Petition update

Open Letter calling on @OxUniPress to change their entry for the word “woman” #SexistDictionary

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi
London, ENG, United Kingdom

Mar 4, 2020 — 

Hello to all of you 32000+ supporters! 

In the past few months we have been working hard on gathering support from influential linguists, academics, and women's rights organisations/ activists in an effort to strengthen our message. We thne put together an open letter and many of them co-signed it. Signatories include Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality party, Deborah Cameron, professor of language and communication at Oxford, Nicki Norman, acting chief executive of the Women’s Aid Federation of England, and many more! Now, our open letter was just published on The Guardian (both online and in today's print)! You can find the copy below. 

Can I ask if you could help spread the message by sharing it on social media, especially Twitter? You can simply click the button below to share this update automatically!

Thank you so much for your support once again.

“It might not end everyday sexism or the patriarchy but it’s a good start”

Wish you all a wonderful day,

Maria Beatrice


The letter in full

Did you know that if you are a woman, the dictionary will refer to you as a “bitch” or a “maid”? And that a man is “a person with the qualities associated with males, such as bravery, spirit, or toughness” or “a man of honour” and the “man of the house”?

These are, according to the dictionary, the synonyms for “woman” alongside a wealth of derogatory and equally sexist examples – “I told you to be home when I get home, little woman” or “Don’t be daft, woman!”

Synonyms and examples such as these, when offered without context, reinforce negative stereotypes about women and centre men. That’s dangerous because language has real world implications, it shapes perceptions and influences the way women are treated.

Dictionaries are essential reference tools, and the Oxford Dictionary of English is an essential learning tool, used in libraries and schools around the world. It is also the source licensed by Apple and Google, namely the most read online dictionary in the world.

Its inclusion of derogatory terms used to describe women should aim at exposing everyday sexism, not perpetuating it.

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.

We are calling on Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford Dictionary of English, as well as the online Oxford Dictionaries ( to change their entry for the word “woman”. It might not end everyday sexism or the patriarchy but it’s a good start.

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi and the campaign team
Mandu Reid, leader of Women’s Equality Party
Deborah Cameron, professor of language and communication, Oxford University
Nicki Norman, acting CEO of Women’s Aid Federation of England
Fiona Dwyer, CEO at Solace Women’s Aid
Estelle du Boulay, Director of Rights of Women
Laura Coryton, tampon tax petition starter, Period Poverty Task Force Member at the Government Equalities Office, alumni of University of Oxford (MSt in Women’s Studies)
Gabby Edlin, CEO and Founder of Bloody Good Period
The Representation Project
Zoe Dronfield, trustee at Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service
Gwen Rhys, founder and CEO of Women in the City
David Adger, professor of linguistics, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Christine Cheng, author and lecturer in war studies at King’s College
Dr Christina Scharff, author and reader in gender, media and culture at King’s College
Judith Large, senior research fellow

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