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The Feminist Movement: A Step Towards EqualityThe communication and solidarity among the members of society are necessary
  • You Eun-sun, Khang Seok-jun
  • 승인 2016.09.05 20:16
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▲ Card notes written by citizens to cherish the victims of Gangnam Station Murder and denounce misogynic crimes are preserved in the lobby on the first floor of Seoul Foundation of Women & Family.

/Photograph by You Eun-sun

   On May 17th, 2016, a woman was murdered near Gangnam station. The murderer explained that he killed her because he experienced women treating him indifferently in his daily life. This statement triggered the society to concentrate on the discussion about dominant gender inequality in Korea. Women shared their unfair and fearful experiences they had to face just because they are women in various social media and communities. To resolve this chronic issue, which has continued for a long time, feminists have begun to conduct movements and campaigns.


Misogyny, the explanation of gender inequality

   These days, “misogyny” has emerged as a topic and it is mentioned a lot when discussions regarding feminism take place. Feminists have been playing their roles in pointing out the misogyny prevailing in society and forming a discussion about it. They have argued that misogyny is a deep-rooted phenomenon across the society and it forces women to follow a stereotypical image of females, which has been distorted by male-dominated values.

   Feminists believe that misogyny is not a problem for a specific group of people, rather it is a problem happening in the general society because misogyny is not just hatred towards women but the thought regarding the state of women being in the inferior class compared to men. “Misogyny has its roots in the sexual discrimination, which has lasted for a long time,” said Lee Na-young, the professor of Department of Sociology in Chung-Ang University. She added, “Misogyny should be understood as the concept including values and social structural matters, not individual feelings.”


Social movements of feminism, running out of patience

   The public opinion against misogyny has flourished in Korea after the murder case happened near Gangnam station, debating over whether it is a misogynic crime or not. Although the police announced that the case did not correspond to a misogynic crime, a significant number of people including feminists assert that the incident occurred due to the misogyny in Korean society. “Gangnam Station Murder is one of the typical misogynic crimes,” said Park Jia, the head of Gender Equality Education Center of Seoul Women’s Association. Professor Lee Na-young also mentioned, “The murderer said he committed the murder because women despised him at ordinary times. We have to consider the murderer’s statement because the retribution for the contempt happens along the sense of superiority and social discrimination against women.”

   Gangnam Station Murder served as a momentum that increased the awareness of hate crimes including misogynic crimes. After the murder case, the expression of condolence to the victim has begun. People attached card notes denouncing misogynic crimes on the subway exit. Especially, women wrote notes about their unpleasant experiences related to misogyny such as daily gender discriminations as well as misogynic crimes.

   This series of movements have their significance in the start point of talking about women’s experiences in Korea. Women started to express that they are suffering from the gender discrimination and hate crimes, and to cry out for change. “Only few decades ago, the society just adjured women to be careful not to be sacrificed by the discrimination and crimes targeting women in Korea. However, women began to demand their due rights not to be sacrificed after the Gangnam Station Murder Case,” said Park Jia. The manager of a Facebook page called “Gangnam Station 10th Exit” commented, “After the controversy over the incident, women acquired the utterance to verbalize their unfair experiences caused by misogyny and gender inequality.”

   The coping methods some feminists use to demand gender equality became more determined. At first, mirroring sexist language and terms appeared online in places like “Megalia.” “Megalia” chose “mirroring” as a countermeasure to misogyny, which changes the gender of expressions that imply gender discrimination. “Megalia” users posted articles including “mirroring,” such as sexualizing of men, disparaging men, and organizing crimes targeting men, which have always existed against women in the actual society. Although the original site of “Megalia” is losing its strength, being divided into other sites and new communities that claim to be feminist appear, “mirroring” is being considered as one of the well-known responses to misogyny.

   Likewise, feminists are trying to declare their stance and explain the logic behind the movement by promotion. For example, “Megalia 4,” a Facebook page for postings regarding misogyny and women’s rights made and sold T-shirts with lettering “Girls Do Not Need a Prince,” which asserts women’s independence. In addition, “Women’s Generation,” an online community, most of whose users are women, run advertisements insisting on gender equality on the wall of subway stations.


Public controversy over the means of feminist movements

   However, people have revealed their worries towards several means that some campaigns adopted. There was a campaign in Insadong, which was held for two different reasons. One was to change people’s awareness on women’s periods and to highlight that they are not something to hide and be ashamed of. Another one was to campaign for the price cutting of Korea’s sanitary pads, which are about two times more expensive than other countries. While the intent was welcomed by most of people, the means provoked debates. Participants of the campaign stuck their used sanitary pads on the street or write the purpose of the campaign on the sanitary pads. “I think the reason for the campaign was very meaningful, but the way they organized the campaign seems a bit offensive,” said Moon In-hwa (Junior, Architecture).

   Also, “Megalia” provokes controversy over the degree of “mirroring.” Articles posted on the site contain disparaging men on the surface of them. A male student who wanted to stay anonymous said, “I believe some actions Megalians are taking could be seen as a vindictive movement and not for publicizing the inequality and fixing it.”

   As for the Insadong sanitary pad campaign, people who advocate the campaign claim it was the best way to openly discuss women’s periods, which has been seen as something to hide from others. “The Insadong campaign was just one way to reveal the issue in public. Personally I would more focus on the purpose of the campaign rather than the visual aspects,” said Seo Dong-keun (Junior, Business).

   Likewise, feminists contend that the discussion regarding the means of feminist movements obscures matters. Furthermore, they point out that there is a tendency to blame feminism unconditionally because of the partial controversy. Lee Jin-song, the publisher of “Quarterly Alone Magazine,” said, “We have to concentrate on the purpose of the movement, not the method.” She also commented that the efforts to distinguish “real” feminism from “wrong” feminism are of no importance.

   In addition, there is a concern about the misunderstanding over feminism. Oh Kyung-taek, the participant of “Feminism Summer Camp” held by the Facebook Page “Gangnam Station 10th exit,” mentioned, “Of course, detailed criticism of some communities are possible, but it is obvious that ‘mirroring’ was the effective measures in feminism movement,” and added, “The world that feminism aims for is not the society without men. It is important not to consider this matter as a conflict between men and women and react emotionally.”

   To resolve the argument, the proper understanding of feminism is necessary. There is a misunderstanding across the society regarding what feminism and misogyny are, and feminists assert that the misconception is one of the obstacles to gender equality. Park Jia said, “The controversy over feminism and misogyny is because there is not social consensus made regarding feminism and gender inequality, which means some people tend to think that gender inequality is not that serious and misunderstand what gender discrimination exactly is.”


The extended view of feminism; for the equality of all human beings

   The substance of feminism is not limited on women’s rights. Feminism can cover the freedom of every member in the society. Na-gi, from the UNNINETWORK, said, “The most important point of feminism is the biased social standard of women and gender role, not just the women’s issue.” Park Jia said, “The gender inequality comes from the gender roles set by the society. Additionally, feminism is not only for women but also for whole community including men because the extension of women’s rights will produce the real equality implying that nobody has to strive for the fixed ideal image depending on gender.”

   Feminism pursues the participation of various people in the movements including men as well as women. Ahn Seung-june, the participants of “Feminism Summer Camp,” said, “Men also have to participate in feminist movement because they also have the responsibility as members of society. The emancipation of masculine gender role will arrive subordinately when the feminist movement goes well.”

You Eun-sun, Khang Seok-jun  esyou05@dongguk.edu, seokjun29@dongguk.edu

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