 1815  to Anne Isabelle Milbanke and Lord Byron, his only legitimate daughter
  • Died: At the age of 36 from cancer, November 27, 1852
  • Education: Mathematics at an early age, later in science and logic
  • Family: Married William King the 1st Earl of Lovelace and had three children.
  • Lived: Ockham Park and London
  • Nickname: Enchantress of Numbers
  • Self-Nickname: An analyst and metaphysician

Her Biography, from the Women in Science section at the San Diego Supercomputer Center:

Ada was the daughter of a brief marriage between the Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron. Her life was an apotheosis of struggle between emotion and reason, subjectivism and objectivism, poetics and mathematics, ill-health and bursts of energy.

Lady Byron wished her daughter to be unlike her poetical father, and she saw to it that Ada received tutoring in mathematics and music, as disciplines to counter dangerous poetic tendencies. But Ada’s complex inheritance became apparent as early as 1828, when she produced the design for a flying machine. It was mathematics that gave her life its wings.

Lady Byron and Ada moved in an elite London society, one in which gentlemen not members of the clergy or occupied with politics or the affairs of a regiment were quite likely to spend their time and fortunes pursuing botany, geology, or astronomy. In the early nineteenth century there were no “professional” scientists (indeed, the word “scientist” was only coined by William Whewell in 1836)–but the participation of noblewomen in intellectual pursuits was not widely encouraged.

One of the gentlemanly scientists of the era was to become Ada’s lifelong friend. Charles Babbage, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, was known as the inventor of the Difference Engine, an elaborate calculating machine that operated by the method of finite differences. Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began a voluminous correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects.

In 1835, Ada married William King, ten years her senior, and when King inherited a noble title in 1838, they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Ada had three children. The family and its fortunes were very much directed by Lady Byron, whose domineering was rarely opposed by King.

Babbage had made plans in 1834 for a new kind of calculating machine (although the Difference Engine was not finished), an Analytical Engine. His Parliamentary sponsors refused to support a second machine with the first unfinished, but Babbage found sympathy for his new project abroad. In 1842, an Italian mathematician, Louis Menebrea, published a memoir in French on the subject of the Analytical Engine. Babbage enlisted Ada as translator for the memoir, and during a nine-month period in 1842-43, she worked feverishly on the article and a set of Notes she appended to it. These are the source of her enduring fame.

Ada called herself “an Analyst (& Metaphysician),” and the combination was put to use in the Notes. She understood the plans for the device as well as Babbage but was better at articulating its promise. She rightly saw it as what we would call a general-purpose computer. It was suited for “developping [sic] and tabulating any function whatever. . . the engine [is] the material expression of any indefinite function of any degree of generality and complexity.” Her Notes anticipate future developments, including computer-generated music.

Ada died of cancer in 1852, at the age of 37, and was buried beside the father she never knew.

On Being A Role Model: The Truth About My Forbes Interview with Leslie Bradshaw

When my friend Leslie Bradshaw, a woman who absolutely inspires me with her energy, ambition and insanely sharp business intellect, asked to interview me for her Forbes blog series “More Seats,” I said yes, with the understanding and intention of bringing more awareness to the lack of women contributors and editors in Wikipedia. Originally, Leslie was going to name the series “More Role Models” but changed it to reflect her purpose of addressing three major problems women face: not having enough women “at the table,” not enough women holding positions of power, and not enough women prevailing as role models.

When I began responding to Leslie’s questions, which ran the gamut of topics from the glass ceiling to work-life balance, I found myself having more and more reservations in answering. I didn’t tell Leslie this, but a part of me didn’t want to do the interview because I doubted my own worthiness as a role model.

It was in conflict with a lot of things I was taught growing up. I questioned why I was deserving of being interviewed. In my house, boasting in any way is “unbecoming.” And talking publicly about something so intimate and unsavory as being sexually harassed at work is disdainful. Then there’s the fact that I discussed my pursuit and passion, screenwriting, that has yet to produce any external reward.

Together these created a month-long delay in my responses. Until something happened that reminded me what it means to be a role model and why Leslie’s column is so important.

I was surfing, like I typically do, on a Wednesday evening in southern California. I’m still a beginner surfer. I have yet to graduate from my learner board. I’m at the point where I can stand and ride a wave but I fall a lot, especially when I take waves bigger than a few feet, which is affectionately called “eating sh$t” in surfer world. I eat sh$t a lot, but I have fun and improve each time I go out and that’s all that matters to me.

More times than not, I’m the sole female surfer in the water.  This evening was no exception. There were plenty of guys surfing but I was the only “Betty.”

So there I was doing my thing, when I notice a girl, maybe 10 or 12 years old, in the water nearby, staring at me. She must’ve watched me for a good 5 or 10 minutes, which made me feel completely self-conscious and I’m wondering why this little girl has an optical lock-in on me. Then she disappears. Goes back in shore. And I resume my uninhibited surfing fun.

Ten minutes later, she’s back in the water, but this time she has her dad with her and he has a surfboard and she’s asking him to teach her how to surf.  And half the time the two of them are watching me and mimicking what I’m doing in the water. That’s when I realized the power of role models and how important they are for anyone in a minority position.

Gloria Steinem recently said at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, “We do what we see, not what we’re told.”

We become role models by doing. We learn and follow by seeing. I might have been the worst surfer out in the water that evening (which I don’t think I was), but because that little girl identified with me more than anyone else, I was her role model.

It made me appreciate the beauty of Leslie’s series all the more by reminding me of the power in seeing and hearing other women’s stories and that to be a role model, we just need to do, even if it means falling along the way. Who knows who might be watching.

You can check out my interview with Leslie in Forbes is here.

Changing the Ratio (Wikipedia’s Battle for Diversity – Part III)

Wikipedia: Change the Ratio (design by JESS3 + 1X57)

Commence beating the figurative dead horse. As I’ve written previously, (here, here and here) Wikipedia is suffering from a lack of female contributors (less than 1 in 10 editors are women, per the 2011 Wikimedia survey). This has the unfortunate consequence of compromising the overall quality and objectivity of its content, as illustrated in my post, How I Redefined “Man” for The World.

While there are several reasons offered for why women aren’t editing (Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently gave an interview to CBC highlighting these and summarized them in her post Nine Reasons Why Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia), half of them I just laugh at. Women are too busy? I’ve spent enough hours at Starbucks to observe the gratuitous amount of time some women devote to Facebook. Or, women are conflict-averse and don’t like Wikipedia’s sometimes-fighty culture? As Denis Leary so eloquently stated in The Thomas Crown Affair: “Life is full of sh$tty conflicts, okay?” It’s not an excuse.

So what would I do if I was running the “Change the Ratio” Wikipedia campaign? For one, I’d be focusing on the initial phases of the technology adoption curveawareness and understanding, in the form of education.

Awareness

Simply put, there needs to be more recognition and media coverage of the issue, illustrating the societal impact of not having women (as well as other demographics) editing Wikipedia. Taking a cue from Simon Sinek, I’d be making it clear to women why it matters. And then I’d enlist some influential voices to help the reach the target audience: women.

  • Who better to get the word out than the mother of influence on all things women, education and actionOprah. The issue is right up her alley. She does Twitter, she does Facebook, so why not Wikipedia? Can you imagine Jimmy Wales or Sue Gardner sitting down with Oprah (and Gayle) for a tutorial on Wikipedia and releasing a 2-minute video of it?
  • In the event Oprah isn’t available, an “I Edit Wikipedia” compilation video of some of the most influential women in tech would make a statement. Ladies like Sarah Lacy, Danah Boyd, Jolie O’Dell, Laura Fitton, Tara Hunt, Sheryl Sandberg, and Marissa Mayer. I wonder who of these industry leaders edits, versus who doesn’t?

Then there’s the use of social media to spread the word.

  • The awesome folks at JESS3 worked with me on the Wikipedia: Change the Ratio logo (you can see all the versions here), and next week we’ll be spreading the word via a Facebook initiative for users to change their profile pics (and Twitter avatars and whatever else) to it on Ada Lovelace Day (Friday, Oct 7) which celebrates the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Again, the point is awareness.

  • And to celebrate Wikipedia women rockstars, we created a set of barnstars for contributors with 100, 1,000 and 10,000 edits (you can see all the versions here). Below are my top 3:


  • Finally, it wouldn’t hurt if Wikipedia made edits easily shareable by adding some version of a “Share This” button in the Edit mode, integrated with the most prominent social media services for female (and male) influencers to share the pages they contribute to.

Education

It’s essential. Wikimarkup can be a little intimidating for those not familiar with “code” and having edits reverted can be off-putting, but neither of these factors are something that can’t be addressed with a small dose of education.

  • In 2010, the Wikipedia Foundation launched a pilot project to explore the potential of formally using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education but I think education at a grassroots level is more important.
  • Half-day workshops like the one we hosted at JESS3 are something local Wikipedia chapters can embrace, with a proven format and curriculum available. And there doesn’t even need to be formatted sessions. In the same vein of SuperHappyDevHouse, folks can just get together and help each other out, using it as an opportunity to have fun, learn, build, and meet new people.
  • There are tons of YouTube videos and internet guides on how to edit and get started with Wikipedia. I even created my personal Seven Essential Steps to getting started with Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is about collectively learning and building and sharing information on the things you’re interested in and are passionate about. It’s time more women make their voices heard.

 

NOTE: For those interested learning more about the gendergap issue, you can subscribe to the gendergap mailing list. The discussion threads provide incredible insight into what’s going on, everything from harassment on women’s user pages to inappropriate sexualization of images for topical pages.

Changing the Ratio (Wikipedia's Battle for Diversity – Part III)

Wikipedia: Change the Ratio (design by JESS3 + 1X57)

Commence beating the figurative dead horse. As I’ve written previously, (here, here and here) Wikipedia is suffering from a lack of female contributors (less than 1 in 10 editors are women, per the 2011 Wikimedia survey). This has the unfortunate consequence of compromising the overall quality and objectivity of its content, as illustrated in my post, How I Redefined “Man” for The World.

While there are several reasons offered for why women aren’t editing (Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently gave an interview to CBC highlighting these and summarized them in her post Nine Reasons Why Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia), half of them I just laugh at. Women are too busy? I’ve spent enough hours at Starbucks to observe the gratuitous amount of time some women devote to Facebook. Or, women are conflict-averse and don’t like Wikipedia’s sometimes-fighty culture? As Denis Leary so eloquently stated in The Thomas Crown Affair: “Life is full of sh$tty conflicts, okay?” It’s not an excuse.

So what would I do if I was running the “Change the Ratio” Wikipedia campaign? For one, I’d be focusing on the initial phases of the technology adoption curveawareness and understanding, in the form of education.

Awareness

Simply put, there needs to be more recognition and media coverage of the issue, illustrating the societal impact of not having women (as well as other demographics) editing Wikipedia. Taking a cue from Simon Sinek, I’d be making it clear to women why it matters. And then I’d enlist some influential voices to help the reach the target audience: women.

  • Who better to get the word out than the mother of influence on all things women, education and actionOprah. The issue is right up her alley. She does Twitter, she does Facebook, so why not Wikipedia? Can you imagine Jimmy Wales or Sue Gardner sitting down with Oprah (and Gayle) for a tutorial on Wikipedia and releasing a 2-minute video of it?
  • In the event Oprah isn’t available, an “I Edit Wikipedia” compilation video of some of the most influential women in tech would make a statement. Ladies like Sarah Lacy, Danah Boyd, Jolie O’Dell, Laura Fitton, Tara Hunt, Sheryl Sandberg, and Marissa Mayer. I wonder who of these industry leaders edits, versus who doesn’t?

Then there’s the use of social media to spread the word.

  • The awesome folks at JESS3 worked with me on the Wikipedia: Change the Ratio logo (you can see all the versions here), and next week we’ll be spreading the word via a Facebook initiative for users to change their profile pics (and Twitter avatars and whatever else) to it on Ada Lovelace Day (Friday, Oct 7) which celebrates the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Again, the point is awareness.

  • And to celebrate Wikipedia women rockstars, we created a set of barnstars for contributors with 100, 1,000 and 10,000 edits (you can see all the versions here). Below are my top 3:


  • Finally, it wouldn’t hurt if Wikipedia made edits easily shareable by adding some version of a “Share This” button in the Edit mode, integrated with the most prominent social media services for female (and male) influencers to share the pages they contribute to.

Education

It’s essential. Wikimarkup can be a little intimidating for those not familiar with “code” and having edits reverted can be off-putting, but neither of these factors are something that can’t be addressed with a small dose of education.

  • In 2010, the Wikipedia Foundation launched a pilot project to explore the potential of formally using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education but I think education at a grassroots level is more important.
  • Half-day workshops like the one we hosted at JESS3 are something local Wikipedia chapters can embrace, with a proven format and curriculum available. And there doesn’t even need to be formatted sessions. In the same vein of SuperHappyDevHouse, folks can just get together and help each other out, using it as an opportunity to have fun, learn, build, and meet new people.
  • There are tons of YouTube videos and internet guides on how to edit and get started with Wikipedia. I even created my personal Seven Essential Steps to getting started with Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is about collectively learning and building and sharing information on the things you’re interested in and are passionate about. It’s time more women make their voices heard.

 

NOTE: For those interested learning more about the gendergap issue, you can subscribe to the gendergap mailing list. The discussion threads provide incredible insight into what’s going on, everything from harassment on women’s user pages to inappropriate sexualization of images for topical pages.

How I spent my summer by Amy Senger


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

~ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Talk about timelessness of good writing. Somehow, with pitch-perfect lucidity, Charles Dickens over a century ago eloquently described my summer.

Starting with leaving DC. In the weeks leading up to our departure, Steve and I had some of the most tempestuous showdowns I’ve ever endured, including a 5-hour fight (five f***ing hours) that ended with me trying to hit him with a tin bucket of dirt and him catching it and dumping it on my head. I can’t even write those lines without laughing, but at the time, it was intense and devoid of any humor whatsoever.

I wanted to leave and I didn’t. DC was home for me. But if you’ve ever tried to fill up on tofu or non-meat substitute when all you’re craving is a hamburger, no matter how much “toburger” you consume, it just doesn’t cut it.

I needed a solid break from everything I was trying to fill up on that wasn’t fulfilling me. So I moved 3,000 miles across the country to Southern California to pursue screenwriting and a different way of life. And I found a happiness that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I took up surfing and after at least 50 (maybe it was 100 times) falling down, I finally rode a wave. Anyone who has ever surfed knows that first wave you ride makes all the times falling down worth it.

I needed surfing. It’s been my salvation. After struggling to get off Adderall for the past two years I finally cut the cord. I needed something to replace the mental and physical “stamina” and “focus” Adderall gave me and I found that in surfing. When I’m in the water, I find that edge I’m looking for, and afterwards, I have a sense of peace and clarity of mind Adderall never gave me.

And I’ve been writing, a lot. I completed the first draft of a second screenplay and finished a 10-week Advanced Screenwriting class at UCLA, rewriting my first screenplay and learning the things you won’t find in any screenwriting book. Which has been the best part of my summer and the worst.

No matter how much I love writing, no matter how much I write, no matter how many people read what I’ve written and say they love it, I still have my moments of doubt when I ask myself, What the hell are you doing?  Which is really code for, How far are you willing to go to make this happen, to make this a career and not just an interest and indulgence?

The answer is always the same. Pretty far. This summer I came to the conclusion that this is what I want to do, this is the life I want, which is a pretty big pivot.

So if you ask me to describe my summer, instead of quoting Dickens, I’ll sum it up with one word: gnarly.

How I Redefined "Man" For The World (Wikipedia's Battle for Diversity – Part II)

Change the Ratio: Wikipedia (design by JESS3 + 1X57)

In my previous post, Cargo Cult Editing, I used the Wikipedia page for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress and the skirmish that took place over it, as an example of how viewpoint and perspective can impact the content of Wikipedia.

Now I’ll share my own personal Wikipedia battle…that I like to build up as an epic clash, when in reality it was tantamount to a 2-second spitball fight.

For more than two years, if you visited the Man page in Wikipedia, you would have found the following section outlining (7) characteristics of masculinity:

  1. Physical — virile, athletic, strong, brave. Unconcerned about appearance and aging;
  2. Functional — provider for family, defender of family from physical threat;
  3. Sexual — sexually aggressive, experienced. Single status acceptable;
  4. Emotional — unemotional, stoic, never crying;
  5. Intellectual — logical, intellectual, rational, objective, practical;
  6. Interpersonal — leader, dominating; disciplinarian; independent, free, individualistic; demanding;
  7. Other Personal Characteristics — success-oriented, ambitious, aggressive, proud, egotistical, moral, trustworthy; decisive, competitive, uninhibited, adventurous.

When I came across the page in May of 2010, I was a little surprised to read characteristics such as “unconcerned about appearance and aging” and “provider for family.”

In fact, almost all the qualities surprised me since they seemed so utterly out of date, and frankly, just not true. But then I looked at the source: 1974. 1974!

A lot had changed in the past 35 years, with tons of published evidence to refute almost every single one of the listed characteristics. And although we can have a great social discourse over what it means to be “masculine” – the debate belongs on the Masculinity page.

So I removed the section. And entered my first “edit war” in Wikipedia with a user by the name of Martin Hogbin who reverted my change within minutes.

Like any good Sun Tzu student, I was prepared for battle. Of course I could have gone a more diplomatic route by taking the disagreement to the discussion page, but in this case, the entry was just plain wrong. And I was willing to fight.

I had my arguments and sources ready and my backup Wikipedia editors (@robotchampion and @kirbstr) primed to to jump in on the discussion should I need them.

I reverted Martin’s reversion, waiting for a response. And then, just as fast as it had begun, it was over. My edit prevailed.

The point of this story is to show what happens, when a page as popular as the Man page (which receives ~30,000 views per month), has very little diversity in its editor base. What would a 16-year old girl think upon reading the above characteristics, or 16-year old boy? Do they equally apply to homosexual men, and men of various ethnicities, nationalities, ages, religions and vocations?

The answer is no. Is the Dalai Lama not “masculine” or any less of a “man” because he is not sexually aggressive or experienced?

Wikipedia needs more diversity, for the simple reasons of perspective and objectivity. When 1X57 did the Women Who Wiki workshop, I showed the attendees, mostly women with one male, the historical Man page with the above characteristics listed and asked them if they agreed with them. The answer was unilaterally no.

So did the thousands of viewers who visited the Man page not see what I saw? Or did they simply not know how to do anything about it?

Wikipedia is the #1 open knowledge resource and the 7th most popular website, in the world. It needs contributors of all genders, ages, and races to be the great public resource that it is.

In my next and final post, I’ll discuss how more people can get involved to improve diversity and become part of the great community that is Wikipedia.

TO BE CONTINUED…

How I Redefined “Man” For The World (Wikipedia’s Battle for Diversity – Part II)

Change the Ratio: Wikipedia (design by JESS3 + 1X57)

In my previous post, Cargo Cult Editing, I used the Wikipedia page for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress and the skirmish that took place over it, as an example of how viewpoint and perspective can impact the content of Wikipedia.

Now I’ll share my own personal Wikipedia battle…that I like to build up as an epic clash, when in reality it was tantamount to a 2-second spitball fight.

For more than two years, if you visited the Man page in Wikipedia, you would have found the following section outlining (7) characteristics of masculinity:

  1. Physical — virile, athletic, strong, brave. Unconcerned about appearance and aging;
  2. Functional — provider for family, defender of family from physical threat;
  3. Sexual — sexually aggressive, experienced. Single status acceptable;
  4. Emotional — unemotional, stoic, never crying;
  5. Intellectual — logical, intellectual, rational, objective, practical;
  6. Interpersonal — leader, dominating; disciplinarian; independent, free, individualistic; demanding;
  7. Other Personal Characteristics — success-oriented, ambitious, aggressive, proud, egotistical, moral, trustworthy; decisive, competitive, uninhibited, adventurous.

When I came across the page in May of 2010, I was a little surprised to read characteristics such as “unconcerned about appearance and aging” and “provider for family.”

In fact, almost all the qualities surprised me since they seemed so utterly out of date, and frankly, just not true. But then I looked at the source: 1974. 1974!

A lot had changed in the past 35 years, with tons of published evidence to refute almost every single one of the listed characteristics. And although we can have a great social discourse over what it means to be “masculine” – the debate belongs on the Masculinity page.

So I removed the section. And entered my first “edit war” in Wikipedia with a user by the name of Martin Hogbin who reverted my change within minutes.

Like any good Sun Tzu student, I was prepared for battle. Of course I could have gone a more diplomatic route by taking the disagreement to the discussion page, but in this case, the entry was just plain wrong. And I was willing to fight.

I had my arguments and sources ready and my backup Wikipedia editors (@robotchampion and @kirbstr) primed to to jump in on the discussion should I need them.

I reverted Martin’s reversion, waiting for a response. And then, just as fast as it had begun, it was over. My edit prevailed.

The point of this story is to show what happens, when a page as popular as the Man page (which receives ~30,000 views per month), has very little diversity in its editor base. What would a 16-year old girl think upon reading the above characteristics, or 16-year old boy? Do they equally apply to homosexual men, and men of various ethnicities, nationalities, ages, religions and vocations?

The answer is no. Is the Dalai Lama not “masculine” or any less of a “man” because he is not sexually aggressive or experienced?

Wikipedia needs more diversity, for the simple reasons of perspective and objectivity. When 1X57 did the Women Who Wiki workshop, I showed the attendees, mostly women with one male, the historical Man page with the above characteristics listed and asked them if they agreed with them. The answer was unilaterally no.

So did the thousands of viewers who visited the Man page not see what I saw? Or did they simply not know how to do anything about it?

Wikipedia is the #1 open knowledge resource and the 7th most popular website, in the world. It needs contributors of all genders, ages, and races to be the great public resource that it is.

In my next and final post, I’ll discuss how more people can get involved to improve diversity and become part of the great community that is Wikipedia.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Killing It in Prime Time: An Interview With Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda as Barbarella

You can call Jane Fonda many things, but boring, she is not.

From her role as sci-fi sex goddess, Barbarella (which I’ve never seen, but only know about through photos) in the 1960s, to the controversial Vietnam political advocate in the 1970s, to the queen of workout video in the 80s (my mom had these – as a little kid, I loved dressing up in the leotards, sweatbands and leg-warmers and dancing along) to the consummate companion of Ted Turner in the 90s – her life has been one of constant evolution.

Now as author and spokesperson for people living out the “third acts” of their lives (which she calls “Prime Time“), it was inspiring to watch her recently on Charlie Rose, talking about life as a stair-cased ascension, instead of a curved archway that peaks at middle-age, then declines. In our youth-obsessed culture, she is an example that life doesn’t end at 40. In fact, she says she really didn’t start to ‘get life’ until she hit 59 (she’s 73), which for her has meant battling depression, becoming present in her children’s lives, and creating an intimate relationship with a man (which she never achieved in her previous 3 marriages), to name a few.

Her ability to find closure in areas of her life that have plagued her seems especially key to the constant elevation and improvement she describes. When discussing her relationship with her father, she articulated what so many people fear:

“Watching him die taught me that I wasn’t afraid of death. What I’m really scared of is getting to the end of life with a lot of regrets when it’s too late to do anything about it.”

And it reminded me of the Dylan Thomas poem that is a call to arms for individuals of any age:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.