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2019.10.11 The Gender, Gap Alive and Well in Translation
Translation, in a sense, is an incredibly political act. Throughout human history, various forms of knowledge have been shared across cultures through translation. It is also thanks to translation that the voice of minority groups has reached the mainstream. On the other hand, the act of choosing what to translate can be an extremely arbitrary one that is subject to political forces. In particular, female authors have been notably underrepresented in translation.

Online magazine Varsity has pointed out that a steep gender gap exists in the world of translation. Consider the fact that while “father of the fairy tale” Charles Perrault has been exalted, the “mother of the fairy tale” has been completely forgotten. There are also problems with the ways in which we translate texts. According to Varsity, Sappho, the great female poet of ancient Greece, has suffered from arbitrary translations by misguided male translators. This has, in turn, kept Sappho’s work from receiving fair criticism in modern times.

There is a similar trend in Japan as well. The Korean novel Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 caused quite the stir when it was translated and published in Japan last year. The novel tells the story of a housewife born and raised in Korea as she struggles with the daily sexism of the society in which she lives. While this story resonated with many Japanese readers, an online review of the book published in August of this year stated: “the private affairs of a Korean woman have captured the hearts of middle-aged Japanese women.” Afterward, many female authors took to twitter afterwards to criticize this facile interpretation.

Saito Mariko, translator of Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, says that the novel serves as an educational tool about gender discrimination. Sadly, there are no books on the gender gap to be found in Japan, making Saito’s translation all the more important to Japanese society. While a great number of problems still exist in our society, we look forward to the day when we overcome them and can merely enjoy translations for the works of art that they mens watches