The year 2020 has been all about extraordinary challenges and changes hence, it was only suitable for the Oxford University Press to make the much-needed amendments to the word ‘woman’ in the dictionary that were not in lieu with the outdated derogatory and offensive terminology. Following the several petitions filed last year which had criticised the inclusion of sexist labels like bitch, bint, wench and other offensive terms as synonyms for women in the Oxford Dictionary, the English language book of definitions has now updated it with a more gender-neutral term.
As per The Guardian, the petition had called for all phrases and definitions that “discriminate and patronise” or “connote men’s ownership” of women to be eliminated hence, the updated definitions acknowledge that a woman can be “a person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover”, rather than only a man’s. Reportedly, the petitions started by Maria Beatrice Giovanardi also demanded enlarged entry of “woman” with examples including the representative of minorities such as transgender women and lesbian women.
This year on International Women’s Day, the Oxford University Press was called out by leaders of Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality party and an open letter signed by them demanded to change the “sexist” definitions. It 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, example of everyday sexism. And that should be explained clearly in the dictionary entry used to describe us.”
An “extensive review” was triggered as per an OUP spokeswoman and changes were brought in “for ‘woman’ and many other related terms”. She told the news agency, “This independent editorial approach means that our dictionaries provide an accurate representation of language, even where it means recording senses and example uses of words that are offensive or derogatory, and which we wouldn’t necessarily employ ourselves.”
However, the word ‘bitch’ continued to be listed as a synonym despite being labelled as “offensive” and is defined as a “spiteful, unpleasant, or disliked woman” as contrasted to the word dickhead which is not included in the list of synonyms for men, is considered “vulgar slang” and is defined “as a stupid, irritating, or ridiculous man”.