Cambridge Dictionary joins colleges and universities in redefining ‘woman’

The Cambridge Dictionary updated its definition of ‘woman’ to ‘an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.’

Critics of the new definition see the conflation of women and trans women as another attempt to present gender as a ‘social construct.’

The Cambridge Dictionary recently redefined “woman” as “an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.” The dictionary, which is a publication of Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England, similarly redefined “man.” 

Under the new online dictionary entry for “woman” is a sample sentence that reads, “She was the first trans woman elected to a national office.” 

Critics of the new definitions see the conflation of women and trans women as another attempt to present gender as a “social construct,” which deemphasizes biological sex in favor of how people choose to identify. This view of gender argues that “norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy” are “socially constructed,” as described in one post from the World Health Organization. 

 [RELATED: Gender professor says biological sex is a ‘social construct’] 

Matt Walsh, whose documentary “What is a Woman?” explores such redefinitions, called the Cambridge Dictionary’s changes “Orwellian.” The documentary’s trailer shows Walsh interviewing professors, therapists, activists, and others, many of whom show difficulty defining “woman,” adopt the social construct view of gender, or both. 

The implications, Walsh suggests, range from normalizing men participating in women’s sports to “gender-affirming care,” an approach to healthcare that recognizes patients’ chosen identities. 

Gender-affirming care often advocate for minors making healthcare decisions based on their identities, including gender transitions. One document from Health and Human Services describes “Puberty Blockers” and “Gender-Affirming Surgeries” as part of gender-affirming care. The document says that, on a “case-by-case” basis, surgeries on the breast and genital area can take place “in adolescence.” 

As Walsh explained in an interview with Fox News, the Vanderbilt University hospital “performed double mastectomies” on “minor girls” and gave children “irreversible hormone drugs that change their bodies permanently.” 

Vanderbilt “agreed to pause all gender transition surgeries performed on minors” after Walsh’s report, according to an October 2022 article in Campus Reform. 

 [RELATED: BYU organization wants to keep ‘gender affirming care’ for minors] 

Campus Reform has reported on the backlash to the ideas presented in “What is a Woman?” as well as attempts by colleges and universities to redefine “woman.” Students have protested Walsh’s appearances at the University of Houston, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Other reports from Campus Reform show the impact of redefining “woman” and the view of gender as a social construct on women’s sports and healthcare. 

The University of Pennsylvania nominated Lia Thomas for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 2022 Woman of the Year award. Thomas, a biological man, is the subject of controversy for competing in collegiate women’s swimming. 

The Ivy League conference, which chose one representative for the Woman of the Year award, instead picked a biological woman, Columbia University fencer Sylvie Binder

An August 2022 report from Campus Reform shared a video of Yale’s Pediatric Gender Program Director describing helping “a young patient’s ‘gender journey.’” 

The Director, Dr. Christy Olezeski, said that her “program ‘works with gender-expansive individuals 3 to 25 and their families,’ and aims to ‘help individuals who are questioning their gender identity or who identify as transgender or non-binary.’”

Campus Reform also reported that Georgia State University observed Women’s History Month in March 2022 by using the term “womxn.” Women’s History Month events included biological men, with one intended “to further ‘explore’ transgender identities and the impact it makes in athletics.” 

Campus Reform contacted Cambridge University Press for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.