No shit, so there I was listening to some meme music about various junk foods, like “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and “$2 Hot Dog, $1 Water“. Being a proper scholar, I was looking up the songs on Wikipedia to try to find out more about how these songs got made, when I noticed something weird on the sidebar: “Guide to Social Activity/Dating Ideas“. Hoping that it would be like this weird 1940s dating PSA my dad sent me once, I clicked through.
It turns out to have been a weird time capsule, alright, just not the random mildly wholesome one that I was hoping for.
Reading the page was really bizarre. It was poorly edited, very oriented to straight men, and honestly kind of rape-y. Highlights include:
- “Bar/Pub – why does this even need to be listed?”
- “The “Country” – If you live in an urban area with a lot of things to do, take a drive to where people get their kicks from picking off blackbirds from the fence with a rifle. (Note: This may be a bad idea for a first date. Also, find out her thoughts about shooting animals first. Target practice on inanimate objects may be better.) Teaching her how to hold a rifle is one of the classic ways to get close to a girl (the “teaching embrace”).”
- “Dancing – No, you don’t want to lead her into a normal disco where you have to fight the fleas that suddenly get interested in your girl… Try a Latin/salsa place, if you know how to dance it. Mostly they are cheap, there are a lot of tables, and the guys usually respect a couple. Also dancing is a fabulous way to feel up a girl.”
Feeling really sketched out, I immediately head to the talk and history page, where I find out that the article in its current state was actually a pretty neutered version of the original article which was honestly just even more rape jokes, thanks to edits like these. It turns out that this page was originally part of a book called “Getting a girl” (later changed to “Getting a girl (for guys)” after a lot of people were upset that lesbians kept editing the book) which had been deleted after Jimbo Wales himself got involved in the discussion. This particular page got undeleted because it was “the most charming page” and “utterly inoffensive” even though the yikesy entries for “The Country” and “Dancing” were still present at the time of deletion.
- “It terms of the accusations of sexism and, more specifically, heterosexism, that’s an argument brought on by a radical form of political correctness that was left behind by the world ten years ago.”
- “Lesbians, gays, and incompetants should not be welcome in the new version, if it is created.”
- ” Please do not delete the book as the advise is quite healthy and needed for few people. Also, it is not necessary to take it off right away.”
- “I don’t believe that a NPOV textbook style will ever allow a quality book on this subject. Either it will be watered down and marginal, at best, or it will completely suck, like it does now. There are too many liberals here to allow this book to prosper. For example, a lesbian was editing out work done on the book. Does a lesbian have any business editing a book for men to meet women? Does political correctness, NPOV, and a textbook nature really address this subject correctly? Let’s assume that the book reaches (my version of) its goals: it teaches young men what older men now know, and wish they knew when they were young. If it reaches that goal, it will have material that may be offensive to young, ignorant, liberal women, who will water the book down to uselessness.”
- “Also, the book does not appear sexist to me and is clearly written for heterosexual men. The idea that lesbians are discriminated against because of the title is ridiculous. There is no reason why lesbian issues have to be included. Nobody will attack a lesbian for writing a book with the same title where only lesbian issues are discussed. Talking equal rights here, not majority pressure.”
If there’s any silver lining to any of this, it’s that most of this edit war / history happened in 2005, with very spotty edits afterwards. Hopefully Wikipedia and we as a society have moved beyond some of this gay bashing and sexism? But it’s not a big hope. At the very least, it’s an interesting glimpse into what the culture of early Wikipedia was like, whether it’s the fact that again JIMBO WALES is stepping in edit wars directly to say “this is not how Wikipedia should be” (despite Wikipedia already being 4 years old at the time!) or the very cavalier nature of the way that the article was deleted. (I particularly enjoy “we need to establish some real policies” and “The Jimbo decreeth, and the Angle of Wikibooks Death carries it out”).
I’ll close with Jimbo’s own closing.
Let me close by making clear what I’m saying. If the decision is to keep the book, then I’m going to act to change policy so as to eliminate the book anyway. It seems unfortunate if it comes to that. A healthier process would be to reach a more clear understanding of the mission of WikiBooks, and the development of alternatives if people really want them. But I will not tolerate a book like this under the auspices of the Wikimedia Foundation. It is offensive, sexist, and stupid. —Jimbo Wales 22:27, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)