Geek Feminism Wiki

The Benevolent dictator incident is an example of a sexually objectifying presentation that took place at Wikimania 2012 in Washington, D.C. The incident involved sexually explicit and violent images of women being used as an example of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' actions on Wikimedia Commons. The incident took place during the presentation "Benevolent dictator, monarch, spokesperson - the evolution of Jimbo's role in the community."


The image was being used as an example of an image that Jimbo Wales nominated for deletion during a purge of sexualized images on Wikimedia Commons that he had deemed non-educational. The community disagreed with his actions and kept the images. The presenter stated that they did not think it would offend everyone, as he assumed those attending his talk would be aware of the history and expect these types of images to be used.

Reaction & incident handling[]

Approximately 100 people attended the lecture which was held just before a following presentation by Wikimedia Foundation Fellows and their projects. When the image appeared, two of the presentation attendees walked out in protest, both women. At the end of the presentation, the audience was invited to ask questions. The final question, asked by Kat Walsh, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, centered around why he used that kind of imagery in the presentation and that it was the "elephant in the room." The presenter responded by saying it documented the history of Jimbo's activities and that Wikipedia is "not censored," citing a long time Wikipedia policy "Wikipedia is not censored".

As the second presentation prepared to start, Program Chair Tiffany Smith started to introduce the presentation, and prefaced it by stating that the friendly space policy had been violated. After the second presentation, an announcement was made that a post-session discussion would take place in the Grand Ballroom allowing participants who experienced the incident to discuss it freely.

Approximately 50 participants, men and women, met in the Grand Ballroom. Gayle Karen Young facilitated. The speaker apologized at the beginning and explained his rationale, and by the end of the approximately 45 minute long session, he apologized again in more detail. His apology was acceptable to many people in the room and he apologized individually to specific participants. The session was closed, but participants expressed a variety of emotions ranging from feeling violated to realizing what little control and power they had during the presentation. Others expressed lack of emotion and that they had expected the imagery, as they were familiar with this part of Wikimedia history. Participants acknowledged having a positive experience from the discussion.


That afternoon, the Wikimania planning committee sent out an email stating that the policy was violated and asked any presenters that may have questionable content or imagery in their presentations, to review it with the planning organization. A blog post was also published to the Wikimedia DC website. The first announcement during the following morning's plenary session went over the same material as the blog post and included a reading of the policy's text. No significant public discussion in the Wikimedia community or otherwise followed.