Remove 'sexist' definitions of woman from dictionary, petition demands

A new petition nearing 30,000 signatures calls on Oxford University Press to remove “Sexist” synonyms and example sentences from the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OUP representative claims the petition is somewhat inaccurate and that the organisation chooses to note the inappropriateness of the term, rather than to ensure that it is “Excluded from the dictionary.” Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, who started the petition, ripped the dictionary for identifying women with synonyms, including: “B-, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly” and, for instance, “Ms September will embody a professional, intelligent yet sexy career woman” and "If that doesn’t work, they can become street women.

We can take a serious leap towards lowering the damage that this is causing our young women and girls by looking at our language-and this begins with the dictionary," said Ms. Giovanardi. “These instances demonstrate females as sex objects, subordinates and/or men’s irritation”

Ms. Giovanardi also states that there are 25 distinct instances in the dictionary for the “Men” entry, while there are only five for the “Women” one.

The petition calls on OUP to “eliminate all sentences and terms that discriminate against and patronise females and/or connote the ownership of women by men; expand the dictionary for’ woman '; include instances representing minorities, such as a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, etc.” Katherine Connor Martin, OUP’s Head of Lexical Content Strategy, said in a statement that publishers were investigating “Whether there are senses of woman which are not currently covered but should be added in a future update,” but added that the examples in the petition come from the Oxford Thesaurus of English and the Oxford dictionary of English, not the scholarly Oxford English Dictionary.

“If there is proof that an offensive or degrading term or significance is commonly used in English, it will not be separated from the dictionary exclusively on the basis that it is unfair or degrading,” said Martin.

“However, part of the descriptive method is to make a word’s offensive status clear in the dictionary’s treatment. For example, the sentence of a little woman is characterized as ’ a condescending manner of talking to one’s spouse, ’ and the use of ‘bit’ as a synonym for a woman is labeled as ’ derogatory ’ in the thesaurus,” she said.