How this woman managed to convince a dictionary to change their 'sexist' definition of 'Femininity'

By Litaletu Zidepa
18 November 2016

How did this even make it into a dictionary?!

When writer Ali Segel was gathering submissions for an inspiring women-themed magazine to get people ‘engaged and involved’ after the US elections, she made a discovery that contradicted everything she believed in. Dictionary Merriam-Webster have been using a ‘sexist’ sentence to explain the word “femininity”. Their entry reads: “She managed to become a female CEO without sacrificing her femininity.”

"I decided to make a zine of artwork and written word inspired by strong, powerful women and asked my followers to send in their submissions," she explained.

"One woman sent in some poetry along with a screenshot of the definition of femininity being like, 'P.S., isn’t it insane that this is in the dictionary?!'" she told Cosmopolitan. "I decided to tweet it out because yeah, that's nuts!," she continued. "Can you imagine: 'He managed to become a CEO without sacrificing his masculinity.'" Ali told Huffington Post she actually thought it was just a “meme or joke” circulating on Twitter. So she decided to take the matter to Twitter -- and the response was insane.

Ali’s tweet started gaining traction, and soon, people started to tag the Merriam-Webster account.

Finally, her complaint was heard -- she even got a response from the publisher themselves.


"Someone ended up contacting Peter Sokolowski, who is the Lexicographer at Merriam-Weber," Ali told

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Huffington Post that: “Lexicography has always been a back-and-forth between dictionary readers and dictionary writers, and one of the great things about social is that we have a direct line between those two. When a reader stumbled across a sentence that was inappropriate, we were happy to remove it, and we were grateful for their feedback.’”

Ali points out that she’s shocked at how the Merriam-Webster is not the only example to this problem.

"I was surprised at how sexism infiltrates every single aspect of our culture and so frequently goes unnoticed," she said.

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"We’ve just learned to accept it. Even if you look up the definition of femininity on Google, it says, 'She celebrates her femininity by wearing makeup and high heels.'"

"Women are so much more than that," she added.


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