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Can a dictionary be sexist? Yes.


Oxford Dictionaries says it will review the example sentence its dictionary provides for the word “rabid,” which was the subject of a social media brouhaha this weekend after an academic claimed it was sexist. The example uses the phrase “rabid feminist.” 

An isolated example? Not so. Michael Oman-Reagan, a Canadian anthropologist, found many others, according to The Guardian:

Oman-Reagan, who is doing a PhD at the at Memorial University of Newfoundland, also highlighted other “explicitly sexist usage examples” in the dictionary; including “shrill”—defined as “the rising shrill of women’s voices”—and “psyche”—for which the example sentence is, “I will never really fathom the female psyche.” “Grating,” defined as “sounding harsh and unpleasant,” was illustrated with the phrase “her high, grating voice,” while the adjective “nagging” used the example phrase “a nagging wife.”

As Oman-Reagan wrote in a post on Medium: “As the Oxford Dictionary says in the usage example for ‘sexism’: ‘sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women.’ Shouldn’t the usage examples in this dictionary reflect that understanding of sexism in language?”