#RedefineWomen Calls Out Sexist Definitions In The Google Dictionary
Since language is the root of most of our communications, the words we use and the definitions of those words directly reflect our value system. With this in mind, the hashtag #RedefiningWomen critiques sexism within Google’s dictionary function in hopes of highlighting the ways prejudice is even entrenched in the words we speak. The hashtag #RedefiningWomen was started by friends and collaborators Georgia Patch and Kiah Nicholas, who joined forces to launch the official Tumblr where the hashtag is defined as “a social movement that calls on people to help us change the way women are perceived, by changing the way women are defined.”
The duo first caught a wave of inspiration when they realized women are still primarily used as dictionary examples for negative and historically gendered words such as “nagging,” “promiscuous,” “housework,” and “ugly.”
These unfortunately are just the tip of the linguistic iceberg when it comes to sexism in the English language — in fact, just earlier this year, Oxford came under fire for including the word “feminist” as a definition for the word “rabid.” This launched a week-long storm of tweets discussing sexism in language, which directly ties into what #RedefiningWomen seeks to highlight. Sadly, as much progress as society’s made, the foundation of our speech and culture is constructed on hierarchies of sexism, and many words we use are infused with those connotations.
When talking about their intentions with the project, Patch and Nicholas made it clear that they intend to shine a very specific light on language because of it’s often invisible influence on our attitudes. “The bigger conversations happening around feminism would be more impactful if the fundamentals were addressed,” they said in an email to Mic, adding, “Ultimately we want to start a conversation about language and contemporize the way women are defined. We’re starting with overlooked subtleties that are all too harrowing in isolation.”
When visiting the Twitter account for #RedefiningWomen, it’s truly daunting to see the stream of gendered word definition in succession. Glancing at one out-dated dictionary definition is easy to shrug off, but reading a stream of everyday words with negative connotations defined by femininity is a good reminder of the invisible ways we’re conditioned to fear and resent womanhood.
Hopefully pointing out these gendered definitions and starting conversations about the ways in which language contributes to sexism in society will lead to some positive change. In the mean time, join the movement and help point out words Google and other dictionaries need to redefine.