Campaign demands Italian dictionary Treccani change its ‘sexist’ definition of word ‘woman’

Campaign demands Italian dictionary Treccani change its ‘sexist’ definition of word ‘woman’
Politician Laura Boldrini, one of the letter's signatories, speaks at the 2018 Women In The World Summit in New York. Angela Weiss/AFP
About 100 high-profile figures from lawmakers to writers have signed a petition calling on Italian dictionary Treccani to change its “sexist” definition of the word “woman”.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the campaign says 30 different words for a sex worker, including “puttana” (whore) and “cagna” (bitch) should be removed from the list of synonyms.

The words appear as synonyms of the euphemism for sex worker “buona donna“, which is included in a list of expressions that use the word “donna” (woman).

It points out that while the terms associated with “woman” have negative connotations, the synonyms listed under the word “man” are generally positive.

The letter’s signatories include activist and politician Imma Battaglia, politician Laura Boldrini and deputy director general of the Bank of Italy Alessandra Perrazzelli.

“Such expressions are not only offensive but reinforce negative and misogynist stereotypes that objectify women and present them as inferior beings,” said the open letter, which was published in Italian newspaper La Republica on Friday.

The campaign was started by activist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, who was also behind a similar one last year urging the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to remove words such as “bint” and “bird” as other ways of saying “woman”.

Oxford University Press updated its definition of “woman” in its dictionaries after a similar petition gathered 30,000 signatures.

However, Treccani’s Italian language vocabulary director Valeria Della Valle responded that she did not think the dictionary needed changing.

“It is not by invoking a bonfire…to burn the words that offend us that we will be able to defend our image and role (as women),” Della Valle wrote in her response.


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