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Girl Power Profile: Taylor Kane – The girl who changed the dictionary

One day, Mount Laurel’s Taylor Kane received a screenshot from her friend with a text that said, “I thought this would bother you.”

Taylor KaneAs the known feminist in her group of friends, Kane was, in fact, bothered by the photo. It showed dictionary.com’s definition of the word hero: “a man noted for courageous or nobility of character.” Kane was alarmed by the use of the word “man.” She believes anyone can be a hero, not only men. The determined teen filled out a contact form on dictionary.com asking for the definition to be changed to include all people. She received a response that pointed her to the word “heroine,” which refers to a female hero.

“I felt like heroine downplayed the meaning of the statement, saying she’s just a woman hero, not a hero,” she says. “I really wanted the term to include people of all genders. I always preach that everyone can be a hero, and that definition said otherwise.”

She was told the dictionary.com lexicographers would look into the definition, but wasn’t given any indication they would make the change. Unsatisfied, Kane began petitioning on Facebook to get the definition changed to include the word “people” instead of “man.”

“They are the self-proclaimed, most popular dictionary in the world,” she says. “I could imagine a young woman looking up the work “hero” and seeing it says “man” and then her thinking, ‘Oh, I guess only a man is a hero.’ I believe it’s important, because when they look up the term I don’t want people to be misled.”

After gaining roughly 100 signatures through Facebook, Kane still hadn’t heard from dictionary.com about her petition. Then one day she looked up the definition with her mom and saw it had been changed. Kane was thrilled when she read the new definition of hero: “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” Kane says she made sure to remain hopeful throughout the process. In the end, she was proud of her success.

“It shows that just a normal person can do something that will affect the lives of other people,” she says. “I hope people will now look at that and feel that they can be a hero if they’re a man, woman or anyone of any gender identity.”

This isn’t the first petition Kane has administered. She began fighting the state in 2012 to create a law requiring newborn testing for Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare genetic disease that took her father’s life in 2003. After years of fundraising, testifying against the state and presenting her case to Gov. Chris Christie, Kane’s request was granted. In 2013, a bill was passed requiring newborn testing for ALD.

“A lot of people see problems and say, ‘Oh, that really should be different,’ but they never act upon it,” she says. “I’ve always just been the kind of person who looks at a problem and is like, ‘OK, I’m going to change that. I’m going to do it right now.’”

Kane’s passion for ALD came from her father’s experience with the disease. She and her family still run the organization Run for ALD, which he started before passing away. Over time, Kane became interested in the preventative measures available for newborns with ALD. This led her to petition the state.

Now, Kane is petitioning the state again to implement the law requiring newborn screenings for ALD. Kane says though the law was passed, screenings have not begun. She sent a petition with 60,000 signatures to Gov. Christie’s office and to the N.J. Department of Health.

“I thought if they saw how many people backed the issue, it would become more important to them and it would put a little pressure,” she says.

Kane says her work for ALD is in honor of her father and the hard work he always did for others.

“My dad really liked helping people, and he always wanted to make life better for others. He always felt like it’s good to live a life of service,” she says. “I really wanted to do volunteer work in his memory, and I knew this is what he would want me to do. I know if he could see all that has been accomplished now for people with ALD, he’d be so proud. That makes me really happy.”

September 2016
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