Dictionary book

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition asking the Oxford Dictionary to change its ‘sexist’ definition of the word ‘woman’


Maria Beatrice Giovanardi and a small team of female colleagues started a petition calling for attention to the Oxford Dictionary definition of “woman”.

The petition was launched in time for International Women’s Day on March 8 and already has over 33,000 signatures supporting the revision.


While researching, Giovanardi came across the Oxford dictionary definition of “woman” and realized how offensive and disturbing the definition, its synonyms, and examples of the word are. She and a group of colleagues prepared a petition, looking for signatures for a dictionary modification to a more up-to-date and more beneficial definition, and prepared it for International Women’s Day.

Giovanardi explained in the petition:

“Have you ever searched online for the definition of a woman? ‘B *** h, broom, coin, bit, mare, luggage, girl, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly’ – these are the words which the Oxford English dictionary online tells us mean the same as “woman.” This sexist dictionary needs to change. “

Giovanardi further highlighted the sentences included in the online dictionary which currently serve as examples of how to use “woman” in a sentence.

Giovanardi noted:

“Currently, under the definition of ‘woman’, the Oxford English dictionary gives the following examples:”

“‘Ms September will be the smart but sexy professional career woman'”

“‘If that doesn’t work, they can become street women'”

“‘male fishermen who bring their catch home for the little woman to empty'”

“‘I told you to be home when I get home, little woman'”

Giovanardi underlined the impact of these example sentences.

“These examples show women as sexual, subordinate and / or irritating objects to men.”

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi / Petition

Giovanardi also shared his reasons for creating the petition:

“I felt I had to point out the obvious – that not describing men and women in an equally respectful way puts women at a disadvantage as it perpetuates negative stereotypes that portray women as inferior, which in turn influences the way women are spoken and treated. “

“This is just one example of everyday sexism and how the mainstream culture frequently dehumanizes women by portraying them as sex objects or subordinates to men.”

She also noted that although some anti-trans campaigns currently use the word “woman” to oppose the validity of trans women and lesbian women, this petition is not intended to support their campaign ideology.

Instead, Giovanardi wants the definition updated to match the positive nature of the definition of “male,” and also to be more inclusive for all who identify as women.

The campaign to change the dictionary’s sexist definition calls not only for the removal of derogatory terms and synonyms for woman, but also for the inclusion of LGBTQ terms to describe women, i.e. trans woman, lesbian woman , etc. “

Despite some backlash from the anti-trans community, responses have otherwise been overwhelmingly positive, nearly hitting their signing target in less than a week.

Giovanardi said:

“A big thank you to everyone who joined us in calling this out.”

“We expected people to be outraged, but we did not expect thousands of people to support our call.”

Reactions on Twitter were a bit more mixed, however.

In response to the successful petition, the Oxford Dictionary made the decision to update the definition of woman to be more contemporary and inclusive, as well as to update examples and synonyms for the term . They plan to make the updates available in just a few weeks.

It was an extremely important change to grasp and correct, and it’s wonderful to see the positive conversation developing around what the definition of “woman” should be.

It will be interesting to see how the response grows in the coming days, as well as when the new definition becomes available to the general public.

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