The Fundamental Reason why Wikipedia Equality must Oppose the Notability Criteria
Some people have asked me, why should Wikipedia Equality’s first and foremost aim be to abolish the Notability criteria. They asked me why we couldn’t instead focus on less ambitious, more achievable aims first. Or alternatively, they asked me why we couldn’t campaign for equality in some other way.
The fact is that, there can never be equality when there are gatekeepers with immense power. As a dedicated pro-liberty liberal, I strongly believe that equality can only happen once we have liberty. Real life and history have also often proven my point. Where there is no liberty, even if you can set up a system with some semblance of equality, it will soon degenerate into a hierarchical, unequal society. Moreover, such negotiated systems often create new vested interests, making further fights for real equality even harder. It is no coincidence that the world has never seen an illiberal yet equal society.
Let’s go back to more concrete examples.
Faced with the inequality that Wikipedia’s Notability Criteria has created, some feminists have instead suggested amending the Notability Criteria or the Verifiability Criteria, or their interpretations. For example, faced with the problem of being unable to prove the Notability of cultural icons who are women of colour due to their exclusion from mainstream media, some people have suggested that the Verifiability Criteria be broadened to include spoken words. However, this approach is problematic in many ways.
Firstly, while this move may somewhat improve the current representation of minority voices in Wikipedia, it wouldn’t go very far.
Secondly, where more minority voices may be included with a slightly amended Notability Criteria, it would still likely be limited to those voices already pre-approved by some sort of gatekeeping. My work in intersectional feminism has led me to disillusionment sometimes, because of the prevalence of GLIF (Gatekeeper Limited Intersectional Feminism). Gatekeeping, even in disadvantaged communities, is often done by the relatively privileged members of the community, and GLIF essentially filter out voices dissenting from the gatekeepers’ views. Just like how a real intersectional feminism must be based on the freedom of minorities to speak up and be heard, a real Wikipedia Equality must be based on greatly diminishing the scope of any popularity-based gatekeeping.
Thirdly, feminists agreeing to an amended Notability Criteria severely weakens any future prospect of having real equality through the abolishment of the Notability Criteria. Once you legitimize a source of oppression and inequality, there really is no way to credibly campaign against it. Furthermore, once the gatekeepers of minority voices (e.g. the feminist establishment) have become a party with vested interests, they will naturally support the status quo and even gladly help to discredit the still-excluded minorities further down the chain of privilege. This has happened again and again in real life, including in the feminist movement itself. There is no reason to think that it wouldn’t happen if Wikipedia Equality went down this track.
I understand that some people naturally want what appear to be easier solutions. This is even more understandable in light of the fact that abolishing the Notability Criteria has repeatedly been placed in the too-hard basket by supporters of the status quo, bringing up one difficulty after another while never seriously engaging with the idea of reform. However, as we recently demonstrated, their so-called difficulties can actually easily be solved, and the Wikipedia gatekeeping establishment’s refusal to even think about solutions just shows their insincerity. Therefore, there is no reason why we shouldn’t just proceed with our demands to abolish the Notability Criteria. It is the only hope for true Wikipedia Equality, after all.