How the “Type Geeks“ of Malaysia are Using Typography to Change Sexist Chinese Language

After learning how sexist the Chinese language is, designers Tan Sueh Li and Karmen Hui put their typography skills to use. The two Malaysian women, better known as TypoKaki, designed new Chinese characters incorporating the radical for woman (女, pronounced “nu”) to redefine the traditional patriarchal language for the country’s modern women.

Take, for instance, the typical Chinese character for peace (安), which depicts a woman (女) who stays within the house by covering it with a top radical (宀). To express how women in Malaysia are often segregated in public spaces because of Islam, the duo hacked the Chinese character for space (间) to insert the radical for a woman instead.

 This is just one of 30 characters Li and Hui designed for Women’s Words, a tiny red dictionary created with fellow Malaysian writer and researcher Tan Zi Hao. Created for a feminist art event in Malaysia, it’s just one example of how TypoKaki has been using typography and design to explore Malaysian culture since 2012.

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