Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Ministry to remove sexist entries from online dictionary

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai, left, listens as Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung answers lawmakers’ questions in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Education is to comb through its Chinese-language idioms dictionary to remove any entry that might promote sexism, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said yesterday, amid controversy over entries that have been criticized as shaming women’s bodies.

Pan made the remarks at a question-and-answer session at the legislature in Taipei, when he was asked by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) what his thoughts were on two entries: “aircraft carrier” (航空母艦) and “washboard” (洗衣板).

According to the online dictionary, the term “aircraft carrier” is also used to describe “women with large bodies,” with the example: “Her figure is just like an aircraft carrier.”

“Washboard” is a term used to describe “women with flat bosoms,” the dictionary said.

The entries sparked a torrent of criticism online after they came to light this week and received broad local media coverage, with critics calling the terms sexist and body shaming.

The entries were “very inappropriate,” Pan said, adding that they date to 2000, when the idioms were more commonly used.

The dictionary is used by about 50,000 people each day, Pan said, adding that it should be updated to be brought in line with today’s language usage.

As the idiom dictionary is the standard reference used by students of all ages when preparing for exams, entries with sexist connotations should be removed or explained with footnotes, Yu said.

The underlying sexism in education is indoctrinating, which could help explain the constant setbacks experienced by women’s rights groups when pushing for gender equality, she said.

The ministry is conducting a thorough review of the dictionary to make it more conducive to promoting gender equality, Pan said, adding that it would remove inappropriate or outdated entries in two weeks and add footnotes where it deems necessary.

The alternative explanation for “aircraft carrier” was yesterday marked as “derogatory,” and the example was removed.

The entry for “washboard” was also removed yesterday.

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