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Italian dictionary under fire for sexist synonyms

By March 21, 2021Language, News

Italian dictionary Treccani is under fire for its definition of the word ‘woman’.

Around 100 high-profile figures have signed a letter to the Treccani Italian dictionary arguing that their use of derogatory terms such as “puttana” (meaning ‘whore’) should not be included in their list of synonyms. Those who signed include LGBTQ+ activist and politician Imma Battaglia, politician Laura Boldrini, and Alessandra Perrazzelli, deputy director general of the Bank of Italy.

The letter says that the inclusion of “misogynist stereotypes that objectify women and present them as inferior” has no place in a modern dictionary.

Treccani has previously defended its inclusion of such terms but has yet to respond to the letter written by activist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi.

Giovanardi was also behind a successful campaign that asked the Oxford English Dictionary to remove sexist synonyms for woman such as “bint” and “bird”.

Maria Beatrice Giovanardi previously protested the OED’s sexist terms

The Italian dictionary definitions of ‘woman’ could be considered far more offensive and misogynistic than the OED, however, including 30 terms used to describe sex workers while the word ‘man’ is associated with words such as “businessman”.

“Language shapes reality and influences the way women are perceived and treated,” her letter states.

“Vocabularies, dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms, encyclopaedias are educational tools of reference and, as such, is consulted in schools, libraries and in all of our homes. This will not put an end to everyday sexism, but it could contribute to a correct description and vision of women and their role in today’s society.”

Previously Treccani had said that the dictionary did not “select lexicon based on moral judgment or prejudices”, and “if society and culture express negativity through words, a dictionary cannot refuse to document them.”

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