Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women
Every language has its own idiosyncrasies, but when it comes to gender roles, the Japanese language is something else entirely. On a fundamental level, the letters representing men and women are used in different ways to express different concepts, betraying a culture that is seemingly still finding its way in granting women equal rights, representation, and respect, even when it comes to vocabulary.
Womansword was first published thirty years ago, and in this anniversary edition, it reveals a great deal about gender history, social mores, and other aspects of Japanese culture that I was totally unaware of. Several unsettling revelations about sexual harassment, inequality, abortion rates, and oppression of women lurk within these pages, undercutting the silliness and humor represented by other entries in the book.
I don’t mean to make this book sound like a downer, because it’s not. It’s a fascinating explanation of another country’s culture through its use of language, and that’s my bread and butter as a word nerd. But I can’t downplay the unpleasantness inherent in some of the dialogue here.
Womansword is as intriguing and funny as it is eye-opening and surprising.
Stone Bridge Press