Oxford Dictionary to review 'sexist' examples

Tuesday 26 Jan 2016 2:49 p.m.

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The Oxford Dictionary has been forced to review some of its example sentences that have been classed as sexist by one anthropologist.

Publisher Oxford Dictionaries, part of Oxford University Press (OUP), was critised by Canadian anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan after he noticed the word 'rabid', defined as "having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something", was used in the example phrase a "rabid feminist", The Guardian reports.

Mr Oman-Reagan also found other examples:  'shrill' is explained as "the rising shrill of women's voices", 'psyche' as "I will never really fathom the female psyche", and the adjective 'nagging' was used in the phrase "a nagging wife".

Gender roles are also questioned, with the example for 'housework' given as "she still does all the housework", whilst the word 'research' was put in a sentence "he prefaces his study with a useful summary of his own research".

Buzzfeed also discovered questionable gender roles in the dictionary, with examples of 'doctor' all used the male pronoun, The Guardian reports.

Mr Oman-Reagan tweeted to the publisher suggesting they change the examples, with an explanation on Medium.

"As the Oxford Dictionary says in the usage example for 'sexism': 'sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way culture sees women'. Shouldn't the usage examples in this dictionary reflect that understanding of sexism in language?" he wrote.

Oxford Dictionaries responded to Oman-Reagan's tweet with the reply "If only there were a word to describe how strongly you felt about feminism", but then apologised later saying it was "flippant in some of our tweets yesterday. Sorry."

'Rabid' became the most popular search term on its site over the weekend, and Oxford Dictionaries on Twitter said 'Rabid fan' now has the highest frequency in the Oxford Corpus.

An OUP spokesperson released a statement on Monday saying the publisher would review the sentence for 'rabid' as well as other examples raised by Mr Oman-Reagan.

"We apologise for the offense that these comments caused," said the statement. "The example sentences we use are taken from a huge variety of different sources and do not represent the views or opinions of Oxford University Press. That said, we are now reviewing the example sentence for 'rabid' to ensure that it reflects current usage."

The debate can be followed by the hashtag #OxfordSexism.

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