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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Oxford Dictionary updates definitions of “woman”, removes sexist references after criticism

Oxford University Press, after a lot of criticism, has changed the definition of the word “woman”. An extensive review that was initiated by petitions filed last year prompted the change to be made.

The petitions called out the inclusion of words ‘bitch, bint, wench’ and other offensive terms as synonyms for “woman”.

In the Oxford Dictionary, the updated definition now acknowledges that a woman can be a person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover — and she can be all these not just to a man. The definition of “man” too includes similar gender-neutral terminology as per the recent changes.

Revised under the changes are other terms related to sexual attractiveness and activity.

After much criticism, the words bitch and bint are no longer listed as synonyms for “woman”.

An Oxford University Press spokeswoman said that the changes were implemented after an “extensive review of entries related to woman and many other related terms”, India Today reported. According to the campaigners, the dictionary presented women as a subordinate or an irritation.

The petition further demanded the deletion of all the terms that stressed men’s ownership over women or discriminated and patronised them.

It was also demanded that the definition of woman be enlarged so that examples representative of minorities such as transgender women and lesbian women could be included.

The campaign was supported by Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality party this year on International Women’s Day. “Bitch is not a synonym for woman. It is dehumanising to call a woman a bitch. It is but one sad, albeit extremely damaging, example of everyday sexism. And that should be explained clearly in the dictionary entry used to describe us,” read an open letter they had signed, demanding that OUP change the sexist definitions. 

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi began the campaign. According to her, the inclusion of gender-neutral terminology “a huge step forward for the LGBTQI people.”

“It is respecting their love and unions,” she said.

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