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This question came in the Dhaka University admission exam 2014-15

Q) Because of discrimination _________ women, she was required to work as a nurse rather than a doctor.

(a) for
(b) of
(c) against
(d) with

The question bank says the answer is (c); however, I feel that both (b) and (c) work. Do both (b) and (c) work here?

I think that (b) can work because I most probably have heard the term "Discrimination of Women" before, and I believe that it is a common term.

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    Most of the questions you have provided from this test seem crazy. Are you sure it's not a test of Indian English in particular? May 20 at 13:19
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    I’m voting to close this question because in the many questions posted about the English entry exam for Dhaka University, the OP must appreciate that sometimes more than one answer is possible but examiners want the "best"answer or the most commonly heard/written. This is often subjective, and highly dependent on the dialect of English spoken.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 27 at 7:57

3 Answers 3

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It's not that common, as this NGram query shows:

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Yes, (b) would make some sense, unlike (a) and (d), but it's just not idiomatic.

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    I agree that it’s not idiomatic. The preposition of works perfectly well in phrases such as abuse of women *, *subjugation of women *, and *oppression of women *, but not in the phrase *discrimination of women unless, as pointed out by Jeff Morrow, it’s a references to the ability of women to exercise discrimination. May 20 at 13:48
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Discrimination of women

means that the women possess whatever discrimination we are talking about. It is a perfectly fine phrase when we are talking about an attribute frequently exhibited by women.

If, however, what we are talking about is male discrimination that adversely affects women, it represents a prejudice possessed by men rather women and an activity that operates against women’s interests. Now we want

Discrimination against women

Part of the problem is that the word “discrimination” has come to have both a favorable and unfavorable meaning.

“Discrimination” may mean the ability to see subtle differences, to distinguish between the meritorious and the meretricious. Such an ability may be possessed by someone.

“Discrimination” may also mean the activity of making life difficult for someone by reason of that person’s membership in some specific group. An activity can not be possessed.

The lawyers used to distinguish the second meaning by using the terms such as “adverse discrimination against a protected group,” but the adjectives have got lost over the decades.

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  • Just to be clear, "discrimination of women" means that women are unjustifiably discriminating against other women. On the other hand, "discrimination against women" means that men are unjustifiably discriminating against women. Have I understood you correctly, sir? May 20 at 13:50
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    @tryingtobeastoic "discrimination" isn't always discriminating against something, it can be used in a positive way to to mean the ability to see subtle differences, as described in the question. "discrimination of women" would just mean the trait or action of discrimination, whether positive or negative, as exercised by women.
    – Esther
    May 20 at 16:46
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(a), (b), and (d) are all grammatically correct, but don't make sense in context.

Presumably the point of the sentence is that she wanted to be a doctor but was told that because she is a woman she is not allowed to be a doctor but must be a nurse instead. So this is discrimination AGAINST women.

If the sentence had said that, say, she wanted to be a doctor and because she was a woman she got preferential admission to medical school, then you would say "discrimination FOR women".

If the sentence had said that a man wanted to do something but the women in charge of whatever wouldn't let him, then it would be "discrimination OF women", or more likely "BY women".

If men and women were working together to discriminate against someone, you could say "discrimination WITH women". The context would have to say who the women were discriminating with.

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