“It’s ridiculous. There are no women wearing a suit. Men are spreading their legs. A man is even sleeping, leaning on somebody else’s shoulder. Only a woman takes care of her child, and someone who is laughing for a male senior is also a young female. So, is this a ‘cheer up message’ from Seoul Metro? Do you really think it is?”
Since 2015, feminism has become a hot issue in Korea. The feminist movement, which was spread through SNS, is getting bigger day by day. People are realizing how the media delivers misogynistic messages and takes discriminative perspectives against women. However, some people argue that feminism is another form of gender discrimination. Also, there is a perspective which contrasts misandry and misogyny through feminism. Is it a right perspective? Does feminism compare men with women? This article provides insight into feminism.
What is FEMINISM?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’ Feminism is a movement or a theory which describes and study the situations of oppressed women and sets a goal for women’s liberation. This word is clearly distinguished from female chauvinism and gynocentrism. The nature of feminism is the realization of gender equality through increasing women’s rights, which have been relatively lower than men’s rights.
History of Feminism
The history of feminism starts from the movement for women’s suffrage, which arose in the UK and US in the 19th century. If you watched the movie “Mary Poppins”, you would remember the mother of the children holding a sign that says “Vote for Women!” When the Absolutism collapsed following the western European Civil Revolution, a democratic society was formed. However, at that moment, women were not recognized as citizens and were not given right to vote.
The first wave of feminism took place in the late 19th century. The goal of it was to open up opportunities for women. They argued that women should be given the same rights as men. Accordingly, New Zealand granted women voting rights for the first time in 1873, followed by Australia which did in 1902, Finland in 1906, the US in 1920, and finally the UK in 1928. This is called ”the first wave of feminism”, and the feminism in this period is called ”Liberal Feminism”.
The second wave of feminism began in 1960 and continued through the 1970s. The feminism that emerged in this period is known as “Radical Feminism”. Gender equality in employment, the right to enter prestigious men’s colleges, the pro-choice movement, and the civil rights movement were pursued by feminists during this period. Feminism in this period reveals radical characteristics. The feminists argued that discriminative customs as well as misogynistic policies, such as patriarchy, should have been abolished.
In the third wave of feminism, many different categories of feminism emerged. Following the departmentalization of feminism, discussion as to sexual minority groups arose. Studies have found that there are a number of layers to feminism issues. For example, there are huge differences between 30-year-old Hispanic women and white women in her 50s. Also, lesbians are very different from heterosexual women. Accepting the diversity and recognizing the rights of sexual minorities are the key characteristics of modern feminism.
1. Distribution of chores among family members and the devaluation of household labor
In Korea, there is an old saying that males should not enter kitchen. Conservative Korean values confine domestic responsibilities only to females. According to one article in Donga Ilbo dated May 8, 2016, even for a couple that both work, there is a significant gap between the hours spent on chores between males and females, males spent about 16.8 minutes a day while females spent 192.2 minutes on average.
Feminists say that patriarchy empowers men to avoid carrying out domestic duties . Women become second-class citizens when they only perform domestic duties. As a result, house chores become an obstacle in achieving self-realization. Moreover, the perception that chores are only for females devalues women workforce as being unimportant segment of the society. The feminists’ aim is to build a society in which women are able to freely enter the workforce.
2. Career discontinuity caused by marriage and pregnancy
According to the Korea Employment Information Service, 90% of non-working women in their 30’s have discontinued their career. 57% said it was because they had to provide care for their child, while 36.3% said it was because they had to carry out domestic duties. Marriage and pregnancy are by far the biggest causes of career discontinuity. Feminists consider career discontinuity as one of the most significant problems. Feminists believe that the problem can never be resolved unless institutional discrimination disappears. Radical feminists argue that conscious discrimination is connected with career discontinuity. Today’s feminists argue that social awareness should be raised at the same time as encouraging female social participation.
3. Misogyny and Femicide
At 1 am on May 17, 2016, a woman was stabbed to death in a restroom near a karaoke bar in Kangnam Subway Station in Seoul. The male perpetrator confessed that he committed the crime because he had been ignored by women. Women are terrified that they could be the target of a similar crime. Femicide is one extreme form of misogyny.
It is hard to say that this is only a simple case of murder. The misogyny prevalent in our society has taken an extreme form. According to the violent crime report of Statistics Korea, 83.8% of the victims in violent crimes were women. So, the situations like these are outcomes that stems from Korea neglecting misogyny. In feminism, it is a pyramid structure of power between strong males and weak females. Feminists must rear up to reduce the harm from this authority structure.
Feminism is Equality
Many people think that feminism is protecting women’s rights. However, it is quite different from public’s perception. Feminism does not contrast men with women. Rather, it recognizes women as humans and fights against human rights violations. Therefore, feminism should not be thought of as protecting women’s rights, but should be seen as a human rights movement.
By Yun-Ju Sim, By CP Reporter -
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