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[Opinion] Life-related Feminism

Posted March. 10, 2008 03:00,   


In 1963, Betty Friedan’s argument that “the idyllic image of domesticity created by magazines and advertisements was merely propaganda that had trapped American women into an unfulfilling existence in the home” created a sensation in the American society. In her book “The Feminine Mystique,” which sold millions of copies, Friedan insisted that there is no such thing as “a happy housewife” and that women should free themselves from their husbands and child-raising and seek substantial sex equality and independent identities. Her messages on the right to abortion, maternity leaves and sex equality in employment and promotion became catalysts for feminism.

But Friedan’s way of combative feminism aroused “fear of castration” in men and “class antagonism” in women, and led to anti-feminism. It was women who led anti-feminism, too. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a professor of history at Emory University, argued, “Feminist elites forgot what really interests women.” Author Christina Hoff-Sommers, in her book “Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women,” criticized that radical feminists betrayed women by forcibly pushing forward the gender revolution as if those who are not on “my side” are all enemies.

Thanks to strong passion for education and feminist movements, the status and power of Korean women grew rapidly over the last few decades. Government bodies specializing in women issues were established, and hoju (head of household) system of family registration was abolished as well. The prostitution prevention act, which is the strongest in the world, is also being enforced. Even though the child-raising issue is still binding women, their social activity is expanding. With the adoption of the system of proportional representation for lawmakers and quota for female leaders, women’s voices are gaining power in the political and governmental arena.

Accordingly, many are expressing regrets to disruptive and combative feminism of ‘men are women’s enemy.’ Feminist movements that regard all men as enemies causes opposition in men. In women, such attitudes raise fatigue by spreading the superwomen syndrome that women should be perfect both at work and home. Celebrating the centennial anniversary of World Women’s Day (March 8), domestic feminism circles are showing attempts to change the focus of the feminist movements from the current “seizure of power” to life-related issues. The old feminist era in which a small number of women with big voices dominated the ‘fruit’ is coming to an end.

Editorial writer Chung Seong-hee (shchung@donga.com)