Dropping of 'Essex Girl' by Oxford dictionary welcomed by women

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Image source, Mark Massey
Image caption,
Sadie Hasler said ditching the phrase was a "milestone", while Becky Scott said she was "amazed" it was in an Oxford dictionary in the first place

A woman who challenged the Essex Girls stereotype said the term "should never have been" in a dictionary in the first place.

The phrase "Essex girl", defined as a "contemptuous term", has been dropped from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary after a campaign.

Becky Scott, who was photographed for a project about the diversity of Essex women, said it was a "good" decision.

Publishers Oxford University Press said the term was "no longer widely used".

Plus-size fitness instructor Mrs Scott, from Colchester, was one of scores of women featured in a project by Southend-based designer and photographer Mark Massey.

He was inspired by his young daughters after becoming concerned about how they might be stigmatised by the Essex girl stereotype.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Essex girl is a "contemptuous term applied (usually jocular) to a type of young woman, supposedly to be found in and around Essex, and variously characterised as unintelligent, promiscuous and materialistic".

Image source, Mark Massey
Image caption,
Actor Pippa Moss (left), academic Terri Simpkin (centre) and actor/director/producer/writer Josephine Melville all featured in Mark Massey's photo project

Mrs Scott, 39, said: "I'm amazed it was ever in a dictionary - it's ridiculous - it was perpetuating a myth about a group of women.

"Essex is not all like Towie [the ITV "scripted reality" show The Only Way Is Essex], even the places where it's filmed. There's lots of rich heritage - I live in the oldest recorded town - there's so much more to Essex than a stereotype."

Words 'important'

Playwright Sadie Hasler, 40, from Westcliff-on-Sea, was also photographed and she hoped the move would resonate with those who felt damaged by the stereotype and "deserved better".

"Anything which tackles things at the core - like the world's most respected dictionary openly saying a term is not acceptable anymore - is an important visible milestone," she said.

"I've written two plays in the last two years which tackle the Essex stereotype and the response from Essex women has been overwhelming and very moving. Words are so important."

The decision to drop the term from the dictionary, typically used by foreign students, came after campaigners Essex Girls' Liberation Front said the phrase was "offensive".

Founder Syd Moore said: "Unfortunately, the stigma of being an Essex girl does still exist - not in Essex, of course, because we all know it's not true.

"Essex is not only diverse but huge... and I think the tide is turning and people are starting to re-evaluate it."

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Although the term has been dropped from the student dictionary as it was "not helpful to current learners", the publishers said it would remain in the OED as it was a "historical dictionary" mapping the English language's evolution over 1,000 years.

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