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A Feminist's Guide to the 21st Century
Han Lee Hyebin  |  smt_lhb@sm.ac.kr
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승인 2017.03.04  23:25:40
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Kim Yunseok recently made a formal apology to his fans for his comment on stage at the opening of the movie 'Will You Be There (2016)', which was seen by many as sexual harassment.  Kim Yunseok’s fans voiced strong objection to the comment and presented him with a book on feminism.  Kim Yunseok quickly responded and uploaded an apology along with a picture of him and the fan who had presented him with the book onto his online fan café.  The book is much more meaningful than being a non-violent protest or a gift.  Let’s see just what the book represents.

 

   
PHOTO BY LHB

 

The Wave of Feminism in the Publishing World

The Sookmyung Times has regularly discussed misogynistic crimes that are of deep concern among Korean citizens.1)  For instance, on May 17, 2016, a 22-yearold woman was killed by a 34-year-old complete stranger.  He waited for her for roughly 50 minutes in the restroom of a karaoke bar in Seocho-gu, Seoul.  He defended his action by stating that he felt the need to kill her because he had been belittled by women on several occasions.2)  The brutal murder was referred to as the ‘Gangnam murder case’.  Many Korean women were angered by the mere idea that they could become victims of brutality for the simple reason that they are born female.  People looked towards feminism for the reason for misogyny, and it led to an unsurpassed wave of feminism.  ‘Misogyny’ has now become a very common term in everyday life in Korea.  It is easy to read comments like “Sookmyung should make Women’s Studies mandatory” on the Sookmyung Women’s University community bulletin board.  Famous broadcast programs like ‘We want the truth’ also did a number of features on misogyny, too.
The publishing industry has been one of the most ardent admirers of feminism.  On June 5th 2016, Team Femidia uploaded a new initiative project that focused on feminism as it is seen in daily life.  People generously sponsored the project by purchasing reward goods.  Finally, on June 24th, the project was released and received an overwhelming applause.  The project raised a total of 43,695,500 won and had 2,626 participants.  The success of the Tumblbug project by Femidia is the tip of the iceberg.  2016 marked a year of continuous focus on feminism in the publishing world.  Aladdin, the online bookstore, had a 178% increase in sales of feminism books for the period January to July 2016.  In addition, the online bookstore YES24, recorded a 114.7% increase in sales of books on feminism during that same period.3) At Sookmyung Women’s University’s main library, well-known books on feminism like ‘Egalia’s Daughters’ and ‘Bad Feminist’ held top borrowing rankings during the second semester of the school year.  Nowadays, people reading books on feminism are quite common, but why have Koreans become so obsessed with these books?

 

   
PHOTO BY KHA

 

Voyages to Feminism

The number of misogynistic crimes in 2016 has cast a fear across Korean society.  People are now curious about the causes of these crimes and misogyny itself.  Yonsei University Culture Anthropology Professor Kim Hyunmee said, “Women in their twenties today are concerned with human rights and democracy and have strong social capabilities, yet they are still the targets of sexualisation.  Women want to become main agents of knowledge and resolve the problems.”4)  After the Gangnam murder case, publication of books on feminism rose dramatically.  There was even a book about the Gangnam murder case within a month after the murder occurred.  
Today’s books on feminism are easy to understand while in the past, the books were mostly theoretical, which lead to a great gap between readers and feminism notions.  Current books on feminism break from tradition to provide readers with information that is written for the general public.  Lee Minkyung, author of the book ‘We need a language: feminism made easy to discuss’, said, “I wrote this book because I think young women need information that they converse on, not more theory or complex notions.”5)  Another popular book on feminism is the 2014 ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ by Rebecca Solnit.  It is a collection of several essays written by the author.  ‘Crocodiles Project’, illustrated by Thomas Mathieu, is a graphic novel that shows feminism clearly though comic strips.  Thanks to publication of various easy to understand books on feminism, the gap between readers and feminism has narrowed.  
The power of literacy is the biggest tool in the battle against misogyny.  Long throughout history society has not encouraged women to learn or better themselves.  ‘Learning to read and write’ would have meant that women could challenge male roles and positions.  In the introduction of the book ‘We need a language: feminism made easy to discuss’, there is an interesting claim on the lives of women.  ‘Women feel ‘uncomfortable’ when they hear words or see action, but they cannot articulate their emotions or the reason for their unnerving.  Reading books on feminism is a way to learn about feminism and arm oneself with the weapons to fight misogyny.  

 

   
PHOTOS FROM ALADIN

 

Travel to Feminism

While some people may say: “I’d like to read a book on feminism, but I don’t know which one to choose.”, fret not.  Here is a list of the top 3 books on feminism by The Sookmyung Times.  ‘Crocodiles Project’ is a graphic novel created especially for true beginners.  Thomas Mathieu makes people conscious of misogyny in daily life by illustrating men as crocodiles.  He said, “I want to tell people that misogyny in daily life is not only the problems of some men but also the problems of structure of society.6)  By comparing the life of crocodiles to women, readers are able to understand the harm misogyny has on society and become alert about it.  
Once you have discovered the joy of learning from ‘Crocodiles Project’, it is time to read ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf.  It is a classic novel read and studied worldwide.  As a student at Sookmyung Women’s University, you will have likely read this as part of the mandatory course, ‘Thinking and Academic Writing’.  The book is a collection of her extended essays and lectures delivered at colleges in the United Kingdom.  In the book, she makes an impassioned speech about the irrationality of the status of women in the twentieth century.  ‘A Room of One’s Own’ is considered a classic on feminism and will expand any reader’s levels of consciousness about feminism and literature.
After readying oneself with theory and information obtained from the first two books, SMT recommends ‘We need a language: feminism made easy to discuss’ written by Lee Minkyung.  The book captures feminism as it really is in society today.  It clearly highlights common arguments on misogyny.  Readers learn counter-questions, obtain definite answers, and so on.  The writer’s sharp words may shock readers, but the greatest benefit of this book is that readers are able to take arguments and counterclaims presented in the book and apply them to incidents and discussions on misogyny immediately.  This book is surely the weapon readers need to win any argument on misogyny.

 

   
 

 

One Trip Can Change Your World

If you think that feminism is a matter only for women, you are wrong.  Feminism is a subject for all people, regardless of age or gender.  Learning about feminism can break the glass ceiling of women and provide them with the opportunities to shine and show their abilities.  Feminism is the means by which the word ‘manliness’ vanishes from the world and brings freedom to men.  Surprisingly, becoming a feminist is not difficult.  Accepting the fact that misogyny exists is the start, but reading books on feminism is the way to study and correct the problems.  Don’t hesitate.  Grab one of the recommended books and start your journey to enlightenment.  Start a trip towards feminism by challenging yourself to read one book at a time.  It will change your whole world.  

 

1) Wee Hwang Jaeyeon, “I Will Teach You”, The Sookmyung Times, October 12, 2016
2) Claire Lee, “Gangnam murder case triggers debate on misogyny and mental illness in Korea”, Korea Herald, May 20, 2016 
3) Lee Yujin, “Feminism Publishing War!”, the Hankyoreh, August 18, 2016
4) JeongWonsik, “Women in their twenties lead the wave of books on feminism”, The KyunghyangShinmun, August 9, 2016
5) Kim Namjoon, “’Feminism made Easy written by a woman in her twenties in under 9 days becomes bestseller “, KukminIlbo, September 18, 2016
6) Lee Sea, “’I dread men’... French women also suffer from misogyny in daily life”, Womennews, July 6, 2016 

 

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