As Ven. Sabbamitta has said, this has been discussed before on the forum.
I just wanted to say that I agree with you that it’s very odd to me to see female used in place of women. Especially because now it is common in the online misogyny community to use “female” as a way of dehumanizing women.
I dunno about pali @sujato but i know a bit 'bout yer basic English and the pairing terms are either
“Man and woman”
“Male and female”
Regardless of the nuances of the pali.
Missmatching the english does NOT convey whatever subtleties are involved in the second pali term, and while i am no translator that seems to imply that the issue is better served with the idiomatic english and a footnote?
My vote is that the very confusion it is causing is evidence that the mismatch in english is not conveying the mismatch in pali and that therfore the matched english with a footnote is the parsimonious decision?
Not at all. Rather, the fact that I have actually represented this difference in translation has caused people to notice it and investigate further. The job of a translator is not to stop people being confused, but to accurately represent the text. If the text is confusing, so be it.
Translators should translate, not hide behind footnotes.
I’m still really unsure what the translation should be. But people’s readings are exactly what I was intending.
it is an awkward and unnatural word: yes, mātugāma is an unusual construction and not found outside Buddhism.
it has a whiff of being derogatory, without being explicit: yes, that is the usual context it appears in, where a mātugāma is treated as an obstacle for monks.
The conundrum I have at the moment is whether it should be read in line with its context, or against its context.
Think about, say, a bunch of rowdy guests in a hotel lobby. The concierge comes up, thinking “Bloody punks, how do I get rid of them?”, but what he says is, “Would the gentlemen like to take their party somewhere private?” So he chooses a word “gentlemen” deliberately to counter the context.
I’m wondering whether mātugāma is a specially formal word like “gentlemen”, used to soften what might otherwise be seen as derogatory. This would fit the fact that it’s based on the respected idea of the “mother”. Thus we might translate as “lady”.
Thank you so much for posting our question @Sovatthika.
Bhante @sujato, what caught my attention was Ven Bodhi’s translation of the pairing as woman/man.
In your example the word “gentlemen” can be made scathing in the right context only due to it having a positive meaning in general usage. Is it possible that mātugāma did have a positive meaning in general usage that simply didn’t often appear in the scripture? Any insight from other rescensions?
I think whiffs are hard to convey. And generally it’s better to err on the side of a translation that does not have a whiff of misogyny if the situation is not explicit.
It doesn’t appear to me that the text is confusing, it’s just using a word whose specific meaning is not 100% clear. I mean, are you saying that the Buddha is here referring to something other than women? Translations flatten meanign all the time. Personally I’d be more concerned with the context of 2023 English where referring to women as “females” is unambiguously intended to dehumanize.
I’m not sure I agree with your “gentleman” theory, but if I’m understanding it correctly, then isn’t “female” conveying the opposite?
But again, translating is hard, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it.