Themed cafés can now be found as a complex cultural space. While they offer customers a place for relaxation, they also do much more. There are cafés like sleep therapy café, fishing café, and escape room adventure café. However, the book café is the most common and basic of all the themed cafés, so it is the most recognized. One such book café combines book reading and feminism philosophy. SMT reporter visited ‘DOING’ and learned about how the owners have merged being a book café, a gallery, a counselling center, and a place for promoting equality and change.
DO for changING
On February 6, 2017, the book café ‘DOING’ opened its door. It is a multi-cultural space aimed at instilling upon its guests feminism ideals through lectures, seminars, gallery exhibitions, and counselling, and it also provides shelter for those in need. Feminism includes various social and political movements and theories that identify relationships between women and men in order to reveal the suppression of women at social institutions and in prevalent ideologies. Beginning with author Mary Wolston who wrote <A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)>, feminism came to the forefront and led to equality with women’s rights and liberation. Modern feminism looks at gender diversity and gender identity transcending race, nationality, religion, caste, sexuality, and cultural diversity boundaries.
The wave of feminism in Korea began in the late 1980s when the power of literature and reading was strong. Rising interest in domestic female authors and increased access to the theory of feminism outside of Korea through translations were also huge factors behind the wave. Today, that profound link between feminism and literature has brought about great interested in the feminism book café DOING. However, DOING is not the first book café in Korea to blend the idea of books and feminism ideology. The first feminist café was established in 1997. Its name was ‘Goma’. It has long since disappeared but its objective was not forgotten, and 20 years later, DOING emerged.
Keep Calm and Feminism On
Except Sundays and holidays, the café opens till 11 p.m., which was great because this SMT reporter was able to arrive at the café at 9 p.m. and still have a couple of hours to enjoy the time. At first glance, the café appears to be just like any other regular café; however, along one side of the wall in the café, there are over 600 books aligned in rows and rows of shelving. The book topics range from gender-sensitive issues on feminism and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ), 20 various categories of readings on feminism as it appears in literature, philosophy, history, culture, science, politics, psychology, and theology. The books may are freely accessible to customers to read or purchase. The name tag on each items were listed on every square inch, so the SMT reporter, a novice in the field of feminism, found it easy to pick up the book. SMT reporter also noticed several books discussed in the article ‘A Feminist’s Guide to the 21st Century’ in the 333rd edition of The Sookmyung Times, so this SMT reporter felt more comfortable browsing the book titles.
After choosing a book, the SMT reporter found a comfy spot to sit and read deep inside in café. The spot, partitioned from the rest of the café by a glass window, is the counselling room. The inner walls were smooth and on them were neatly arranged paintings. The light delicately illuminated the space, making it a highly suitable atmosphere for counselling. The counselling room was large enough to accommodate 6 to 8 persons, so it was perfect for group counselling. The pictures on the walls made one stop and think, due to their unusual nature. Café DOING had, in this reporter’s view, captured the essence of operating as a café, counselling center, and gallery. The café is feminism themed, so all the artwork reflected the ideas and notions of feminism, human rights, and the environment. Since August to continuing until September, Lee Yoonkyung’s work was on display. The exhibition was titled ‘Each Face’, and this was Lee’s 3rd exhibition at DOING café. The exhibition is free, so customers can enjoy the paintings and photographs without financial burden, but if one wishes, the items are available for purchase.
The souvenir item shop at the entrance of the café is another interesting attraction of DOING. For purchase, customers have a selection of mugs, eco bags, smartphone cases, pins, buttons, and T-shirts, which all contain printed images related to the feminism movement and ideals. However, keepsake stickers from the visit to the café are also given to customers, so there is no need to spend any money. The café freely allows customers to take home stickers from inside the souvenir item shop. In the 334th edition of The Sookmyung Times in the article ‘Hey Boys, Nerf This!’, it was described ‘The National D.Va Association’, and this SMT reporter was interesting to see stickers related to it at the café. The SMT reporter was also pleased to take home, as a memento, an exhibition advert pamphlet.
The Visit in a Word
This SMT reporter would sum up the experience at the café as ‘DOn’t forget, IN society all Genders should be treated equally’. The café goes beyond people’s typical idea of book cafés. It is a place of ‘communication’ and ‘growth’ for true feminism. Even those not interested in feminism will not only find the place interesting but also lead themselves to find the inner value of his or her. At the café entrance, a guest signature book asks customers to complete this phrase: ‘Feminism will Make ( ) World.’ It was warming to read the heart-felt comments left by customers and to add to the book. If you find yourself with a bit of free time or have unanswered questions on feminism, café DOING is the place to visit.