Commonwealth Policy Center

The Oxford Dictionary is being challenged to change the definition of woman. An online petition is being circulated that is pressuring Oxford Dictionary to broaden the definition of woman. Signatories want Oxford University Press to “eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronize women and/or connote men’s ownership of women,” [and] to “enlarge the dictionary’s entry for ‘woman.’” The petition asks the definition to include “examples representative of minorities,” like transgender woman and lesbian woman. Oxford spokesperson, Katherine Connor Martin said editors are investigating “whether there are senses of woman which are not currently covered but should be added in a future update.” We know that word meanings may change over time, but political pressure through online petitions is fraught with much danger.