In its definition of “femininity,” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary previously used the word in the following sentence: “She managed to become a CEO without sacrificing herfemininity.” A follower of writer Ali Segel sent her the screenshot of this definition. Segal then tweeted her objection to the definition to her network. From there, the tweet was shared broadly, and reached the attention of Merriam-Webster staff. The staff replied to Segal’s tweet saying “We’re working to remove it now.” Within hours, the example had been removed from the online dictionary.
Why was the Merriam-Webster example of “femininity” problematic?
How can words shape how we think?
How can our use of words reveal assumptions, expectations and implicit biases we may have regarding gender?
Why do you think Segel’s tweet had an impact? What can we learn from Segel’s experience of using social media to advocate for change?