Can you imagine a country where women cannot vote nor drive? Saudi Arabia allowed women to vote in 2015; the right to drive came last year. Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that women should not be forced to wear traditional clothes, called Abaya, in an interview with the U.S. station CBS on March 18. Since Mohammed bin Salman is the number one successor of the Saud family in Saudi Arabia, the remarks were somewhat shocking in Saudi Arabia, an ultra-conservative Islamic state. In this way, even in countries where most human rights for women are not guaranteed, the world is making efforts to improve women’s rights. In this vein, the Argus checked up what was happening in our society.
Women are trying to get freedom
Why do people not say the word ‘period’?
Women in Korea have lived without publicly telling stories about their sexuality and body functions, such as saying “magic” instead of the more casual misnomer of ‘period’. Now women are more freely talking about their bodies.
More and more channels have begun to talk about women’s bodies on YouTube. The YouTube Channel Dot Face uploads videos related to women’s masturbation and physiology. In addition to Dot Face, many related videos are showing up online.
Why should women cover their breasts?
Women are now trying to escape the redemption of their bodies. It is a movement to change the duty of the appearance standards which are thought to be essential for women, such as makeup, to choose.
There are more and more women who enjoy being makeup-free, wearing pants instead of suit skirts, or wearing glasses instead of contact lenses.
Women are also increasingly choosing freedom from wearing underwear. The bralette, which means a single brassiere of lace or cotton without wires and caps, has become very popular. Regardless of chest size, women are beginning to put value on the idea that it is beautiful to reveal the shape of the breast comfortably and naturally.
Freedom from responsibility
Women have begun to try to be free from the obligations that had been considered essential to them in the past. Previously, women were discriminated against in that they were deemed to marry, give birth, and do domestic work for the family.
However, these days, things are beginning to change or even out. For example, the proportion of men participating in housework is increasing, and the proportion of women not considering housework to be their own work is increasing. Some people even choose not to conceive a child.
Further, there are those who want to remain in a no-marriage state, like doing a “no-marriage wedding” and putting on “no-marriage rings” in celebration of such an idea. It is not held by single people who have not yet married, but by the non-married, if that makes sense.
A student of the Dept. of German said, “I think that if I get married, I could not avoid having children. This is the biggest reason not to think about marriage. I think that if I had a child, I would influence my time and economics in many ways from my work life to my leisure life.”
Why are gender stereotypes changing?
Women’s self-awareness through the formation of discourse
One cause of these phenomena is that the discourses about women and feminism have been actively maintained. The story of feminism continues on SNS such as Twitter, and discourses are constantly being formed. Various books related to women’s issues are being published, ranging from feminist titles such as “We Should All Be Feminists,” “Bad Feminists,” to the novels such as “Kim Ji young born in 1982.” The emergence of these books and that they are read a lot can be the cause of these phenomena in addition to various online and more traditional media influences.
It can be said that these phenomena have emerged as a result of a change in the age of education, which is now at a more equal level than ever before in history.
In the past male-centered Confucian society in Korea, women did not receive the same education as men, but now they receive the same education. In fact, more women are obtaining higher education than men in Korea. From 2009, college entrance rates for girls have surpassed college entrance rates for boys, for example, and the gap has been widening ever since.
What are getting in the way of change?
Those who obscure the essence of the gender equality movement
There are people who blur the essence of the movement, saying that women go beyond gestures of freedom to gender equality.
The “Pence Rule” came from an interview in 2002 with the Congressman Mike Pence. He said that “I do not have a private meal with a woman except my wife. I also do not go drinking without her.” In Korea, the Pence Rule is a movement to not create a situation where men do not make a situation with a woman, or to minimize any physical contact, such as a handshake or a conversation, so as not to be misunderstood.
A solution avoiding the existence of women has the limitation of blurring the essence of the movement to overcome the traditionally sexist structure of society, because men are still socially vested. There are also some people who say that men encounter reverse discrimination. For example, there is a book “Kim Ji hoon born in 1990” which is in crowdfunding at present. The writer said that he prepared this book to appease men in the 90’s who suffered from reverse discrimination.
There is a limit to aggravating sexual confrontation by escaping the essence of the movement that moves on the equality of gender, because they are turning their anger on women, not the state, the system and the social structure, and blaming them.
People who are not interested in this movement and do not know
Even in this situation, some people think that they have not experienced inequality in society, and some people do not even recognize the existence of inequality.
Singer Choi Soo-young said in a reality program that when she had read the book “Kim Ji young born in 1982”, she realized that the things she had not been thinking about was discrimination she had received unjustly only because she was a woman.
Many people are aware of gender discrimination and are working on gender equality, but there are limits due to the fact that there are a number of people who don’t know about this actual topic.
Why is society continuing its efforts to promote these women’s rights? It is because women’s rights are lower than men’s rights. It is an inevitable move towards an equal society. There is the saying, “If replacing ‘How can a woman’ with ‘How can a person’ sounds ridiculous, it was a ridiculous thing to say to begin with.” We need to think and be more sensitive when we say something like this. Now we are all undergoing a transition to an equal society.
By Han Byeong-ji
Reporter of National Section