Turn to “W” in the dictionary, flick past “wise” and “woke” to “woman”, and you may be surprised by what you see.
Activist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi was looking for inspiration to rename a women’s rights group when she typed “woman synonym” into Google. The results were shocking and appalling: filly, biddy, bird, baggage, bitch, maid, wench.
Next she checked out the Oxford Dictionary, which had some equally unsavoury descriptions of women – “a woman is subordinate to men”; “a woman is a sex object”; “a woman is an irritation to men”; “woman is not equal to man”.
Meanwhile, the word “man” didn’t seem to incite such loaded language, with synonyms on Google proving far more favourable: geezer, mother’s son, bloke, dude, bozo.
Now, Giovanardi is on a mission to slash sexism from the dictionary, launching a petition to change the Oxford University Press description.
“If we want to create an equal society, we need a lexicon fit for the 21st century that doesn’t discriminate against women. Oxford Dictionary’s team are defining who women are and doing it in a very outdated manner which denigrates women,” she says. “Together we can succeed in removing the offensive and damaging definition of women from the dictionary.”
And the clinker: “Bitch can be in the dictionary, but it shouldn’t be under woman in my opinion.”