American author Amanda Filipacchi noticed that Wikipedia editors had begun moving women “one by one, alphabetically, from the 'American novelists' category to the 'American women novelists' subcategory,” she wrote in The New York Times.
“If you look back in the ‘history’ of these women’s pages, you can see that they used to appear in the category ‘American novelists’, but that they were recently bumped down. Male novelists on Wikipedia, however -- no matter how small or obscure they are -- all get to be in the category ‘American novelists’.”
After Filipacchi shared this discovery, outrage spread through social media that women were being relegated to a subcategory in order to make room for more men on the main page. There are currently 3,904 entries in “American novelists” on Wikipedia, and the site has said “pages in this category should be moved to subcategories where applicable.”
The process happened slowly over time, starting at the top of the page. The result is that the first few hundred names on "American novelists" are men, and many women toward the end of the alphabet haven't been affected yet.
Wikipedia entries are created and edited by the site's users. Filipacchi found celebrated American authors Judy Blume, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Harper Lee, Anne Rice -- and herself -- among those who had been removed from the main list of American novelists.
Wikipedia editors have now begun adding women back into the main category, and debating the best way to do so. “This is embarrassing us on a global basis. If you don’t segregate males and gender unknowns, then don’t segregate women (and that’s how it’s being perceived),” wrote one.
To address the length of the main category, another editor proposed putting every author into a relevant subcategory. "Really, how do you navigate a list with 3,000 to 4,000 entries? I'd vote for completely clearing out the "American novelists" category and properly placing everyone in a sub-category. There already exist numerous genre-specific categories."