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How to Achieve True Feminism
  • Park In- kyu
  • 승인 2015.09.13 12:51
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Feminism has been debated in earnest since the beginning of the French Revolution. In fact, throughout history, women have been oppressed in all aspects of life, including politics, the family, occupations, and so on. This oppression has not yet been completely removed. The women’s suffrage movement began in the late 19th century. According to liberal feminism, the reason for the restriction on women’s participation in public affairs is in order to subordinate them to men. Therefore, women’s subordination will disappear once they have equal opportunities, according to the Doosan Encyclopedia. The following contexts will discuss what real feminism is, and what issues continue to be debated.

Ancient, Medieval, and Modern: Oppression to Liberation

Although the feminist movement began in the 19th century, its causes can be traced back to ancient times. Women in ancient times were completely ignored in the community. The reason for this is that differences between men and women originated in biological differences between males and females. Men always subordinated women in patriarchal societies. In other words, the then ruling class consisted solely of men, and this form of social structure was reflected in all parts of the community. These kinds of social structures limited women’s ability to manage their own lives. Such structures lasted until before the 19th century. Oppression remained strong at the beginning of the Middle Ages. These social structures, and the limitations they imposed on women, can be seen in the literature of the time. However, King Lear (1605), one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, shows women’s oppression and changes in women’s roles simultaneously. It is clear that Shakespeare takes an interest in good and evil. However, the purpose of the play is not to distinguish between good and evil, but to illuminate masculine attributes through women characters. The characters of Goneril and Regan in King Lear are known as typical image of women. For instance, Lear encourages his daughters to express their love for him, in order to gain the crown. Lear does not need to hear these expressions of love in order to make his decision, because he has already decided on Cordelia. Nevertheless, he held a conscious contest to induce his daughters to express their love. There are reasons that he wants to confirm Cordelia’s affection. However, Cordelia said “Nothing, my Lord.” Her answer rejects his oppression and discloses his misuse of patriarchy. In this manner, questions about the roles of women were being asked in the literature.

Men’s oppression was challenged directly from the 19th century. In addition, the construction of the concept of feminism began in earnest at this time. The decisive point was the French Revolution. As noted above, feminism is about women’s emancipation from men and the women’s suffrage movement, which was based on liberalism. Women can demonstrate their ability if they are given the same opportunities as men. Therefore, feminism means treating men and women precisely the same. Generally, the French Revolution and the birth of the Civil Code rationalized the exclusion of women from civic life. However, the French revolution was different from other revolutions. French women realized that they were no longer inferior to anyone. At that time, women insisted that femininity was not derived from biological sexual differences. Men, who were the ruling class, created it to maintain their authority. Although the French Revolution improved the situation compared with what existed before, it cannot be said that women were absolutely emancipated. In fact, during the 19th century, the progress of industrialization meant that women had difficulty combining the roles of worker and housewife. Eventually, it also attributes to irrational structure.

Feminism at present

Debates about feminism have flared up again in the early part of the 21st century. Though oppression has not been eliminated, the issue is under active discussion. The main point of the discussion is how to achieve true feminism. During that course of the discussion, there is a growing realization that feminism can easily breed misunderstanding. Therefore, some points remain in dispute.

The National Institute of the Korean Language defines feminism as men who are kind to women.

One of the problems is misunderstandings about what feminism is. Even the National Institute of the Korean Language defines feminism as a person who is kind to women, as can be seen in the picture. This is a serious error, and demonstrates the reality that people have a lack of awareness. As noted above, feminism means that both sexes are treated equally. This definitional error of definition is likely to be a major problem, because the fundamentals of feminism have not yet been put in place. The emerging issue of, so called ‘hate women’ comes from that misuse and misunderstanding of feminism.

Feminism, Sham Feminism, and Machismo

Actually, it cannot be said that people do not understand clearly what real feminism is. A great deal of misuse and misunderstanding is occurring at present. Because of this, feminism has taken the following forms, and these “side effects” come from misunderstanding and misuse. Originally, feminism meant that men and women are equal, i.e. gender equality. However, some women who misunderstand the meaning of feminism use it to imply the superiority of women. This situation can hamper the development of women’s liberation because, if some women accept a different meaning of feminism, they make the situation worse for themselves, for instance, by accepting the idea that “men should pay for meals,’ or ‘men should buy the house when a couple gets married.” Biased views such as these promote an extremely negative atmosphere. Men may also have biased views. They misconstrue feminism as meaning that women are superior, and they may become “women haters.” This process leads to the creation of the ideal of “machismo,” which completely ignores the strengths of women, and “sham feminism,” which equates feminism with women’s superiority.

How to Achieve True Feminism

Although feminism does not have a long history, women’s oppression by men does have such a history. It may therefore be reasonable that there are different opinions about how to achieve true feminism. However, does not mean simply that all differences between men and women derive from their biological differences. Not all women say that men must respect all aspects of women. At present, there are many different approaches to accomplishing true feminism. One approach suggests that the reform of irrational and oppressive social structures must take precedence. Discrimination in the workplace, especially, must be reformed, and it is often said that physical differences beyond their people’s control should be respected. Another approach to achieving true feminism suggests that, although irrational structures must necessarily be reformed, the first priority is for women themselves to realize that they are not inferior beings. Women themselves should demonstrate their ability in a variety of fields. These are not completely opposed ideas, but simply different opinions about what must be tackled first in achieving true feminism.

Feminism is still being debated

The content of feminism is so extensive that is not possible to convey all of its meanings. However, this paper summarizes feminism’s history, and the way in which disputed points have progressed. Women have been oppressed for a long time. Further, we still cannot say that oppression has absolutely disappeared, as many forms of oppression still exist in the workplace, home, and so on. Nevertheless, these irrationalities are ignored because of misuse and misunderstanding of the concept of feminism. In the present day, the issue of gender equality is inthe spotlight. Therefore, some people say “To achieve real gender equality, women should also have to undergo military service.” On the other hand, others say “It is a fact that women ae not given the same responsibilities as men.” These statement suggest that the speakers think “Why do men always only pay attention to military service and ignore oppression?’ Other speakers appear to be thinking, “Why do women think themselves inferior beings?” There is no right answer, but these debates are sufficiently reasonable to encourage people to seek true feminism. Finally, men and women are endeavoring together to achieve true feminism.

References- Distorted Femininity in King Lear by Me-Ae Kim

Park In- kyu  qkrb0591@ajou.ac.kr

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