Change Oxford Dictionary’s Sexist Definition of ‘Woman’

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Have you ever searched online for the definition of a woman? 'Bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly' - these are the words which the Oxford's English Dictionary online tells us mean the same as ‘woman’. This sexist dictionary must change. 

Over a third of young women aged between 18 to 24 have been targeted by online abuse. We can take a serious step towards reducing the harm this is causing our young women and girls by looking at our language - and this starts with the dictionary.  

Right now under the definition of ‘woman’ the Oxford's English Dictionary gives the following examples:

  • ‘Ms September will embody the professional, intelligent yet sexy career woman’;
  • ‘If that does not work, they can become women of the streets’;
  • ‘male fisherfolk who take their catch home for the little woman to gut’;
  • ‘I told you to be home when I get home, little woman’.

These examples show women as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men.

As well as all this, the definition of a ‘man’ is much more exhaustive than that of a ‘woman’ - with 25 examples for men, compared to only 5 for women. 

This is completely unacceptable by a reputable source like the Oxford University Press, but it’s even more worrying when you consider how much influence they have in setting norms around our language. These misogynistic definitions have become widespread because search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo license the use of Oxford Dictionaries for their definitions. 

This can influence the way that women are spoken about online. Should an institution like the Oxford University Press   portray women this way? What message does this send to young girls about their identity and expectations for the future? If we want to create an equal society, we need language fit for the 21st century that doesn’t discriminate against women. Oxford Dictionaries' team are defining who women are and doing it in a very outdated manner which denigrates women.

This petition is to ask Oxford University Press to:

  1. Eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronise women and/or connote men’s ownership of women;
  2. Enlarge the dictionary's entry for ‘woman’;
  3. Include examples representative of minorities, for example, a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, etc.

Together, we can succeed in removing the offensive and damaging definition of women from the dictionary. We hope you support us and join our campaign! Please sign this petition and take the first steps towards a fairer internet and a less discriminating world.

Thank you in advance!

#IAmNotABitch #SexistDictionary

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi and Fawcett Society East London

(We’re a community campaign group that supports the work of The Fawcett Society and other feminist causes)