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Oxford did justice to the word ‘woman’ by removing the ‘sexist’ references

After receiving a bunch of criticism, Oxford University Press has finally altered the definition of the word 'woman'. The modification was made after a comprehensive review that was launched by petitions last year.


An Oxford University Press (OUP) spokesperson said these improvements came after an “extensive review” of entries for ‘woman’ and several related terms.

The Campaigners and academics have contacted on Oxford University Press to rewrite what they say are “sexist” inclusion of words ‘bitch, bint, wench’ and other offensive terms as synonyms for women.

The campaigners allege that terms like “bitch” or “maid” are synonyms for the word “reinforce negative stereotypes”.

The leaders of Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality Party signed an open letter and petition (2019) and supported the cause, this year on International Women’s Day, March 8.

The campaigners asserted that the dictionary’s definitions of ‘man’ were broader than that of a woman’s and represented the latter as “subordinate” or “an irritation.”

The petition also hailed for all phrases and definitions that “discriminate and patronise” or “connote men’s ownership” of women to be eradicated.

It also stressed that the entry of “woman” be broadened and comprise examples representative of minorities such as transgender woman and lesbian woman.


Mandu Reid, the Women’s Equality Party’s leader, and Nicki Norman, the acting chief executive of Women’s Aid Federation of England, are the main signatories to the letter.

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They pointed out in the letter, “wealth of derogatory and equally sexist examples” of how to use woman in a sentence, comprising “I told you to be home when I get home, little woman” and “don’t be daft, woman!”.

They said comparatively in the dictionary a man is interpreted as “a person with the traits linked with males, such as bravery, courage, or toughness” and integrated examples such as “a man of honour” and the “man of the house” has been used, creating a major drift between man and woman.

The campaign was launched by Maria Beatrice Giovanardi.

Maria pointed out that unlike “bitch”, the word “dickhead”, used for a “stupid, irritating, or ridiculous man”, according to OUP, was recorded as a “vulgar slang” and not included as a synonym for a man in the dictionary.

The word ‘woman’ is being redefined in one series of dictionaries.

An OUP ( Oxford University Press) spokeswoman retorted “reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used”. This is steered solely by evidence of how real people utilize English in their daily lives.

The petition was signed in the year 2019, so far has reached 30,000 signatures and reportedly, Maria was “very happy” with the modifications and felt the movement had attained 90 per cent of its aims.


She called the inclusion of gender-neutral terminology “an enormous step ahead for the LGBTQI people”, and further said, “It is respecting their love and unions.”


The modified definition in the Oxford Dictionary now asserts that a woman can be a person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover, other than being bitch, bint, wench and other offensive terms to a man.

The modifications have been made to the definition of man also and now it comprises similar gender-neutral terminology. Other definitions that have been amended under the modifications are related to sexual attractiveness and activity.

For more such articles check our Gender Issues Section

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