Aldo Matteucci   01 May 2013   Looking Sideways

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A raging row has developed over who is am “American novelist”. The matter is described by James GLIECK I recommend reading the comments as well, for they illuminate the subject matter significantly (as well as the attitudes).

Here the conundrum in a nutshell: when a category becomes too large to handle on the screen, Wikipedia creates subcategories to ease the search. The process is called “diffusion”.

There are too many American novelists – diffuse! Problems arise when the diffusion process occurs – or appears to occur – selectively. A sub-category “American woman novelists” was created. Its logical companion “sub" – namely “American men novelists – was not created at the same time. This asymmetry has been perceived as sexist – and it may well reflect the charge.

My take? Simple. Diffusion must always be integral. If the sub-categories do not map the whole space, a category “not otherwise classified” must be created.

Would American men writers accept classification as “American writers not otherwise classified”?


  • Profile picture for user Katharina Hone
    Katharina Hone, 08/15/2020 - 19:50

    These are some interesting observations. I wasn't aware of the discussion related to Wikipedia. I think J C Oates summarises it best: "Wikipedia bias an accurate reflection of universal bias. All (male) writers are writers; a (woman) writer is a woman writer." A category on "American novelists" needs to be inclusive, otherwise we are back to the old days were words such as politician, diplomat, construction worker etc. were associated with men and men only. It is sexism by category, an outdated view of the world lurking in the shadows of a great modern web-tool.

  • In reply to by Katharina Hone

    Profile picture for user Aldo Matteucci
    Aldo Matteucci, 08/15/2020 - 19:50

    Katharina, my sly question at the end betrays my opinion that sexism indeed is at work. How to prove it? By turning the discussion around a showing its absurdity.

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