#BodyPlurality #CuerposPlurales #CorposPlurais #Imizimba: Celebrating the uniqueness of our body sizes, shapes, and identities online
For the past five years, we brought together a collective of partners and friends from around the world to make images of women, especially black, brown, indigenous, trans, and non-binary individuals available on Wikipedia and the broader internet. We are proud and grateful for the thousands of images the campaign brought online so far and all the events, reflections, and interventions we have done through #VWW.
We have come a long way but we are also aware that there is so much more to be done. For this 6th edition of the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign, we and our partners invite you to occupy the digital space, creating, sharing, and uploading open-licensed images of marginalized women and non-binary folks to Wikimedia Commons. Let’s combat online invisibility by creating a shared and collective feminist memory that celebrates the plurality of our bodies and identities.
Welcome to the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign 2023! Join all year long the 6th edition of the campaign.
Women’s knowledge and contributions to the world are invisible in many ways. When we look at women’s invisibility online, Wikipedia is a good proxy to explain why this is such a critical issue. Less than ¼ of Wikipedia biographies represent women. Many biographies of important and influential women don’t exist or are incomplete.
More often than not, women’s biographies don’t have images. We estimate that less than 20% of Wikipedia articles of important women have pictures. Only 20% of the images that depict human beings on Wikimedia Commons represent women (according to https://humaniki.wmcloud.org).
When women’s faces are missing from Wikipedia, that invisibility spreads. Half a billion people read Wikipedia every month, and it is in the top 10 most visited websites in the world. In other words, gaps on Wikipedia have a big impact on the broader internet.
Those visibility gaps on Wikipedia and the broader internet widen even further when women are black, brown, trans, disabled, indigenous, not thin, or exist at the intersections of those multiple oppressions and vulnerabilities. The visual representation of the plurality of body sizes and identities of women and non-binary people is so glaring, and contributing to closing those gaps is why we chose the campaign theme for this year.
The theme of the year
“The Church says: the body is a sin. Science says: the body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business. The Body says: I am a fiesta.” — Eduardo Galeano
“Neutral knowledge does not exist. Knowledge production or what and how we understand ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ is an extremely political process. What is ‘reality’ or ‘truth’? How do we know this ‘reality’? Is there only one reality, or are there many of them? — Sylvia Tamale
The theme for the 2023 campaign is #BodyPlurality #CuerposPlurales #CorposPlurais #Imizimba: Celebrating the uniqueness of our body sizes, shapes, and identities online.
This year’s campaign is a celebration of the many possibilities of womanhood, queer femininity, gender queerness, and plural ways of existing on and offline. In a world shaped by coloniality, imperial capitalism, caste, and attendant power structures, invisibility for non-white people is a fundamental part of our lived experiences. To paraphrase Ugandan feminist and author Professor Sylvia Tamale, those bodies that cannot be easily classified into the ‘normalized’ social categories that coloniality has constructed for us (that are not white, not thin, not heterosexual, not cis-gendered, not able-bodied) — or, as Elizabeth Reis aptly describes, “bodies in doubt” — belong to a very particular place in the world. That place is always on the margins, not to be seen or heard.
Unless it serves certain capitalist purposes that require commodification of non-white bodies or feed stereotypical narratives on poverty or disease that are subject to hypervisibility, Black, brown, women, and non-conforming people remain unseen in both online and physical spaces. We reflect on the history of colonial racialized exploitation and dehumanization of Black bodies, by bringing the story and experience of Sara Baartman, an enslaved indigenous southern African woman. Between 1810 and 1815, Sara was exhibited around Western Europe – objectified through the colonial gaze by Europeans who saw her as a specimen for racist and sexual objectification, rather than as a human. We are also cognizant of the fact that these imposed colonial gender systems continue to police, dehumanize, and other us. Professor Tamale, in her book Decolonization and Afro-feminism, invites us to challenge the “coloniality of sex, gender, and sexuality” by juxtaposing the treatment of South African world champion athlete Caster Semenyaby in regional and world athletics’ regulatory bodies. Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan experienced similar treatment a few years earlier. Their experiences in the sports world were marred with racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic violence in comparison to how the same institutions treated Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold swimming champion — a white cisgender heterosexual man from the United States. Semenya’s and Soundarajan cases are not isolated cases, as the history and present-day Olympic sports are full of stories of instutionalized racist and gender dicrimination.
These power dynamics are reinforced through technology, which is often built upon the idealized normal body (male, cisgender, white, able-bodied, neurotypical, from the Global North), imposing devices and narratives of surveillance, control, and conformity – reinscribing and perpetuating marginalization.
We acknowledge that to exist online in the beautiful plurality of us is resistance to the colonial hegemony and its organizing systems of gender, race, sex, sexuality, and notions of womanhood. We celebrate all the ways our bodies have the possibility to hack patriarchy, racism, transphobia, classism, casteism, and colonialism.
Our #VisibleWikiWomxn campaign this year is:
- A nod to the expansiveness of our bodies – bodies that challenge the normalized categories of what it means to be human and a woman,
- A contribution to the many bodies of work centered on the issue of creating space to be seen in a world that erases, invisibilizes, and violates who is seen as different.
- A feminist corner of the internet that affirms our plural identities, sizes, shapes, and scars.
Our goal for 2023
Our goal for this 6th edition of #VisibleWikiWomen is to bring 2500 images of women and non-binary individuals to Wikimedia Commons, the big multimedia library for all Wikimedia projects, including the +300 language versions of Wikipedia.
Once again, we will be focusing on increasing the number of images of influential Black, Brown, and Indigenous women that are being uploaded to Wikipedia as part of the #VisibleWikiWomxn campaign.
To reach this goal, we invite you – women’s and feminist organizations, culture and memory institutions, Wikipedia editors, user groups, chapters, and anyone who would like to give the plurality of women and non-binary people the visibility and acknowledgment they deserve. We are excited to collaborate with previous year’s friends, allies, and co-conspirators again and to welcome new partners from around the world.
Key moments of 2023
#VisibleWikiWomen is now a yearly campaign, but certain celebrations and commemorations of the year can work as special moments to engage. We want to highlight the following key moments for our communities throughout the year:
- February: Black History Month [USA]
- March: International Women’s Day #8M
- April: Dalit History Month, Freedom Day in South Africa
- 1 May: Workers’ Day, a moment to celebrate all women in their workplaces
- June: LGBTQIA+ Pride Month
- July: #DisabilityPrideMonth
- 20 July – 20 August: FIFA Women’s World Cup
- 31 August: International Day for People of African Descent and Women’s Month [SA]
- 5 September: International Indigenous Women’s Day
- 28 September: International Safe Abortion Day
- October: Black History Month [UK, Ireland, The Netherlands]
- 25 November to 10 December: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence
- And more…
How to participate
You can join the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign all year long, by gathering and uploading quality images in the public domain, or under free license, to Wikimedia Commons under the VisibleWikiWomen category. These images can be photographs or drawings of women, as well as images of their work, with proper consent.
- Hosting or attending local events in your communities where photos can be taken or uploaded
- Releasing your existing photos of women and non binary people under free licenses
- Creating illustrations and drawings
- Promoting and publicizing this project by spreading the word about it and using the hashtags #VisibleWikiWomen, #VisibleWikiWomxn, #WomenofColors, #BodyPlurality #CuerposPlurales #CorposPlurais #Imizimba on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Co-organizing and hosting an online event with Whose Knowledge? to bring the campaign to your local communities
- Creating a feminist corner at your public events, by installing a #VisibleWikiWomen photobooth.
And probably so much more! We’d love to see you come up with new ideas that make sense for you and your communities.
If you need extra support for participating in the campaign, please email us at visiblewikiwomen[at]whoseknowledge[dot]org.
How to get involved?
‣ Help make our campaign multi-lingual by translating our Meta page, resources kit, and the campaign pages of our website into different languages.
‣ Make lists of Wikipedia women biographies without images (by country, by occupation, by century, by activity) to raise awareness of the gender visual gap and create interesting challenges for participants.
‣ Write a new Wikipedia article inspired by an “orphan” women portrait (an image without an article) and use that image to illustrate it.
Spread the word
‣ Curate and share: select images you love, and optionally mix them with inspiring texts and art, and just share it with the hashtags #VisibleWikiWomen and/or #WomenofColors.
‣ Collaborative covering: if you are a journalist, a blogger, a podcaster, or you just like to spread ideas online, you can create a piece of content about the campaign.
‣ Find all you need to know for sharing the campaign in our Social Media Toolkit (PDF).
Support the campaign
‣ If you are a feminist organization, cultural and memory institution, media or other potential partner organization, become an institutional partner
‣ If you are an individual connected to potential partners (like the ones mentioned above), please introduce them to the campaign!
If you are connected with potential funders who may be able to fund and support this campaign, please bring them to the campaign!
‣ If you want to volunteer to support this year’s campaign, drop us a line at visiblewikiwomen[at]whoseknowledge[dot]org. There’s always room to welcome new allies!
‣ If you would like to financially support this year’s campaign, click here:
What we’ve done so far
- 2022 marked the 5th edition of the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign. Launched on March 8, under the theme Hope and healing: Creating feminist memory online. in 2022, #VisibleWikiWomen counted 1,194 images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, illustrating pages in 9 different Wikipedias plus Wikidata, by 123 participants, 37 of them new editors. All these images together total 53,096 page views.
- Having realized that the #VisibleWikiWomen program coordination would ideally be a full-time position and not a time-bound one, we’ve been working on expanding the team and have hired a full-time #VisibleWikiWomen program coordinator, Sunshine Fionah Komusana, and a communications co-lead, Youlendree Appasamy, who started working with us in June and July 2022, respectively.
- As part of Women’s Month celebration, we co-hosted the regional campaign ¡Alto, Mujeres trabajando!, in partnership with Wikimedia chapters in Latin America, with the aim of making women visible in professions and roles that have historically been dominated by men.
- We made a two-episode podcast series of interviews in celebration of #PrideMonth and as part of the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign. In these interviews, we featured: Arya Jeipea on “our existence is our truth” and Letícia Carolina Nascimento em “nada sobre nós sem nós”.
- In the backdrop of the celebration of the United Nations International Day for People of African Descent on August 31, 2022, we held an editathon in partnership with the collective 500 Women Scientists, to celebrate the contributions of women and non-binary people of African descent in STEM and to ameliorate the erasure of their labor, voices, and stories on Wikipedia, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.
- In September, we continued to focus on the theme of celebrating women and queer people in workplaces that have historically excluded them. In partnership with Flickr and the Flickr Foundation, we held a photo-a-ton to celebrate the women and non-binary people who work in historically cis-male-dominated workplaces, and the history of their fight for labor rights (maternity leave, equal pay, bathrooms, sexual harassment legislation, etc.).
- On September 2022 we brought the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign physically to the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa #FIFAfrica2022, in Lusaka, Zambia, to document the presence of African women digital rights defenders and leaders at the conference.
Our partners & friends
If you have never uploaded images to Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons before, don’t worry, we have you covered! We created this #VisibleWikiWomen resource kit, where you will find instructions and practical advice on how to navigate the Wikiverse, especially how to use Wikimedia Commons.
The resource How to upload images to make women visible on Wikipedia and the Internet is particularly useful as it will guide you through the process of uploading images for this campaign.
Other related resources to help you are:
- Getting and giving consent for images on Wikipedia
- How to find images on the internet to illustrate Wikipedia
- Dos and Dont’s for adding images to Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia
- How to create drawings for Wikipedia
- How to ask for image donations
- How to join VisibleWikiWomen as a campaign organizer in your local context
- Have a photographer present at edit-a-thons to photograph notable women with consent
- Guide for Cultural and Memory Institutions to make women more visible on Wikipedia
…and if you need inspiration, here are some lists of articles that are missing images of women on Wikipedia.