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.”
Uhhhhh ???? pic.twitter.com/JDfeIZqVVf — Ali Segel (@OnlineAlison) November 15, 2016
"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.
@OnlineAlison You're right. We're working to remove it now. — Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 15, 2016
@OnlineAlison AND IT'S GONE. Oof. Sorry about that. — Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 15, 2016
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 Cosmopolitan.com.
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"As soon as he caught wind of it they promptly addressed the situation and removed the sentence. I thought the way they handled it was really great. So kudos to them for fixing it — not to take away from the initial sentence being real cringe-worthy." Merriam-Webster gave comment on the matter 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.’”
When u use ur femininity to change the dictionary ?? pic.twitter.com/yRZewzuBIV — Ali Segel (@OnlineAlison) November 15, 2016
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.
Sources: Cosmopolitan.com, DailyMail.co.uk, HuffingtonPost.com