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article imageAustralia to redefine misogyny

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By D.M. McGrory     Oct 18, 2012 in Politics
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's heated exchange with opposition leader Tony Abbott over sexism and misogyny last week drew global attention after 'going viral'.
During the exchange Gillard attacked the conservative party leader, accusing him of misogyny.
Apparently prompted by the compelling parliamentary session The Macquarie Dictionary - which sets standard usage of Australian English, has updated its definition of misogyny. In the next edition the word's meaning will be ''entrenched prejudice against women'' replacing its current ''hatred of women''.
Speaking to ABC radio in Australia, dictionary editor Sue Butler said "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," adding that a second definition was needed.
Author Naomi Wolf commented in the Guardian “I object to more heightened words being appropriated carelessly to make political points: sexism is not in fact misogyny... I am sorry to see the dictionary conflating the terms. Sexism is to misogyny what antisemitism is to Jew-hating. Neither is ever acceptable.” She added “Having said that, Julia Gillard used "misogyny' perfectly accurately.”
Ms Gillard, who is Australia's first female prime minister, verbally attacked opposition leader Mr Abbott in parliament. Their exchange followed the resignation of Speaker Peter Slipper, has been accused of sexual harassment by a former employee.
The opposition party leader accused Ms Gillard's government of hypocrisy for standing by the Speaker despite his use of "offensive" language to describe female genitalia in text messages. Ms Gillard hit back at Mr Abbott stating: "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."
Abbott has labelled the attack as cheap and as nothing more than a smear campaign against him by Gillard's government.
Her comments were praised by many for their strong anti-sexism sentiment, though the BBC states that domestically, the reaction was mixed, with many Australians still upset over their Premier's 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.
In the radio interview with ABC when asked about The Macquarie's change Gillard commented “I will leave editing dictionaries to those whose special expertise is language.”
Members of the Australian opposition have claimed that the dictionary's move is politically motivated, senator Fiona Nash commenting that Ms Gillard is the one who needed to be “more careful” with her words.
Julia Gillard is currently on an official state visit to India.
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