To avoid harsh sexist comments or to find a job, some women think they need to lose their femininity and become more masculine. There is an underlying perception that being feminine is inferior to being masculine. However, comparing femininity and masculinity is like comparing apples to oranges; in other words, they’re different and as such cannot be compared. SMT met Lee Jaeeun, author, former reporter, and current representative for Women’s Life School, to learn more about the right view towards femininity and the true meaning of ‘gentle power.’
Please tell us a bit about the Women’s Life School?
The School mainly operates as a career school for women, offering coaching and guidance to women, but it also counsels women on relationships such as work, dating, and friendships. At the moment, we have a lot of women seeking advice on dating. After graduating from post-secondary education, you are left on your own without a teacher or professor to mentor you through any career crisis. Women’s Life School is 100% focused on women, and it helps them to see what they truly want out of life.
What made you found Women’s Life School?
Women career education should differ from men career education. Men and women think different and use a different language set, both written and verbal. Generally, most career help is male-oriented, and even the language used in that area is masculine and geared towards men. Therefore, when women want to express how they feel, there is no outlet for them to truly express themselves. Even among the same gender, people face different issues related to race, age, or patriotism. Even the range and depth of one's emotion is very different. After completing my book ‘Women’s Life Dictionary’; a self-help book about feminism and women’s thoughts, I received numerous e-mails from women all over the world and was requested to lecture on the book’s theme. It was then that I realized what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. After completing the book, I needed a space to carry out my work and help women with life issues.
Women’s Life School does not hold the typical image of school. Could you shed some light on its differences and uniqueness?
While there are plenty of career path help schools in Korea, Women’s Life School is the only one focusing entirely on women. Also, the school is not all about the lecture and license certificate study. It’s a synthetic school that helps guide women through barriers orchallenges in life. Women’s Life School concentrates on a person’s intuition and the things you ‘just know.’ I’ve studied a lot about intuition and use colors, picture cards, and many other materials to pull out a person’s true desire in life. Deep inside somewhere you already know what you want out of life and what you truly wish to do as a career to meet your desire to be happy.
What made you leave a 7-year reporter career to enter a new vocational area?
The power to face uncertainty came slowly for me, but by testing the waters and learning about different fields of study, what I really wanted became clear. Working at a feministic magazine, the idea of feminism literally was, and still is a part of me. I started in the area about 10 years ago when the idea of feminism was considered an action only pursued by few women. However, feminism is the true pursuit of equality between genders. It is based on open-mindedness, which is both basic and self explanatory, and is the reason I wanted to spread the idea of feminism throughout society as a reporter. However, short-term writing soon became unfulfilling, so I took a leave of absence from work to write a dissertation paper. By majoring in education, I was able to focus my paper on sexism in school textbooks. This naturally led to my desire to teach gender studies and open Women’s Life School.
What is the most memorable change you’ve managed to bring about with the Women’s Life School?
One day a nurse came to the school, complaining about her stress level and wishing to quit life. Through counseling, I was able to learn she was traumatized as a child from her father’s constant yelling. The stress at work was triggering her suppressed traumatic experience. During an operation, doctors tend to become pushy and authoritative, which is very similar to her experience as a child. Hence, the yelling petrified her. When one’s self-respect is hurt at work, people conclude that they’ve made a mistake in their career choice, but in reality, that hatred of work is only 20% of one’s emotion. The remaining 80% is still the love one feels for the job. She contemplated immigrating to another country and giving up being a nurse entirely, but through counseling she made a slight career adjustment and is happy now. She no longer assists in the operating room, but continues to work as a nurse. Her life has changed so much and she is now so happy, which has brought about a new sense of accomplishment for her. This is something everyone needs to realize.
Women entrepreneurs face difficulties. How have you coped with these hardships?
Even now, being a young career woman is hard in the real world. Basically, you are viewed as weak and even though you seem to be receiving respect, the words used by people are not deep-felt. Women suffer emotional trampling from little things as sexist comments to big issues that affect work. In my early 30s, I was straightforward and believed it best to act and be strong. However, I now have a more broadened view that I came to see through my work and study experiences. There is a line inside me that tells me what is really worth fighting for. When something crosses that line, I risk everything and fight for it. For instance, someone once published something about my book without my permission. I warned the person not to publish it, but they did not heed my words and published it anyways. I took the person to court. I fought hard and in the end I won the case. Even in a vertical relationship and you are scared, there are lines that need to be drawn. Crossing those lines is an insult of one’s character. The basis of those lines must be “I will not let anyone trample me.”
How do you feel about our university’s moto, ‘Gentle power to Change the World’?
Gentle power does not mean that the style itself is soft. It implies that the power that flows out of a person is not forceful or authoritative but gentle. True gentle power makes people trust you and follow you without realizing they are being lead. This does not arise from being soft or engaging in soft relationship but from self-confidence. Being mentally independent is important. You need to be able to say clearly, “I am a self reliant, self-assured person doing ( ),” with one’s own words. During my studies, I would often hear professors and teachers say, “Because you are a woman, you will face discrimination. You need to learn to cope with it.” There has never been any positive gender identity education. Being a woman has its advantages, and if you are sure of yourself, typical discrimination just bounces right off you.
• Representative for Women’s Life School
• Adjunct Professor Hanlim University Job Center
• Author of ‘Women’s Life Dictionary’ etc.
• Women Times Reporter