Dear Kojien, Please Convey that Feminism is an Ideology of “Equality Between All Genders”
Do you know how the word feminism is defined in one of the most respected Japanese dictionaries, Kojien?
A member of Tomorrow Girl’s Troop travelled to the US to study feminist art at university. When she looked up the word feminist in the English dictionary, it was defined as “someone who believes in social, political and financial equality between sexes”. She was moved by how there are people who fight for equality.
In the spring of 2015, shortly before Tomorrow Girl’s Troop was established, we looked up how the words feminism and feminist are interpreted in Japan by running a Google search.
We found that the first page of the search results were mostly blog posts by anti-feminists. We were surprised to see that many of them quoted the definition of feminist from Kojien to come to the conclusion that, “feminism is the movement to expand women’s rights. It’s an ideology of misandry, so it’s bad.”
Here are the definitions of feminism and feminist from Kojien.
Feminism: An ideology and movement that asserts women’s rights to social, political, legal, and sexual self-determination, and also attempts to criticise and restructure male-dominated society and civilisation. Women’s liberation. The expansion of women’s rights.
Feminist: Women’s liberationist. An advocate for the expansion of women’s rights. Colloquially, men who are lenient toward women.
In Western dictionaries, feminism is defined differently.
Webster Dictionary (US)
The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
Oxford Dictionary (UK)
The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
Even in contemporary Japanese society, women voicing their own opinions are cast in a negative light. As a reputable dictionary, it is alarming that Kojien defines feminism without the mention of “equality”, and leaves room for the interpretation that feminism advocates for the rights of one sex over the other. We see that this definition is one of the factors holding Japanese people back from participating in the feminist movement.
We think that feminism should help everyone live the lives they want to live and never advocate for one sex’s rights over another.
Dictionaries are the first destination for young people trying to understand society. We don’t want to pass on a definition of feminism that may lead to misunderstanding.
We hear that the Kojien gets edited every ten years. The most recent edition was published in 2008, so we believe that the editing process is happening right now.
Let’s rethink the definition of feminism to one that reflects a society that accepts everyone for who they are.
Please sign our petition to encourage Kojien to rethink their definition of feminism!
Project update (Nov 2017):
Our petition was successful! Earlier this year, Tomorrow Girls Troop launched our campaign to change the definition of "feminism" as it appears in Japan's most respected dictionary, Kojien. To date, our Change.org petition has garnered over 6,000 signatories.
In October, Huffington Post Japan reported that the Kojien Dictionary's editorial team will indeed review and edit the definition of "feminism" and "feminist" as it appears in the new 2018 edition, due out in January. We don't yet know how the new definition will read, but we are encouraged that our open letter and petition succeeded in reaching Kojien and convincing them to review it.
2nd Project update (Mar 2018):
Here are the new definitions in the 7th Edition Kojien Dictionary, revised on January 12, 2018
An ideology and movement that asserts the social, political, legal, and sexual self-determination of women, and advocates for women’s liberation from sexism and equality between both sexes. Women’s liberation. Expansion of women’s rights.
1. Women’s liberation theorist. An advocate for the expansion of women’s rights.
2. A man who is easy on women. A man who preaches respect for women. In Ango Sakaguchi’s Shise Kandan “This old man’s virtue is that he is a rare feminist. With a congenital spirit of consideration for women…”
Concerning the definition of "feminism", although we were very happy to learn that the words "liberation from sexism" and "equality" (which were not present in the 6th version) were added, we are disappointed that the definition states "equality between both sexes" instead of "equality between all sexes".
In the scholarship and practice of feminism, it has already become clear that there are people who cannot be distinguished by male or female, and their difficulty of living, societal prejudice against them and lack of support is a large issue.
Concerning the definition of "feminist", in this new revised definition, we were shocked to learn that 80% of it was taken up with explaining the "man" of "a man who is easy on women". It wrongly centers the definition around men's perceptions of women.
In fact, not only is the definition incorrect, moreover, the word "colloquially" which was originally present in the 6th version has been deleted. This deletion is nothing other than an official affirmation of the wrongful usage of "feminist" as "a man who is easy on women."