▲ There has been a survey, which the Dongguk Post conducted, targeting 141 Korean university students in their 20s, asking if they have ever felt heterophobia directly. While 57 percent of them answered “Yes,” 43 percent of them said “No.”
▲ There has been a survey, which the Dongguk Post conducted, targeting 141 Korean university students in their 20s, asking if they think heterophobia is a serious social problem in Korea. While 79 percent of them answered “Yes,” 21 percent of them said “No.”
With the development of the Internet, people are able to express their opinions about specific issues more easily than before, where anonymity allows emotional arguments with more direct and provocative comments compared to face to face discussion in real life. Because of this, there are also serious conflicts arising between females and males as a result of incendiary comments on the Internet.
History of heterophobia
Heterophobia is not a suddenly-emerged phenomenon. It is the modern result of two older ideas. “Misogyny” refers to the hatred or dislike toward women. The word “Misogyny” can be found occasionally in ancient mythology texts. Also, various influential Western philosophers such as Aristole and Antipater of Tarsus have been described as misogynistic by despising women. On the other hand, “Misandry” means the hatred or dislike of men or boys, which appeared in the 19th century as a parallel form to “Misogyny.” The term “Misandrist” was first used in an English magazine, The Spectator, in April 1871. In the article, “The Illustrated Natural History, Reptiles, Fishes, Molluscs, &C” written by John George Wood.
Heterophobia on the Internet
Although hatred between men and women has existed from the past, as various cyber communities on the Internet have developed, the extent of the hatred is getting worse. Anyone can encounter the atmosphere of hatred directly on the diverse communities on the Internet. On a cyber community called “Ilganbest Jeojangso (Daily Best Storage)” community, also known as “Ilbe,” several users tend to write defaming comments on women with sexually offensive words a lot in every bulletin board. In addition, they create new words that belittle women such as “Sam-ill-han,” meaning man should hit woman once every three days and “Kimchi-nyeo” referring to some Korean women who tend to rely on men financially. The comments and writings made by Ilbe users brought about a public backlash over their malicious overgeneralization of the negative sides of women.
Meanwhile, one community that only women older than 20 years old can join in, called “Women’s generation,” tends to operate through the perspectives of women. However, because of the mistaken belief that women were using this board to express hatred or dislike of men, a huge number of people consider Women’s Generation as a community that aggravates the conflict between man and woman. One participant of Women’s Generation, who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “This community is not for expressing hatred of men. It is a place to share useful information for women such as cosmetic, fashion and something fun. I do not understand why Women’s Generation is treated as a women’s version of ‘Ilbe’.” In recent days, after becoming embroiled in controversy on abortion, which is about where to put more important between women’s rights and babies’ rights, the community closed several categories of bulletin boards. But, there are still active bulletin boards such as a board about comical days, called “Trace of Navel” and a board about daily fashion and cosmetic, called “Fatal Attraction of Estrogen.”
Another women-focused community is “Magalian” that is a compound word of MERS and a novel Egalia’s Daughters. Users of the community argue that Magalian is not a community of misandry, but it is for hatred of something misogynistic, which is the effect of “mirroring.” They explained that through this strategy, they transform the “Misogyny” terms into the “Misandry” terms, just like light reflects from the mirror, in order to show the males how it is like to live as a female in Korean society, hearing those disparaging terms from the men. They want the males to realize that those women-disparaging terms are violent and abusive by making them feel the same way. For example, in response to the Ilbe’s term “Sam-ill-han,” meaning that men should hit women once in three days, Megalian introduced a new term called “Soom-shil-han,” meaning that women should hit men every moment when they breathe.
The intensification of the competition between men and women
Misandry is known to be followed after the appearance of misogyny as a response. As looking at the causes of the “Misogyny” first from a social perspective, the primary reason why heterophobia has become more prevailing in the current society is the intensification of the competition between men and women. Professor Jo Dong-gi, from the Department of Social Communication noted, “The expansion of women’s social participation and the unemployment crisis between the young generations are thought to have aggravated such competition.”
The old Korean tradition, male chauvinism
In the past, there was a tradition regarding the men as more superior beings than women, called male chauvinism, which still remains in the current society. However, with the expansion of gender equality and women’s social participation, men have started to feel greater sense of crisis. Professor Jo explained that this is becasue as men began to compete with women more intensely, they have become to shift their economic anxiety to women who are the minority (Sociologically, a minority group is defined based on how much they experience socio-economic inequality, not on the proportion of the group).
A marketing strategy
The media also affect such heterophobia phenomenon as seen in several recent examples of using this matter as a marketing strategy, as a subject of advertisements. For example, the KFC Corporation, Kentucky Fried Chicken, was recently criticized by the public in October 2015 for including contents that show abasement of women. The advertisement drew an image of a couple with the man feeling upset because of a female who asks the male to buy a brand-name bag for her in a bid to make people associate the man’s angry emotion to the Hot Spicy Burger. This advertisement aroused controversy, which was thought to have negative perception towards women. In ways like this, Professor Jo criticized that the media can influence people to grow heterophobia. He added that considering how the commercial media and advertisement have a tendency to gain profits through exploiting consumers’ cultural codes, it can encourage people to have personal prejudices in line with what the media want. As a result, this generates discrimination in the society.”
Possible solutions on the heterophobia
››Reducing competition in the social structure in Korea
The solutions of the heterophobia phenomenon can be deducted through thinking about its causes carefully. First, the competitive atmosphere in the social structure should be alleviated. Professor Jo said, “According to the result of sociological research, the biases and discrimination towards the opponent group disappear if the competition between groups disappears. However, regarding the fact that people are currently under global trends of neo-liberalism, reorganization of industrial structures, and changes in the demographic characteristics, it seems fairly difficult to implement a coherent policy that can solve this problem.” In other words, such solution is something that should be pursued with a long term view.
››Expanding gender equality
Second, gender equality should be more expanded. Gender discrimination has always been a serious issue due to traditional male-dominated culture in Korea. The process of rapidly implementing gender equality in our society has led to the resistance by some male groups with vested rights, and this is considered to be the mentality that ultimately changed into heterophobia during recent times.
››Promoting active communication between men and women
Third, which is a more short-term solution, more active communication between the genders should be promoted. Instead of only looking at the negative sides of the other gender, efforts to see the positive sides are needed, with a more open-minded and cultural relativism-oriented attitude. This solution has a thread of connection with the present situation as the gender ratio is lopsided on the Internet communities such as Ilbe and Women’s Generation, which hinders them to have logical and rational discussion. For instance, Women’s Generation only allows females to join the community. Also, according to a survey done in 2013 by Ranky.com, which is an online research site, 75.8 percent of the whole visitors of “Ilbe” was male.
The heterophobia phenomenon is not a complex problem, which is made through the combination of various social, cultural, and economical factors, which instigates the confrontation between men and women. The results of a survey, which is shown above, regarding how students in 20s think of heterophobia present its prevalence among the current society. Thus, Professor Jo suggested, “University students should show efforts to grow cultural competence of trying to understand the oppostite gender,”and added, “Throughout the university life, students should do a lot of work and activities that will help them to cultivate an open-minded view.”
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