The only example I can think of/that I know of at the moment that has ever been of controversy with regard to sexism in Japanese was the change from 看護婦 to 看護師. I'm sure there are probably many more cases like this. I also see a lot of words with kanji that seem more or less degrading to women, but I'm not sure that this is what I'm going for with the question. Rather I'm looking for something more ingrained, more structural that has been a source of controversy in the past. Vocabulary or kanji could fall into this category as well, but I'm not looking for an exhaustive listing of words or expressions that could be considered sexist. Rather I want to know what is and has been considered sexist in Japanese by Japanese people.

As an example in English there is notably no gender neutral third person pronoun, so words like "man" and "he" are the norm while other more equal words either don't exist or aren't used as widely in situations where gendered speech has been traditionally used.

Does Japanese have these kinds of issues, and if so what are they?

  • It's a very wide-ranging question.
    – user18597
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 8:52
  • I remember there being something about 家内{かない}.
    – nkjt
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 9:05
  • It's obvious that a lot of vocabulary in Japanese is "sexist". For example ご主人 means "husband" but it also means "master". So the woman has to refer to her "master". Maybe if you google for it you can find more and more things.
    – user18597
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 9:06
  • @nkjt: What's wrong with 家内? Heard/seen it used a lot. On another note, 姦しい seems pretty sexist.
    – istrasci
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 15:17
  • I know there are tons of kanji and words and expressions that could be sexist. Maybe this question isn't exactly a good fit then since I guess I'm looking more for things that have been controversial publicly more than I am a specific question about language... I won't take close votes personally, anyway.
    – ssb
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure exactly what you are asking, but in the workplace there was a law passed: 雇用の分野における男女の均等な機会及び待遇の確保等に関する法律 which changed a lot of the words for women in the workplace (your example is one of them). The wikipedia article also gives some other examples:


There are also controversial terms for husband and wife: 亭主、主人、奥さん、家内

They are still used a lot in everyday speech, but I believe there are restrictions on using them in the media.

Other examples:


There are also controversy with some Kanji characters:


  • In which sense is 入籍する considered as a sexist word? It is often used as a euphemism for 結婚する, but is there a difference between men and women in the usage of the word? (There could be, I just do not know.) Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 0:08
  • @TsuyoshiIto: I personally don't consider it sexist, but I've heard people interpret 入籍 to mean 夫の戸籍に入ること. It's the same for sayings like 嫁にいく 嫁をもらう, 嫁ぐ, etc. were the women is not considered equal.
    – Jesse Good
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 0:16
  • That reminds me of 娶る (=女(め)取る). Though I unaware of a *おとる (男(お)取る).
    – Dono
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 1:15
  • Interesting. I had never thought that some people might use 入籍する only for women, but it sounds possible. Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 1:35
  • 1
    @DaveMG: Technically 子女 has two meanings. It can refer to children (boys and girls), and it can also be used to refer to girls only. There is a misconception by some people that 帰国子女 only refers to girls which is why in some circles it is changed to 帰国生徒, etc. (mainly by public institutions)
    – Jesse Good
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 22:39

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