Go to contents

[Opinion] Women’s Dignity

Posted October. 13, 2007 07:03,   


According to Yes24.com, Korea`s largest Internet bookstore, the number of female readers who bought self-management books last year alone quadrupled on a year-to-year basis. Although such advice books by the 1990s were mostly success stories of professional women, recent self-help books aimed at ordinary female readers are more popular. Such books are openly telling women “to become a cunning girl,” or “to become a bad girl.” Some books are even stirring feminist views among women who feel tired of such incitement, suggesting “they lead their lives as they wish without compromise.”

However, “Dignity of Women,” written by Mariko Bando, who served as Japan’s first female consul general and is now president of Showa Women`s University, is a bit different. “Do not say things in an unrefined way” and “do not bully the weaker” are just some of the messages Mariko Bando sends to women in a book that has become a best-seller in the country. The author states that women should not necessarily stick to the traditional female stereotype, but argues that they also should not be obsessed with money and power as men are.

Bando, who advocates a new morality for today’s women, delivers 66 pieces of advice, ranging from behavior to mental attitude. Some of them include “Do not follow a fad,” “No not expose the physical beauty of the body,” “Do not confess all your problems,” and “Learn names of flowers by heart.” However, her advice, which focuses on modesty and softness, receives a mixed response. Some acclaim her book as “good advice based on her many experiences, while some Japanese authors such as Shiono Nanami criticized it as a dull advice book aiming at producing unworthy women. In any regard, since it was published October last year, more than 1.6 million copies have been sold. It clearly shows that “Searching for dignity” is in full swing in Japan following “the nation’s dignity” which was the popular theme of the bestsellers last year in Japan.

What is the true dignity of a woman? This word reminds us of Doris Lessing, this year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature. She appears to be just an ordinary western grandmother, but her reflective remarks behind her generous looks clearly demonstrate the grace and dignity of a person who has had in-depth dialogues with herself for a long time. When she heard the news of her winning the Nobel Prize, she reportedly said in quite tone, “They (the Nobel committee) must have worried that ‘someday we should give her the prize.’” “Dignity” seems to stem from the attitude of not losing composure, moderation, and patience, while leading a life with utmost passion regardless of one’s sex.

Editorialist Huh Mun-myeong, angelhuh@donga.com