Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Women and Chinese

My student David Yang pointed me to an interesting article that featured in the Chinese version of the NY times

"Enduring Prejudices of Gender Woven Into Chinese Language"
By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW December 4, 2015

The article starts with

"BEIJING — What if “womanwomanwoman” were the English word for rape, defilement, adultery? That is roughly how the Chinese character “jian,” or 姦, translates, as it is made up of three characters for “woman,” 女."


"“Why did one woman become three, and such a symbol of political and moral imagination and an object of enmity in traditional Chinese society and political theory?” asked Tong Yujie, the academic convener of the canceled exhibition, in an essay prepared for the show.
As evidence, Ms. Tong offered examples from ancient Chinese history and political texts:
• In the “Zuo Zhuan,” or “Commentary of Zuo,” dating from the fourth century B.C., “jian” is used to mean “evil”: “To cast away what is virtuous and give honor to what is evil is the greatest of calamities.”
• In the “Guoyu,” or “Discourse of States,” from the same period, a “jian” is a traitor: “Rebels inside the country are scoundrels, while those outside the country are traitors.”
and finally

"“In everyday language, how many Chinese speakers are aware that, in every set phrase with male-female gender reference, the male always comes first?” he said in an email.
“A married couple is 一对夫妇, a husband and wife. Your parents are your 父母, father and mother, never 母父, or mother and father. Even a phrase like 男女老少, meaning everyone, literally ‘men, women, old and young,’ subconsciously reinforces a supposedly ‘natural’ hierarchy — men over women, old over young,” Mr. Moser said."

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