RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 26 (Reuters) – As Rio de Janeiro prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors for upcoming Carnival festivities and the Olympic Games in August, the city is scrambling to…
Last Wednesday, anthropologist and Ph.D. student Michael Oman-Reagan noticed something a bit odd about definitions and uses of certain words in the Oxford Dictionary.
When Oman-Reagan looked up the term “rabid” on his computer, it responded with this definition and example sentence: “Having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or believe in something: a rabid feminist.” Seems just a tad unnecessary.
On Jan. 20, Oman-Reagan tweeted his observations at Oxford University Press, which owns Oxford Dictionary. “Why is ‘rabid feminist’ the usage example of ‘rabid’ in your dictionary — maybe change that?” he wrote.
As Oman-Reagan pointed out in a post on Medium, the Oxford Dictionary is the default dictionary on Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. A Mac computer, iPad and iPhone all use definitions from the Oxford Dictionary.
“Why is [Oxford Dictionary] filled with explicitly sexist usage examples?” Oman-Reagan asked on Medium. “Shouldn’t the usage examples in this dictionary reflect that understanding of sexism in language?”
Oman-Reagan’s tweet definitely resonated with Twitter users, who retweeted it over 900 times. The observation prompted others to weigh in on the debate with the hashtag #OxfordSexism.
The image of the ‘rabid feminist’ is one conjured and promoted most often by people who don’t like feminists… The editors of dictionaries indeed influence human perception of the world and attitudes toward certain objects or phrases. Through examples, it can even shape the meaning of the word feminist when feminist is not the word the reader looks up.
In the days after Oman-Reagan shared his initial observation, he found several other examples of sexist word uses from Oxford Dictionary. He tweeted all of his observations at Apple CEO Tim Cook too, given that Mac devices use Oxford as the default dictionary.
Scroll below to read a few subtly sexist example sentences Oman-Reagan tweeted.
BuzzFeed also found a few more examples of subtle sexism from Oxford Dictionary including the definitions of “nurse” and “doctor.” The “nurse” example sentence only used the term as a verb when referring to women: “She nursed at the hospital for 30 years.” The “doctor” explanation uses only utilized male pronouns.
Only two days after Oman-Reagan’s initial tweets on Jan 22., Oxford Dictionary responded with a tone-deaf and disrespectful tweet.
The company added in another tweet that that “‘rabid’ isn’t always negative, and our example sentences come from real-world use and aren’t definitions.”
In just a few days, “rabid” became one of the most popular search terms on the Oxford Dictionary website as discussion of the topic picked up steam on social media.
On Jan. 23, the company finally tweeted a real apology, describing their first tweet as “flippant.” Scroll below to read the full apology.
On Jan. 25, Oxford University Press issued a statement apologizing for the company’s “ill-judged” tweets and said they will be reviewing their example sentence for “rabid” and other terms that Oman-Reagan pointed out.
“We apologise for the offense that these comments caused,” the statement read. “The example sentences we use are taken from a huge variety of different sources and do not represent the views or opinions of Oxford University Press. That said, we are now reviewing the example sentence for ‘rabid’ to ensure that it reflects current usage.”
Click through below to read the full #OxfordSexism debate from Oman-Regan and other Twitter users.
Head over to Medium to read more from Oman-Reagan.
Also on HuffPost:
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How to win the US presidential nomination battle
CALGARY • A divisive national debate over pipelines has turned squarely on the processes of the National Energy Board at the same time as a new report slams the regulator’s “inadequate” follow-up on pipeline approvals.
In a report Tuesday, the office of federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand said the NEB has a serious problem tracking whether pipeline companies meet conditions for project approvals.
“Although the board has taken steps to improve its follow-up on company non-compliances with regulations, more work remains,” the report said, adding the NEB’s tracking process was “inadequate.”
The report comes amid growing debate over oil pipelines, sparked by TransCanada Corp.’s application to construct its Energy East pipeline to New Brunswick and Kinder Morgan Inc.’s seeking approval to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to metro Vancouver.
“There’s now much more controversy concerning pipelines, and the concerns about the pipelines have led people to look more closely than they had previously at the NEB process,” said University of British Columbia political science professor Kathryn Harrison.
Harrison said the pipeline debate together with the resultant debate about the national energy regulator are highlighting regional divisions on energy issues across Canada.
She said the current environmental assessment process “of the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines has been criticized from many quarters and I think, as a result, the NEB process and the NEB itself is probably at a low point in its credibility, so this [report] is piling on.”
The environment commission audit said in half of the cases studied the NEB’s systems for follow up were “inadequate or out of date, key file documentation was missing, or the files lacked a final analysis of a company’s submissions and reports or a conclusion as to whether the condition had been fully satisfied.”
In a statement, NEB chair Peter Watson said he welcomed the audit and added the regulator “had identified the same areas for improvement and has already completed work on many of the recommendations.”
“An action plan is in place to comprehensively address all of the report’s findings by the end of 2016,” he said.
After meeting with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who came out against the Energy East pipeline last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday his government will soon add new requirements to the NEB’s pipeline approval process, including tests of a project’s impact on climate, and improved First Nations consultation.
Company executives and politicians in Alberta are concerned that Ottawa’s additional requirements for NEB approvals would delay pipeline project’s in-service dates — further pushing back timelines for domestic crude to reach overseas markets.
“The federal government has assured us that existing pipeline applications to the NEB – specifically Trans Mountain and Energy East – will not have to go back to square one, regardless of any potential changes to the NEB,” Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in an emailed statement.
“We are asking that the federal government make sure the approval process for existing pipeline proposals proceed as quickly as possible, without any undue delay. The strength of the Canadian economy depends on us getting this right,” she said.
Her concern is shared on the East Coast. University of New Brunswick political science professor Jon-Paul Lewis said there has been a “blanket endorsement of the [Energy East] pipeline across party lines,” and he expects the province’s politicians to become more vocal in their support of the pipeline.
“The Coderre announcement was the biggest public example of opposition and [now] we’ve seen New Brunswick politicians respond in kind,” Lewis said.
With a file from Reuters