When you first hear “feminism,” what comes to your mind? Whatever you think, feminism is the belief and aim that women should have the same rights, power, and opportunities as men. Also, it is connected directly with Women’s studies which are concerned with women’s roles, experiences, and achievements. Here is a feminist association for your interests in women’s studies, SFA(Sookmyung Feminist Association). They resist patriarchy, spare no effort to be independent women and share tips on relationships between men and women. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met SFA and heard their story from Park Yeseul, the representative of SFA.
SMT Maybe, some students feel a little bit awkward to accept a feminist club or others may consider as a club just studying women’s studies. But I could know it’s not true from your club’s homepage. Please introduce your club, SFA.
SFA SFA is, in fact, a club studying feminism! In modern society, feminism is often treated as
a relic of the past - many people think that surely, since women are practically equal to men these days, feminism is no longer useful to the public in general. Some even think it is only useful for providing rhetoric for female chauvinists who think women are superior to men. Feminism doesn’t put women against men - it puts people, including both women and men, against the Patriarchy. Feminism is about improving the quality of every person’s life by realizing that since every person has the right to define themselves, we don’t have to follow gender roles forced upon us by society. So at SFA, what we do is talk about each of our lives and how we perceive the world. The books are supplementary - what we think about the world and how we live our own life is more important. Once we achieve a common conclusion, SFA members like to act on our thoughts - we participate in public protests (such as ‘Slut Walk’), we launch campaigns, and we change ourselves in small ways. For example, we don’t use paper cups in our club room. When we inevitably end up with a disposable cup, we wash it afterwards and use it as a flowerpot.
SMT How did SFA first start?
SFA SFA was created 12 years ago by a student who felt that what we were being taught in ‘Women’s Studies’ was not enough for her. It is somewhat depressing to think about nowadays, because at that time you could at least major in Women’s Studies in this school. She is now working as an activist for a human rights organization for ex-sex workers.
SMT What kind of activities are under progress?
SFA Aside from the weekly seminar, there are certain events we try to participate in every year, such as the Wednesday Demonstrations, the International Women’s Day events, the Korea Queer Culture Festival, and the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul. As for the school festival, because SFA isn’t one of the huge clubs with many members, we don’t always hold a booth, but when we do we try to promote a public cause related to feminism. In recent years we have been holding booths with ecofeminism issues. Last year we sold DIY kits for homemade menstrual pads; this year we plan to sell some of the basil plants we have been growing in our club room.
SMT In your post, I saw the statement, “Join us, someone who really hopes to develop fluent speech when you are faced with patriarchy in social life.” Do you think studying women’s study can solve the problems which women are facing everyday in society?
SFA As far as I’ve seen, most women and men feel that life is not fair for women. However, it takes careful examination of one’s ife to realize that we live in a social structure that is unfair to both women and men in regards to gender roles, and that internalizing those gender roles harms our possibility of true self-realization. Learning feminism is not the same as learning an academic subject. It is learning a different way of perceiving the world around oneself. Instead of merely feeling that life is unfair for you, that life is unfair for women, you can understand why the world is structured that way and how the structure works. Simply understanding the structure, knowing that you are one of the many who are tormented by the same type of people and being able to think outside of the Patriarchy, gives you the advantage in facing those people. Through feminism, you can also meet other people who share your awareness, others who have faced the same problems, which can be immensely helpful not only for sharing the strategies for survival but for your continued mental health.