It’s been a while since the topics of feminism and #MeToo have hit the intraschool mainstream. It’s also been a while since I’ve had the urge to write this piece. For over a year now, I’ve contemplated over and over again on whether to write this column but always ended up deciding against it, afraid that I’ll add too much fuel to the fire or that the backlash will singe me to a crisp. Recent events have provoked a change of heart.
I’m sure some of you reading this right now are enraged just from reading the title alone. I want to start this monologue off with a disclaimer: in no way is this column condoning the actions of certain groups that are infamous for their extreme methods of protest. However, I fundamentally disagree with many of the talking points of my fellow peers who are so vehemently against feminism. Maybe some of you think the previous two sentences are contradictory in nature; this is the very method of thought that I wish to reform.
During the period of excessive discussion that ignited online forums such as KaDaejeon and Bamboo Forest a year ago, there were several arguments that the main opposition fervently reiterated whenever they were argued against: women in Korea are well-off compared to the rest of the world; crimes of a sexual nature towards women are not representative of society as a whole and should instead be treated as the acts of individual madmen; military reform and sending women to the military is of equal or greater priority; those who call themselves feminists are too self-centered and only care about women or express their opinions too aggressively to be taken seriously; and “feminism” as a word is inherently biased due to its etymological root, leading to the corruption of past feminist movements to whatever we have today, and the substitute “egalitarian” is better.
I am not an economist, so I cannot really speak for the existence of economic disparities between the two sexes. Even if such differences do not exist, however, to argue that women are treated equal to men is insensitive to other aspects of life that men may not be able to comprehend. It is abundantly clear that women are not equal to men in many social settings. The plethora of evidence from women all over the globe is undeniable at this point. I personally know more than a few women who have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted. With the recent Burning Sun controversy, we see an establishment that normalized and commercialized drugging and sexually assaulting women, as well as celebrities directly recording and distributing videos that were filmed without consent. Could something like this really exist in a society that treats women equally to men, and can we dismiss the perpetrators once again as just a few mentally ill individuals? The existence of such a heinous crime ring is symptomatic of — at the very least — a desensitized society.
This callousness is further manifested in the irony and hypocrisy that occurs when so-called anti-feminists call out more outspoken individuals on the Internet. A post with any mention of feminism or its ideals usually receives replies in the form of the Korean onomatopoeia for eating, belittling the writer of the original post for not conforming to their standards of beauty. A woman’s tirade about those abusing women is met with some vitriol about being selfish and having no empathy for suffering men, but calls for mandatorily enlisting women always tag along. What these critics don’t realize is that they are getting a taste of their own medicine. Those who resort to name-calling and insults about physical appearances are literally doing the things feminists are criticizing with good reason in the first place. And yes, going to the military feels like you’re on an expressway to hell and falsely accused men deserve justice, but where’s your empathy for all of the abused women who never had an opportunity to fight back?
The aforementioned go-to arguments for anti-feminists are as toxic as the words of radical feminists are to societal harmony. Neither is open for a more rational discussion and both are rather hellbent on self-benefit and superficialities. If we truly wish to eradicate non-healthy forms of political movements and banish the ideologues forever, the best and only way is by proving the radicals wrong and not letting them affect the hard work of the suffragettes who rallied to give women the right to vote and the second-wave feminists who aimed to create a more healthy perspective on sexuality and fought for reproductive rights. This includes the word “feminism” itself. Feminism does not inherently possess some natural bias towards women, just as the LGBT movement does not condemn heterosexuality. If you want equality between the sexes, you’re a feminist. And that is why we still need feminism in Korea.