As this month started with a lot of days concerning women (March 8th – international women day and before that March 3rd – Hinamatsuri – Girl’s day in Japan) I have just remembered my new post’s theme: lets see how Japan (and China) see the woman through their kanji system (this is something I am very interested in).
Of course, every language has plenty of examples of sexism in them, but I found Japanese (actually, they had adopted kanjis from Chinese) to have an extremely interesting way to look up the etymology of the kanji. Although I will mention just a few of them (there are a lot of them, and probably even half I still don’t know), from looking up just this one radical (女), let’s find out about how ancient China / Japan thought about women.
This is the kanji for a woman. I don’t know is it interesting on its own, but somewhere (long time ago, so I don’t really remember where) I have read that, when you break down the kanji woman 女 into 3 strokes, く, ノ, 一, (ku, no, ichi) it has the same pronunciation as 苦の一 (with the meaning of “one of the things that make you suffer”, but also the same pronunciation as “female ninja” woo-hoo!! )
奴: Manservant, Slave
This kanji consists of a woman (女) and the “again” radical (又). It’s like a demotion to a slave level (the level of women?)
安: Cheap, Contented, Relax, Safe
This is a woman inside of a roof. – a woman safe inside the house – Or is the implication here that a woman under a roof is cheap?
A combination of “house” 家 and “inside” 内 (Just for the comparison, there is also the word “shujin” 主人 for “husband” – a combination of “lord, chief, master, main thing” 主 and person 人)
好: Pleasing; to like something
While she’s at home being safe, it’s good if the woman (女) has a child (子). Men like (好) this.
奸: Mischief, Rudeness
Please, don’t tell me this is a “dry woman” …
孥: Slave, Servant
This also means a slave, servant, and it consists of kanjis for slave (奴) and child (子). So, a woman is a slave to her child. I am scared to think that this kanji actually makes sense when you think about the relationship between Asian moms and their children.
A slave lady (奴) plus a heart (心). So ladies get pretty angry when you treat them like slaves?
姻: Marry, Matrimony
Marriage is “being associated with a woman.”
This is what happens when you have three women together.
On the very negative side, there is also a word “goukan” 強姦 (rape), a combination of 強 (strength) and 姦 (three times female character!) meaning “rape, wicked, mischief, seduce”.
娶: Arrange A Marriage
You’re taking (取) a woman (女).
A combination of woman and house.
The woman (女) is clawing (爪) the king (王). No good comes from nasty queens!
Two ladies (女), one guy between them (男).
嬲: Ridicule, Tease
So, when there are two guys (男) around one lady (女) it’s no longer flirting.
I am not sure if Japanese people will agree with me (about sexism in their language). I guess their (and not just their) comments would be something like “these words have been around a long time. Now they’re just words” meaning you’re not a horrible person if you call your husband “lord, chief, master” in your daily life.
Off topic (is it?): Yesterday M. told me that Confucius was teaching that vividness of the language should be one of the main virtues of one civilization. HEHE