In 2003, a book of an essay was released and became a best-seller – “Makeinu no toboe,” written by Junko Sakai*. The literal translation is “a howling of a defeated dog.” The defeated dog is an expression that the closest meaning in English is a “loser.” In the book that I have never read, the author defines a “makeinu” as women of over 30 who are unmarried and childless. The book was supposed to be a social criticism with self-deprecating humor, as an increasing number of women chose to remain single way into their 30s and 40s in 21st century Japan. But the word “makeinu” was treated literary and permeated into the cultural narrative regardless of the author’s intension or the actual emotional status of single women. The word, as a result, stigmatized all single women over 30.
I left Japan when I was 28. As I write this, I am 43, unmarried and childless. I wonder what dehumanizing words they have coined since then to further debase women like myself. They’d say there must be something fundamentally wrong with a person who remains single at my age. In my 30s, I’d fight such a narrative. After D, I came to believe it. The very fact that I chose D as a partner explained my abhorrence and avoidance toward conventional marriage.
*Sakai, Junko.負け犬の遠吠え. 講談社. 2003