Thousands demand Oxford dictionaries ‘eliminate sexist definitions’

Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for Oxford University Press to change the “sexist” definitions of the word “woman” in some of its dictionaries.

Launched this summer by Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, the petition points out that Oxford dictionaries contain words such as “bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly” as synonyms for woman. Sentences chosen to show usage of the word woman include: “Ms September will embody the professional, intelligent yet sexy career woman” and “I told you to be home when I get home, little woman”. Such sentences depict “women as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men”, the petition says.

Signatories are calling on OUP to “eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronise women and/or connote men’s ownership of women”, to “enlarge the dictionary’s entry for ‘woman’”, and to “include examples representative of minorities, for example, a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, etc”.

In response, OUP’s head of lexical content strategy Katherine Connor Martin has said that editors are investigating “whether there are senses of woman which are not currently covered but should be added in a future update”.

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