x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dictionary agrees with Australian PM's new definition of misogyny

Macquarie Dictionary to broaden its definition from a hatred of women to include entrenched prejudice against women after accusations Julia Gillard wrongly defined the word in attack on opposition leader.

CANBERRA // Australia's prime minister did not wrongly define "misogyny" in a blistering attack on a male rival - the dictionary did.

Julia Gillard's fiery speech last week in which she branded conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott a misogynist for a string of allegedly sexist comments he had made in recent years has been lauded by feminists globally.

Ms Gillard's critics have accused her of hyperbole, pointing to dictionary definitions of misogyny as hatred of women.

Yet Sue Butler, the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, regarded as the definitive authority in Australia, said yesterday that the political furore revealed to her fellow editors that the dictionary's definition was decades out of date.

The dictionary would broaden its definition from a hatred of women to include entrenched prejudice against women, she said.

"Since the 1980s, 'misogyny' has come to be used as a synonym for sexism - a synonym with bite, but nevertheless with the meaning of 'entrenched prejudice against women' rather than 'pathological hatred'," Ms Butler said.

Ms Gillard's speech in parliament last week came after Mr Abbott attempted to move a motion to disniss Peter Slipper, the House of Representatives speaker, over crude and sexist terms Mr Slipper made in text messages that came to light in a court case.

"If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror," Ms Gillard said. "Misogyny, sexism - every day from this leader of this opposition."

She complained Mr Abbott had questioned in a media interview whether it was a bad thing that men had more power than women in Australian society and had described abortion as "the easy way out".

Ms Gillard said she was offended when Mr Abbott once said to her in parliament: "If the prime minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself."

The term "making an honest woman" in Australia traditionally refers to a man marrying a woman with whom he has had sex.

Female lawmakers in the conservative Liberal Party defended Mr Abbott, who is married with three daughters, saying he did not hate women.

Ms Butler said while the Oxford English Dictionary had expanded its definition of the word to include its contemporary meaning a decade ago, it took the debate over Ms Gillard's speech to prompt Macquarie to review its definition.

"Perhaps as dictionary editors we should have noticed this before it was so rudely thrust in front of us as something that we'd overlooked," she said.