A petition is calling to remove sexist synonyms for 'woman' from the dictionary

If you're a woman, you've probably been called a "bitch" at some point in your life. Unfortunately, one of the places you've been called that is the dictionary. A petition on Change.org is trying to get the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus of English to remove sexist and outdated synonyms for the word "woman." The petition, which was started by London-based communications strategist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, has already received 30,000 signatures — more than the student body of Oxford. They're trying to redefine the way we talk about women. Literally.

Some of the synonyms for "woman" are derogatory, like "bitch." Some synonyms are both archaic and derogatory, like "wench" and "bird." Some are flat out sexist, like "baggage" and "frail." Some of the other synonyms include, "chick," "biddy", "bint," "broad," "piece," and "petticoat." Interestingly, most of the positive synonyms for "woman" refer to a woman as a "sweetheart" or "paramour." It's not just the synonyms that are the problem. The examples "show women as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men." Not only that, "the definition of a 'man' is much more exhaustive than that of a 'woman' — with 25 examples for men, compared to only five for women," the petition reads.


The petition says that seeing the word "bitch" as a synonym for "woman" in the dictionary opens the door for harassment. "This is completely unacceptable by a reputable source like the Oxford University Press, but it's even more worrying when you consider how much influence they have in setting norms around our language," according to the petition. Name calling is a form of bullying, and according to a Pew Research poll, four in ten Americans have said that they've experienced online harassment. "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," the petition says. Words have meaning.

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The dictionary, however, says it doesn't start with the dictionary. It starts with you and me. Katherine Martin, the head of lexical content strategy at Oxford University Press, addressed the petition in a blog post. According to Martin, the words are in the dictionary because they're in our everyday language. "If there is evidence of an offensive or derogatory word or meaning being widely used in English, it will not be excluded from the dictionary solely on the grounds that it is offensive or derogatory," she wrote. She also noted that offensive words are labeled as such.

The dictionary is open to change, but it has to come from the people first. The dictionary doesn't influence the language, the language influences the dictionary. "The relationship between the dictionary and the living language is more like a map than a set of directions; it can tell you the contours of the landscape, but not direct you on where to go or how to get there. As the usage of English speakers changes over time, the dictionary changes to reflect that new lexical terrain. The current cultural moment has seen an increasing acknowledgment of the real-life impact that words can have on individuals and groups. As this awareness leads to changes in linguistic behaviour, the dictionary will seek to record them," Martin continued.

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It doesn't sound like the dictionary is going to budge on removing "bit"or "biddy" anytime soon. But at the end of the day, it's not up to the dictionary to define who we are. Nor is it up to someone who goes around calling women "baggage" and "birds." Only we can write our own meaning. The best way to get "bitch" taken out of the dictionary is to remove it from our vocabulary altogether.

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All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

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Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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