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Essex Girl Stereotypes Won't Disappear With The Deletion Of A Dictionary Definition

26/10/2016 13:35 | Updated 26 October 2016

This week, 2016 has served us yet another unexpected twist, with the brainy bods Oxford Dictionary becoming the subject of a petition, which calls for the removal of the phrase 'Essex Girl' from its texts.

A number of famous Essex residents have appeared on shows including Sky News to discuss the matter, with most highlighting that the term is massively derogatory, often classist, and a sweeping statement on 50% of a county, as reason enough for its removal from the book.

Now that's all well and good, and as a woman from Essex, I totally agree, but the problem here isn't that Oxford Dictionary recognise 'Essex girl' as a commonly-used term. The problem is that it is a commonly-used term.

Before dismissing the calls of Gemma Collins and co, let's have a look at what the Oxford Dictionary actually says next to 'Essex Girl':

"A contemptuous term applied (usually jocularly) to a type of young woman, supposedly to be found in and around Essex, and variously characterized as unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic."

Like Basildon's very own Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder how 'Essex Girl' got in the dictionary in the first place, but actually the answer is quite simple: It's our fault. The Oxford Dictionary doesn't dictate the vocabulary we use, it's literally the opposite.

They didn't pluck the term from someone's notebook and decide to push the Anti-Essex agenda. As their website states, "Before adding a word to one of our dictionaries we have to see evidence that it is widely used." Is it their fault that we've allowed this stereotype to reach a universally recognisable level? No, no it is not.

At every single university interview day I went to, a comment about the fact I'm from Essex was made. Because, y'know, that's exactly what a 17-year-old needs just before an interview that potentially decides her future. Please, fellow sixth former, remind me that the county I'm from makes me lesser than you.

Then in came 'The Only Way Is Essex', but while the show certainly breathed new life into the stereotype, it isn't responsible for it. If anything, the 'TOWIE' women changed what everyone thinks 'Essex Girl' means, fuelling the belief we all love sipping a vodka, soda and lime in Sugar Hut while wearing designer shoes - instead of the 'Essex Girl' of old, who bought white stilettos in Shoe Zone before shagging everyone. I'm not taking this as a small victory, by the way. It's just an observation.

It doesn't matter what "type" of woman you are, you're still allowed to be outraged at the term.

Am I proud of being from Essex? No. I would love to be, and I fully support everyone reclaiming the label and using it positively, but I can't hand on heart say that I am proud, and that has nothing to do with me, or the lexicographers in charge of the dictionary, it's everyone who has falsely applied the stereotype.

I don't like it, but their definition is an accurate description how people utilise the phrase. I've spent around 10 of my 25 years on this earth responding to it, and it is contemptuous, and people are usually joking when they do that weird laddish jeering at you. Some do assume I have the brainpower of a small fly trying to find its way out of a window, while eyeing my clothes and wondering why I have trainers on instead of Louboutins.

I never imagined that this would be the hill that I would be willing to die on - and I don't particularly want it be either - yet here I am, spending my Wednesday explaining why thrusting a negative label on young women and claiming it's "just a phrase" isn't actually all the great when you're the teenager in the firing line.

We need to be the change that pushes 'Essex Girl' out of the dictionary, that's how it works. Pull people up on it. Challenge their misconceptions and dismiss their "jokes". We can't just (literally) strike it from the history books and call that a win.

Never mind getting the word out of the dictionary, it needs to get out of people's heads. Eradicate the term and its stereotypes, and then do the administrative task that is striking it from Oxford's lists.

And while we're at it, can we stop calling grown-up women "girls" as well, please? Thanks, babes.

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