Australian "misogyny" speech prompts change to dictionary

CANBERRA Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:09pm EDT

1 of 2. Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

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CANBERRA (Reuters) - A fiery speech against sexism by Australia's first woman prime minister has prompted the textbook of Australian English to broaden the definition of "misogyny" to better fit the heated political debate raging downunder.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last week used a parliamentary debate to launch a strong attack against conservative Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of being a misogynist, and her speech has since become an Internet hit.

In response, Australia's Macquarie Dictionary, the authority on the English language in Australia, has decided to broaden the definition of "misogyny" to better match the way the word has been used over the past 30 years.

The dictionary currently defines misogyny as "hatred of women", but will now add a second definition to include "entrenched prejudice against women", suggesting Abbott discriminated against women with his sexist views.

"The language community is using the word in a slightly different way," dictionary editor Sue Butler told Reuters.

In her parliamentary speech, Gillard attacked Abbott, a conservative Catholic, for once suggesting men were better adapted to exercise authority, and for once saying that abortion was "the easy way out". He also stood in front of anti-Gillard protesters with posters saying "ditch the witch".

Abbott has labeled the attack as cheap and personal and part of a government smear campaign against him.

The fallout from Gillard's speech has followed her on an official visit to India, where it was raised during a panel discussion, but she told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday that she would not give advice on word definitions.

"I have been left in no doubt that a lot of people have clicked on and watched that speech here in India," she said on Wednesday.

"I will leave editing dictionaries to those whose special expertise is language."

But the opposition has ridiculed the dictionary's move, with lawmaker Fiona Nash saying Gillard is the one who needed to be more careful with her words.

Abbott, a super-fit cyclist and swimmer, has been battling perceptions he has a problem with women voters, with his wife and three daughters making public appearances in recent weeks to soften his tough-guy image.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Nick Macfie)