Julia Gillard changes meaning of “misogynists”

This is just hilarious to me. Previously Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard used the word “misogynists” in her speech, and this triggered a change in Australia’s leading dictionary. CNN reports:

Julia Gillard Australia's Prime Minister
Julia Gillard Australia’s Prime Minister

PM’s sexism rant prompts Australian dictionary rewrite

“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation,” Gillard blared.

Abbott’s National-Liberal Coalition took deep offense. Had the prime minister conflated or confused “sexism” and “misogyny,” or worse, deliberately distorted the meaning of misogyny to score a resounding political point? Was Gillard seriously asserting that her opposite number held a pathological hatred of women, as most dictionaries define misogyny?

Into the fray weighed Australia’s leading dictionary.

Editor Sue Butler surprised the nation Wednesday by declaring Macquarie Dictionary would alter its definition of misogyny, closer to the conflated version used by the prime minister.

In its next published edition, the dictionary’s editors said the word would be defined as both the “hatred of women” and “entrenched prejudice against women.”

Butler said Macquarie Dictionary had decided that for the past 20 or 30 years, “misogyny” had taken on wider meaning, particularly in feminist discourse and that with changed usage should come a changed definition.

I totally agree with dictionaries taking this approach, evolving the word based on current usage. But this is just too reactive. I see this as the dictionary’s editor Sue Butler helping Julia Gillard get over a sticky situation.

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