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Is This The Only Clue to Misogyny?
  • 이정태 기자
  • 승인 2016.09.20 18:19
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On May 17, xxx, a man killed a woman, seemingly without any motive, in Gangnam station’s public toilet for both males and females. The police investigation concluded that the murderer had been suffering from a psychiatric disorder. This incident triggered a debate whether the murderer killed the woman because of misogyny or his psychiatric disorder. The police and many criminal psychologists said that this case cannot be considered a result of misogyny and direct criminal intent.

However, certain women strongly sustained that the murder was a result of misogyny. Despite limited reasons, they painted men as potential criminals. Their insistence led to a dispute on the battle between the sexes, notwithstanding the need for a rational solution. In the process of the dispute, a statement that says “killed because she is a woman, surviving because he is a man” became widespread, and signs that say “A society protected by men is not needed” and “The victim is killed because she is a woman” were paraded on streets.

Differences in position on the gravity of misogyny

A social environment where women have become criminal targets outraged women in general. Their anger was not formed only by the above incident. A few cases, such as the shooting incident in an office and a female patient killed by her doctor while undergoing endoscopy in 2016, have increased women’s anxiety. According to police records, the percentages of female felony victims were 72.2% in 1995, 83.2% in 2005, and 90.2% in 2013.

Women insist that the motive of these sexual criminals is misogyny, which is prejudice toward women. However, women and men see this issue differently. According to the survey conducted by the Korea Media Promotion Foundation on 1,039 adult women and men, 92.1% of women and only 63.7% of men answered yes to the question “Can hostility toward a woman be a crime that targets women?” Likewise, 78% of women and only 48% of men considered the Gangnam station murder a misogyny-fuelled crime. The results of the survey support the fact that women consider themselves a target of violent crimes and sexual assault and, thus, take the issue of misogyny more seriously than men.

Internet sites indicating hate toward the opposite sex

A manifestation of misogyny occurs actively in daily life and social network service (SNS) sites. A number of men make women the object of sexual jokes privately on Facebook or Kakao Talk. An example is the issue on sexual harassment on Kakao Talk by male students in Korea University and Seoul University.

Similar cases have happened in for-male-users-only online community sites, such as Ilbe. Ilbe is the short form for Ilgan Best (Daily Best) Storage, which contains political and humorous content. The main purpose of the site is not to hate woman, but many misogynist and women-abasement-related posts are recently uploaded. Hence, it is now considered a misogynistic site. Certain users, of course, deny this and say the site is not for misogynistic activities.

Does a misogynistic site exist? The answer is no. To fight against this kind of posts that hate women, a number of women create a site that does what “misogynistic sites” do: make men subject to hatred or misandry. Megalia is an example of this site. Its name comes from the Norwegian feminist novel Egalia's Daughters and the online discussion board called “MERS gallery” on the web forum DC Inside. The posts in Megalia blame men who belittle women’s physical looks and make fun of women as sexual objects; they also belittle men in the same way. Misandry sites also hate not only a specific person but the entirety of Korean men by generalizing men in the same way misogynist sites do women. Hate posts in these sites are severe and shocking to read.

Misandry site against misogynist site as “mirroring”

As misogyny and misandry have been systemized, the motive of such systematization needs to be determined. First, Ilbe is not originally meant to bear hatred toward women at first. It was established as a social forum site where one can post political opinions based on users’ far-right political orientation. Not a few posts targeting women were written, as most users were men. During the MERS incident in 2015, it had been rumored that two Korean women denied to be isolated in Hong Kong. Hence, certain men, including Ilbe users, called the Korean women “Kimch-nyeo,” which translates to “X,” and accused them of being a dishonor to Korea. Although the rumor turned out to be false, men did not stop attacking women. This led to women users of MERS gallery on DC Inside to create Megalia to fight against men in misogynistic sites such as Ilbe. This process can be considered “mirroring.”

Misandry sites’ activities mirroring those in misogyny sites

Case 1. Request to replace Jayeon Kim as a voice actress in Nexon game company, and a demonstration against it

Nexon, a Korean online gaming company, issued a notice to replace actress Jayeon Kim as its voice talent by an actor last month. The reason for replacing her was that Kim received a T-shirt given by supporters of Megalia and posted a shot wearing it. This made game users dissatisfied, hence, they requested Nexon to replace her. The T-shirt has a phrase that says “Girls Do Not Need A Prince.” Megalia users criticized Nexon’s action as unfair, as she was replaced for opposing misogyny. They held a demonstration in front of Nexon’s headquarters in Pangyo, Gyeonggi-do. Nexon explained that there was no breach in contract and it had already paid for her work. The company further said that they agreed to discontinue the contract and denied that it was an unfair dismissal. Kim also agreed to Nexon’s explanation. Nexon added that the T-shirt was not an issue; rather, her voice irritated game users during the controversy.

The problem did not stop there. Phrases used for protests became a problem again. Phrases such as “Dad, am I taken off when I’m 13?” and “Bring a child to the 1st floor, take her clothes off on the 11th floor,” among others, criticized a game character’s clothes design as inappropriate for the character’s age of 13 years. There is also a kindergarten school on the first floor of Nexon’s building. Megalia raised the issue of children in the protest. Those phrases were opened to the public through SNS sites, and netizens responded negatively saying that the mentioning of children regardless of the issue went over the line. However, Megalia users insisted that they only showed Nexon’s fault by “mirroring” and their protest must be abusive so that their behavior becomes correct and proper.

Case 2. The antifreeze incident

The antifreeze case was issued from the post written on the site Womadic, which is distinct from but similar to Megalia. Womadic and its founders tend to only focus on women’s issues instead of sexual ones, although they forgive political rightness. For this reason, Womadic users are considered to have more extreme feminist tendency than Megalia. The problem started since when Womadic posted: “When I added antifreeze to coffee and gave it to him to drink, he went to the hospital” and “I added antifreeze to coffee that a male consumer ordered in a café.” Antifreeze prevents automobile engine coolant from freezing. There is no immediate effect when one drinks a small amount; one of the long-term effects of drinking is accumulated toxicity in human nerve, heart, and kidney, among others, which can lead to death. A site user that took the statements seriously reported it to the police, which started an investigation of an attempted murder. Findings of the police investigation showed that the case did not happen. However, the police was shocked as the posts even explained how much antifreeze should be added to coffee and suggested to pay only by cash to avoid being traced by the police.

Is the “mirroring” in misandry sites helpful in reducing misogyny?

The dictionary does not accurately define “mirroring.” A number of feminist community sites, which use “mirroring” to fight against misogyny, define it as showing people’s fault by exactly doing the same thing. Is this a justifiable methods to fight misogyny? How can a woman easily bear an equation on all women under the gender, a lot of words belittling them and attacks saying 'That's what woman always does', etc.

Moreover, the problem with this kind of misogynist consciousness is that it can actually trigger incidences of sexual assault, thereby increasing women’s anxiety that they can be a target of a crime. Of course, there are cases of sexual violence based on misogynistic principles, but it is apparent that the misogynist comments on the sites occurred from the conscious degrading of women, and not because men solely disrespect women to satisfy their sexual desire.

No one can be sure that the murderer in the Gangnam station murder killed the victim due to his misogynist principles or mental. However, it remains true that women are increasingly becoming anxious because of men’s reactions to the incidents. Not every man is a potential criminal and makes women anxious. Seeing the result of the statistics that show more than 80% of the victims of felony, including sexual criminal such rape, is a woman, women’s anxiety is understandable.

Then, how can we reduce women’s anxiety? The reason why women are anxious is misogyny. Hence, Korea needs to eradicate misogyny in its society. Indeed, this process requires time and money, but there are many ways to achieve it. For example, define and include misogyny in the realm of police’s criminal investigation, similar to the UK. The British police defines misogyny as “crime objects to woman caused by man's wrong attitude toward woman.” The definition includes an action that several men commit only because she is a woman. For that reason, misogynistic actions such as catcalling are included as part of hate crime. Korea can reduce misogynist crimes by following the UK’s regulations.

Is it really a justifiable and right solution to resort to misandry to fight misogyny? The level of hatred on misandry sites has already equaled the level on misogyny sites. The antifreeze case, for example, will definitely not happen, but is not the idea itself is a problem? Certain site users say that their strategy “mirrors” men’s wrongful actions to make them recognize that their actions are wrong. The questions is whether men really feel ashamed of their behavior and reflect on their actions or whether they will be prepared to confront the issue. The bigger sword is not a solution against other’s threatening sword, as the bigger sword pushes others to find other threatening swords, which may lead to more bloodshed. When others’ swords are threatening, try to put it down first. To compare conscious hatred to a sword seems a stretch, but consciousness is not as threatening as a real sword.

The “mirroring” is not an appropriate way to put down a sword. It irritates other’s conscious hatred and foster more hatred. In a society that defines hatred as a criminal act like in the UK, “mirroring” is dangerous as it may encourage incidents of one misandry criminal attacking a misogynist criminal.

The users of community sites against misogyny have formed and used the site for this purpose. However, they need to consider whether the “mirroring” helps them achieve their ultimate objective and whether they are only expressing their anger and intending to revenge as a result of the misogyny-misandry dispute.

이정태 기자  jungtae4720@ajou.ac.kr

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