Womansword: What Japanese Words Say about Women

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This seldom-used phrase was resurrected by author Fumiko Enchi as the title for her novel about a wife who waits decades to get revenge for her husband's infidelity, though the English translation of Onna-zaka is titled simply The Waiting Years. Another way of using.


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The positive traits associated with women are bundled up and tied together in the word onna-rashisa. Dictionaries define it in terms of being kind, gentle, polite, submissive, and graceful. Sometimes "weak" is included, spurring feminist scholars to protest in the s. Many people would also add cheerfulness to the list of what gives a woman onna-rashisa.

ISBN 13: 9780870117947

On the other hand, the Japanese have several insults based on the linking of women with certain character faults. Onna no kusatta yo na is a standard reproach for guys whom Westerners might call wimps or sissies. These fellows may also be assaulted with a negative word built from two woman ideograms, memeshii effeminate. Both men and women are offended when someone denounces them as "womanish" joseiteki.

The trait that often shakes loose this avalanche of abuse is mealy-mouthed indecisiveness. Sometimes the criticism is cloaked in poetic imagery. The connection is that fall weather in Japan shifts quickly, just as the moods of a woman's heart.

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The word onna-gokoro is usually used in the context of love, where such fickleness is generally unwelcome. An otoko masari is a who excels over men in some way. She has more brains or muscles or just plain spirit. One of the most famous otoko masari is the late-tenth-century author Sei Shonagon, who blended diary, essay, and fiction into The Pillow Book, a Japanese literary classic. Positive though its definition sounds, otoko masari is not a type Japanese girls aspire to become.

The word, literally meaning "male-surpasser," is a put-down. For example, there is much grumbling in the halls of Japan's coed colleges these days about otoko masari types who take their studies seriously and plan to compete against their male classmates on the job market as well. It implies not only extra ability, but also lack of femininity.

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The female upstart is likely to begin life as an otenba, what an English speaker calls a tomboy. Otenba, literally "honorable twisting and turning granny," suggests health and energy People often use it to describe their own rambunctious offspring. A Japanese girl can get away with being a tomboy until about age twenty, but then tradition calls for her to settle down and avoid challenging the males around her.

If she doesn't, she is denounced as an otoko masari or another taunt drawn from the large body of Japanese words in which the sexes battle for superiority She is said to achieve "in spite of being a woman" onna-datera ni or onna no kuse ni. She brings about "male loss of face" otoko kaomake because she is "more than a man" otoko ijo. Men are the measure for most types of accomplishment, but in the realm of sewing, cooking, or child rearing, guys can cause "female loss of face" onna kaomake when their prowess makes them "more than a woman" onna ijo.

Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women

Women also are the standard for inferiority; one way to show contempt for a man is to call him "less than a woman" onna ika. Females being inferior to males has been considered so unremarkable that no parallel expression exists. Likewise, there is only one way to say "in spite of being a man" otoko no kuse ni and no such thing as a "female-surpasser. A graduate of the University of Iowa, she worked as a newspaper reporter in Illinois before going to Japan on a Rotary Foundation Journalism scholarship in She has worked for many years in the communications field. She has written a column in the Japan Times for several years on Japanese books and has a particular interest in Japanese popular culture.

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