An Introductory Manual for Those Who Have Not Yet Become Feminists
An Introductory Manual for Those Who Have Not Yet Become Feminists
  • Lecturer Oh Hye-min
  • 승인 2019.12.05 12:36
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Lecturer Oh Hye-minKorea National University of Arts
Lecturer Oh Hye-minKorea National University of Arts


Resolute Courage within Silence
If someone asks me to introduce to her the most capable feminist, the first to come to mind is the students who resolutely express their opinions even while silent in class. In an ideal educational environment, everyone must feel secure, be able to express their opinions, and have the chance to actively discuss such opinions, but the real-life educational environment often has its limits. Specifically, the less the environment accommodates feminists, and the more students who voiced their opinions were cast under a spotlight, even to the point, where it seemed as if their comments had been planned. After experiencing this discomforting situation with many people staring at them, the next strategy the students adapted was silence. And most of the students, although they could choose to take a difference stance, persistently expressed a quiet but resolute silence towards me, an educator who they could count on to be a feminist. Non-verbal communication, such as miming, eye movements, and facial expressions, were silent but contained more words than a hundred. This was also a dynamic process in which the students constantly provided themselves questions and topics to contemplate, empathizing and exchanging energy with each other. Therefore, within this dynamic silence that had been exercised resolutely, there was a power that would erupt even in the slightest change of atmosphere. This resolute courage that withstood the stigma attached to feminists that they are “noisy, sensitive stuck-ups who make everyone uncomfortable” and those who defied the feminists based on their fictional definition of “one true feminism” easily earned a voice just by the fact that there were less or none of these problematic people around them. This courage that quietly and powerfully retained its place whilst reducing unnecessary energy use is also a solid procedure that has expanded feminism over centuries.

Encounter of the Anti-suffragists and Anti-feminists across a century
In 2015, Saudi Arabia was the last to recognize women’s suffrage around the world excluding the Vatican. It was an achievement attained over a period of 122 years since 1893, when female suffrage was first recognized by New Zealand. Although it took a long time, female suffrage became such a natural right that it no longer requires any explanation for its implementation. 
Last year, the British press reintroduced cartoons that mocked the British suffragists and suffragettes1  of the early 20th century to reflect on their one-century-old history in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first suffrage.2 The terror that female suffrage will destroy the family structure and burden men with all the housework, the fear that radical suffragists will execute violence on men, mockery that women unloved by men become suffragettes, and satirized female characters that contained arguments claiming “if suffragists choose a more moderate method than the current method, their demands will be addressed” were introduced altogether. Now that “the history of the winners” has been created, we can laugh off these signs of “fear” that were expressed in due of a social change, but for those who exercised for the female suffrage, this sort of ridicule would have been an element that caused anger and despondency.
However, although empathizing with the anguish of those of a century ago, the first hope I found was ironically in that the anti-suffragette propaganda’s content and process of dissemination is so familiar to the narrative of anti-feminism, anti-feminist of today. I also realized that arguments that are now considered “too radical” may sound natural in a different context. The second hope resides in the fact that a similar set of rules, such as stigmatization, ridicule, and “sincerity” debates, is repeated in tactics adapted by those who ignored redresses for social change a century ago. This sort of mockery is no longer a threat, and the discovery of fear behind such ridicule conveys the possibility and courage to tear down the social structures that seem so sturdy and dismaying.  

The Unattainable Fantasy of “One True Feminism” and A Thousand Feminisms
I define feminism as every attempt to track and shake the dichotomous order that is deeply affecting all our perspectives and thoughts; from perception, language, and knowledge, and acknowledgement of the problem of the society that classifies human as “female” and “male”, based on the dichotomous “sex” and to the social norms that this classification has produced. And, therefore, as people who live in a society in which everyone wonders what gender you are before you are even born and defines you and what rules you should follow based on your gender, everyone has the qualifications and the right to be feminists. Moreover, I agree with the argument that a thousand feminists create a thousand feminisms based on the idea that the social order and the multi-layered aspects of oneself are bound to clash constantly, because everyone has complicated identities that cannot be defined by a single word.
Finally, suppose you have a definition of your own of “one true feminism” and you want to criticize the present feminism, but that is why you are having a hard time declaring yourself as a feminist. You will be despondent by the fact that you cannot define “the present feminism” you want to criticize due to its complex nature, but there is no need to give up here. The feminism you wish to define will be one of the thousand feminisms that will constantly change. Using the phrase you want to add behind your “one true feminism”, you will be able to obtain the keyword explaining the feminism you aim to create. If the methods of the anti-suffragettes that emerged a century ago and the fear about feminism are a bigger issue to you, then you can converse with yourself to take a closer look at the things that scare you.

1)   Suffragists using 'legitimate' methods were reproduced as radical with their appearance, but, when a movement that adapted a more 'radical' method appeared, the term ‘suffragette’ was coined to classify them separately and add a meaning of ridicule.