“We are not flowers, we are flames.” SFA neither accepts society’s common stereotypes nor prejudices against gender. Instead, it works to change preexisting discriminatory ideas. From planning on-campus events to creating subway station advertisements, SFA not only represents Sookmyung’s feminist power, but also influences the entire society. SMT reporters met with SFA, holders of the key to the freedom for women, who desire worldwide change through feminist power.
Before getting started, would you please give our readers a brief introduction to your club, Sookmyung Feminist Association?
SFA is short for Sookmyung Feminist Association. SFA was first established in 1998. 2018 marks its twentieth anniversary. It is a group comprised of people interested in women’s studies and the practice of feminism in everyday life. We aim at discovering our true self and making decisions on our own. To do this, we study and engage in various activities. Along with other activities, we read feminism books, watch movies, plan projects, and go to protests together as a club.
This year, SFA worked on many impressive projects such as feminism advertisements and Femi-Night. How does SFA decide its topics and work to spread issues? Where do ideas and inspirations come from?
The preparation process depends greatly on the type of event. Ideas usually come naturally. Most of the time, someone starts a discussion on a particular topic they currently have interest in. Then, people who like the idea gather and work together to make the project work. SFA believes ideas come from everyday life. In other words, feminism exists in daily life. SFA holds its procedures in an air of comfort. People start with a story or experience that occurred since the last meeting for instance. Sometimes, even though club discussions get off topic, good ideas come to light.
SFA has clearly planned and engaged in many beneficial activities. It’s hard to center on just one, but in your opinion, what is the most memorable event SFA is proud of?
President: 2016 Cheongpa Festival ‘Bozi Jom Bozi’ – This project started from an idea I proposed, making it more special to me. Of course criticism was inevitable. Looking back, I think the public at that time might have felt uncomfortable with the title. Still, the event’s purpose was meaningful and SFA is proud that people left the event with more self-confidence.
Co-President: 2018 Cheongpa Festival ‘Sookmyungians’ Femi-Night: Nol-a Bozi’ – The goal was to create a comfortable place for women to bond and share thoughts on topics like prostitution, menstruation, feminine products, and corsets freely. Many students understood the events intent, and participation was close to 100. We were very surprised and grateful.
You’ve likely encountered problems and issues putting on events and activities. What kinds of problems have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Like we said earlier, the idea of feminism is unwelcomed ideology to some people. Sometimes, SFA cannot plan events and projects that suit everyone’s taste. However, we never give up on trying to bring to the public’s attention to topics that should be discussed with perseverance. Sometimes, our work is reevaluated later. For instance, I often read post-event comments like: “The SFA event changed my view” and “I’m now more confident with my body” on the student community board. I enjoy these types of feedback comments. It’s never easy to overcome criticism, but we push on, reevaluate our aims, and persevere.
The banners around Sookmyung Women’s University Station have impacted society so much that Seoul Metro has recently decided to ban certain adverts that express opinions of individuals or organizations regarding to sex, politics, religion, and ideology. What is SFA’s opinion on this new regulation?
All adverts are created by individuals and organizations to spread their opinions. What advert doesn’t contain an opinion or message? With that said, there are a lot of misogynic advertisements at subway stations. For example, the walls at subway stations in busy areas are filled with plastic surgery advertisments. They promote the idea of beauty and a happier life after plastic surgery. These are clearly related to lookism and negatively affect women. Hence, Seoul Metro’s ban on advertising, under the idea of promotion of feministic opinion has sparked controversy. Opinion advertising is good-looking but deceptive pretext. In other words, this ban is aimed at suppressing feminism advertisements.
SMT believes Sookmyungians are interested in women’s studies and would like to learn more, but feel confused because they don’t know where to start. Would you recommend some starting books, or movies, or any other content to get them started?
Getting started with women’s studies is hard to define. However, as a starter and as a means of dissolving the repulsion towards feminism, I recommend the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of <We Should All Be Feminists(2014)>. The lecture is the basis for the book. I also recommend <I Am Not an Easy Man(2018)>, a film that has recently drawn big interest. It deals with gender-swapping like the world in the novel, <Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes(1977)>. The idea of “gender-swapping” clearly shows what is wrong with society. However, if one is interested in deeper studies, I recommend <Challenge of Feminism(2013)> by Jung Huijin. Most feminism books are written by western writers and translated into Korean, but they lack connection to the Korean context. This book, however, is written by a Korean female women’s studies scholar and examines issues in Korea like the military and ‘comfort women’, so I think it’s an excellent book for people taking up an interest in women’s studies in Korea. <Gender and Society(2014)> also deals with various topics like boy and girl bands. So I recommend reading <Challenge of Feminism> after reading <Gender and Society>.
What are the future plans and goals of SFA?
Recently, there have been young teen girls coming out as feminists and receiving unnecessary backlash and bullying for it. What makes matters worse is the pressure placed on them by teachers and society. We are in the planning stage so SFA members are just tossing out ideas at the moment. SFA has a long history, and I mentioned it’s now 20 years old. I’m proud of our history, but I feel bitter at the same time. If feminism had reached their objective, SFA might have dissolved long ago. It’s bittersweet for SFA to have to continue for years to come. I hope SFA continues to work towards its goal until the day SFA is no longer needed.
Lastly, would you like to leave a final message for Sookmyungians?
I started here at Sookmyung Women’s University as an undergrad in 2014. Having spent 4 years already at Sookmyung Women’s University, I’ve noticed a changed atmosphere of Sookymyung and different social atmosphere. I think Sookmyugians made these changes. One example relates to sexist comments at the school, which have been the topic of criticism for a long time. From this semester, gender equality will finally be added to the higher practice of professors. We accomplish inspiring deed. I have seen lots of real change. It has been a long process, but change is inevitable. We must not break during hard times, but work to support each other and do our best.
* SFA (Sookmyung Feminists Association)
- A group of Sookmyungians who study and practice feminism in everyday life
- Carried out and participated in various events such as the Cheongpa Festival booth ‘Bozi Jom Bozi’, censure condemnation of professors who made sexist remarks ‘We Want to Stop Hanging Up Posters’, and Union of Universities’ Women Units’ Me Too supportment petition ‘It Is Not Out Fault’
Kim Lee Jihyun / Editor-In-Chief
Kim Hong Taeeun / Society Section Editor