New Delhi: After facing a lot of criticism for its sexist and offensive definition of the word ‘woman’, the Oxford University Press has finally updated its dictionary. The much-needed move comes after several petitions filed last year had criticised the inclusion of sexist labels like ‘bitch, bint, wench’ and other offensive terms as synonyms for women in the dictionary. Also Read - What Kamala Harris' Win in US Election Means to Indian Women - Priyanka Chopra, Richa Chadha And Masaba Gupta Explain it Right!
Updating it with a more gender-neutral term, the definition now acknowledges that a woman can be a ‘person’s’ wife, girlfriend, or female lover, instead of being all these things only to a ‘man’. The earlier version stated that a woman is a to be ‘a man’s wife, girlfriend or lover.’
The Oxford University Press released a statement that said, “We have expanded the dictionary coverage of ‘woman’ with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner.”
Several words like ‘bitch, ‘piece’, ‘baggage’, ‘wench’, ‘frail’, ‘bird’ are also no longer listed as a synonym for the word woman, after they were deemed offensive and derogatory.
On International Women’s Day, an open letter was signed by the Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality Party, which demanded the Oxford University Press to change the sexist definitions. The letter also noted that the dictionary offered for man were much more exhaustive than those for the woman. They also said that the dictionary presented women as a subordinate or an irritation.
The letter read, ‘Bitch is not a synonym for woman. It is dehumanising to call a woman a bitch. It is but one sad, albeit extremely damaging, an example of everyday sexism. And that should be explained clearly in the dictionary entry used to describe us’.
Notably, the campaign was started by Maria Beatrice Giovanardi who wrote in the petition, ”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.”
Similar changes have been made to the definition of man to include gender-neutral terminology. In the latest version, the definition states that a man is ‘a person’s husband, boyfriend, and a male lover.’