Australia PM Julia Gillard prompts 'misogyny' definition update


Julia Gillard accuses Tony Abbott of a long history of misogyny and sexism

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard's fiery speech on misogyny has prompted Australia's leading dictionary to update its definition of the word.

Footage of Ms Gillard lambasting the opposition's Tony Abbott as a misogynist in parliament last week drew global attention.

The Macquarie Dictionary describes misogyny as ''hatred of women''.

But editor Sue Butler says it will be expanded to ''entrenched prejudice against women'' in the next edition.

"We decided that we had the basic definition, hatred of women, but that's not how misogyny has been used for about the last 20, 30 years, particularly in feminist language," she told ABC radio.

A second definition was needed, she said, that was ''slightly stronger than sexist but heading in that direction towards entrenched prejudice rather than a visceral hatred".

'Fairly big party'

Ms Gillard, who is Australia's first female prime minister, had berated opposition leader Mr Abbott in parliament.

The exchange followed the resignation of Speaker Peter Slipper, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former staff member.

The opposition accused Ms Gillard's government of hypocrisy for standing by the Speaker after it was revealed that he used "offensive" language to describe female genitalia in text messages.

Ms Gillard then fired back at Mr Abbott: "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."

Footage of her speech went viral, with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube within a week.

Her comments were applauded in some quarters - mainly outside Australia - for their strong stand on sexism. Domestically, the reaction was mixed, with many upset over her support of Mr Slipper.

And some critics accused her of using the wrong word in her attack on Mr Abbott, pointing to the dictionary definition of ''misogyny'' as a pathological hatred of females.

That debate drew attention to the need to update the definition, said Ms Butler.

"I always think of myself as the person with the mop and the broom and the bucket who's cleaning up the language after the party's over,'' she told ABC News.

"And in this case it was a fairly big party, and what was left on the floor was misogyny."

The updated definition will be added in the online version of the dictionary this year, and in the next printed edition next year.

The decision has drawn some flak for Macquarie, which has received complaints. One opposition member has accused it of a political move.

Neither Ms Gillard - who is currently in Delhi - nor Mr Abbott would comment on the update.

Earlier this month Mr Abbott's wife spoke out to defend her husband against sexism claims, saying he was surrounded by "strong capable women".

He, for his part, has called Ms Gillard's Labor Party ''masters of nasty personal politics''.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I don't think it's good idea to expend "Misogyny" definition because when Julia Gillard accused Tony Abbott as Misogynist was absolutely nothing. She was only defending her incompetent job and cover up with accusing Tony Abbott. It happen time to time in Australian politic.
    You have to change or expend definition of word in Dictionary and then you need to do everyday or every week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    For goodness sake don't change the definitions of words because of their use by politicians. The best here is 'affordabl' housing. All housing is affordable by someone otherwise there would be hundreds of empty houses. What is meant is 'cheap' housing (i.e. built down to a low price like a council house). I hope the OED doesn't redefine 'affordable' just because the politicians misuse it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Words change their meaning over time. Isn't that 'terrific'? Pretending otherwise would be 'artificial'. It's 'nice' to know that some dictionaries keep up. I may be a 'geek' for being interested in etymology but I am 'amazed' that some people get bent out of shape about change, don't let it give you 'heartburn'... :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    The woman is magnificent! I have been harangued a few times by the fairer sex in my day but this lady takes the prize. She is a delight. Not only that, she got her facts set out well and her timing on the button.

    The context was quite frankly disgraceful and the men should be ashamed of themselves.

    Let us go back to the old days when there was common courtesy and respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Personal insults are the last desparate words of someone who has lost the argument.
    She was supporting someone who had resigned over sexual harrassment allegations, so when attacked over that support she calls the attacker a woman hater for daring to argue with her?!
    PS my comment is not political as I don't know what her politics are.


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