The Oxford University Press announced that it had changed several definitions found in its dictionaries and deemed sexist. Officials have carried out “a thorough review” of definitions “of the word ‘woman’ and many other related terms,” a spokeswoman recently told Guardian.
The changes come after an online petition launched in 2019 garnered nearly 35,000 signatures. The text deplored the difference in treatment between the words “man” and “woman” and denounced the presence of “bitch” or “servant” among the synonyms of “woman”.
“Discriminatory” and “condescending” definitions
These associations “proposed without context” can “reinforce negative stereotypes about women and place men at the center”, estimated the petition, denouncing definitions “discriminatory and condescending”. “It’s dangerous because language has everyday implications, it influences perceptions and the way women are treated. “
Among the changes made by the Oxford University Press are clarifications indicating that certain terms are “offensive”, “outdated” or “pejorative”. The term “woman” is now defined as “a person’s wife, girlfriend or lover”, not just a man. The definition of “man” was similarly amended.
Some terms related to sexuality have also been revised. Women’s rights activist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, who initiated the petition, welcomed the changes. However, she said she was “disappointed” that the term “bitch” still appears among the synonyms of “woman”, even if it is described as “offensive”.