Tag Archives: women’s rights

Day 21: A Jerk Like You, Rush

5 Mar

It was not a surprise when Rush Limbaugh, a controversial Republican radio host (who does more harm to Republican’s reputation than good, in my opinion), called Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” as she advocated for extension of health insurance coverage for contraception before the US Congress. He also said that she should post her sex tapes online because she is a “prostitute,” to his eyes at least. Apparently, he went on continuously for a few days, only to make a very hesitant apology just so that he can keep his advertisers from pulling out. You and I know it very well that he didn’t have any sentiment of apologies, and I am rather disgusted by his so-called “sincere apology.”

His comments were not a surprise to me because he has been very good at making hate speeches against women, and there was no way that he was going to avoid insulting about this smart, courageous woman making a case before the Congress of the United States. He is an extremely insecure asshole who has built up his popularity by making uninformed, controversial speeches which can excite misogynist sentiments around the country. He cannot shut up for 3 hours a day, 5 times a week, because he has so much hatred against the world, and he knows that there are lots of horny, unsatisfied dogs like himself all over the country.

Tell me, people, since when did a woman become a public whore by making political statements? And if she was invited by the Congress of the United States of America to present a cause that she advocates for, isn’t she way more legitimate than a radio show host who rambles on about nothing useful? Is free speech available only for jerks like himself but not for smart women?

Does Rush Limbaugh truly understand what contraception means? Sure, as he says, there might be some people would abuse the privilege of health insurance covering birth control means, but these would be unfortunate consequences that would only be a very small part of it. I can only speak from a woman’s standpoint here with my example. I had to take birth control pills for about 4 years of my life until very recently because of my irregular periods with lots of pain and ovarian cists that have continuously existed. If you are a woman, you probably understand how painful it is to spend a week in misery. I had to constantly underperform at school and work one week out of 4 weeks a month (which is 3 months a year total), and if there was no assistance from the medicine, I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been for me. In the US, I could not afford the pills because of the extremely high cost of them. I usually got them in Korea where I can get certain kinds over the counter at pharmacies. Over the 2 years of time that I was in Singapore, the medical insurance that I had covered the price for the pills, and it was tremendously helpful that I could get them. And I reveal my personal health issues without any shame, whether Rush Limbaugh and other misogynist pigs call me a whore or not. There are thousands of other women who are in my position as well as people in other situations where they have to suffer through if they do not have monetary means to pay for them.

I really hope that Limbaugh’s arrogant “apology” would not make any difference in advertisers’ decisions to pull out. A jerk (or any other misogynist pigs, including some liberal commentators) like him does not deserve to earn any dollars as “the most listened radio talk show.”

*I apologize for my language here, if you are offended by any of the word choices.

Day 19: The Plastic Surgery Debate Shall Continue Forever

2 Mar

By accident, I ran into this article today written by Siobhan Courtney. This discusses the PIP breast implant scandal and the whole issue of plastic surgery and women’s choice. I don’t know if you remember, but this was the horrendous case where silicone that was not up to standard for medical use was used for breast implants everywhere in the world. She mainly argues that women who choose to obtain the surgery are exercising their agencies over their bodies, and they are not some cheap bimbos.

Her argument is something that seems to be opposite to the argument that I presented yesterday. But the general sentiment against the patriarchal voices regarding plastic surgery seems to be the same. Her argument is more on the fact that many patriarchal discourses ignore the fact that women have agency to make their own choices regarding their bodies (and satisfy their needs to feel good about themselves, not necessarily pleasing men), while calling the women bimbos and many terrible names. Although I agree that women should be able to freely exercise their agencies, I would argue against her argument, because I think that the driving force of overall plastic surgery industry and culture is the patriarchal culture. What seems to matter the most in this whole plastic surgery debate ultimately is that patriarchal discourse will always be present whether to cause plastic surgeries or to criticize them. Also it should be debated what has contributed to the formation of “women’s agency” which is highly subjective anyways. Well, I guess I saw the extreme negatives while she observed the “grey areas,” like the example of the woman in her writing who had to get plastic surgery after breastfeeding 2 children.

Just too much to think about… and the debate will go on, I suppose.

Day 15: What Part of Violence against Women Is Acceptable to You? (Hope None)

27 Feb

Yes, I skipped a day of writing, part of it because of the lack of inspiration and unexpected work that overwhelmed me until today. But I’m back, so I hope that such slip would not happen again. And I’m back to a heavy topic: Violence against Women (VAW). This is inspired by the recent debate on Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States, and a VERY disturbing video clip of Liz Trotta’s rant on how feminists are increasing the military budget tremendously because they push for military women’s protection from sexual violence from other soldiers.

Initially, I ran into this Forbes article on facebook which talked about the Republican’s opposition on reauthorization of VAWA which has been in place since Clinton administration along with Trotta’s absurd junk on the Republican channel (Fox News). Then I was led to Liz Trotta’s video clip, which honestly upset me very much.

I have to admit that in American politics, everything has to be bipartisan (democracy? hmph…) even on the matter of women’s human rights. I hate this whole politicization of women’s bodies, while it is mostly patriarchal men (and women) talking about how they should be controlled.

But it is what it is at this point. And I must express that I’m strongly against the stance that some extreme conservatives are taking. They are saying that violence against certain women count more than violence against others. And these other women (and men) that cannot be protected are parts of undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ and Native American communities. Those who are not REAL Americans cannot be protected, in sum. Here, we see the political agenda deeply enrooted in the opposition as Republicans are generally for stricter border controls and against LGBTQ rights issues. But claiming that women in these minority communities deserve to get their rights freely violated (by not providing proper protection measures) is simply outrageous.

And according to Liz Trotta, military women should not be protected either, because they all cost too much of the precious military budget. Those who are risking their lives by taking professions which are often dominated by men (“masculine” professions) cannot be protected? And they should expect such violence, not coming from the enemies at the frontline but from their own comrades who are supposed to trust each other firmly? Well, I’m sure she was expecting such violence when she took on her career as a journalist.

Hence her anti-feminist ranting is mostly laughable. She herself, as you can see in the video, is quite an elite journalist, who has been to Vietnam War as a reporter and attended prestigious Columbia University. Well, excuse me, weren’t her professional field and high education all-men’s fields merely a few decades ago? Without feminist movement pushing boundaries for women to get into men’s territories in reporting and education, she would not even be talking on Fox News.

Come on people, let’s be real. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, how can anyone be OK with the fact that 3 women are murdered everyday by their intimate partners, the fact that more than 600 women suffer sexual violence everyday, and the fact that young women and minority women are more easily exposed to sexual violence? (Information from National Organization for Women, USA) And this is the United States we are talking about, the land of freedom and democracy (so they say…). I can’t even imagine how many women are battered and raped around the world, and practically every woman lives in fear, because of the potential violence they may suffer any time during their life time.

How can anyone be OK with the fact that their own sisters, mothers, wives, partners, girlfriends and female friends suffering such tremendous violence, even more because they are discriminated against by a policy?

It’s not a problem that exists just in America. In many parts of the world, women are considered properties of their fathers and husbands, and they are often subjects of domestic violence, marital rape, human trafficking (often to brothels and as wives to older men) and other violence, and no statistics can explain the seriousness of the problem all around the world. And in some countries, there is no law protecting women who are endangered by sexual violence, and even if such laws existed, they are not enforced in serious manners.

Women don’t need special protections, just because they are these delicate entities that deserve protection and respect, as men have traditionally considered. Women need protections because women are still subjected to way more sexual (and other) violence, and they are certainly not equally protected by laws and policies that are often made with patriarchal biases. And women deserve protection and respect because we are human beings, just as much as men deserve them, too. If you think that feminists are claiming for contradictory stance (“we need more freedom” and “we need more protection”), you’d better realize that we want freedom from restrictions that does not allow the equal opportunities (such as joining the military) and protection from violence (from the fellow soldiers).

FYI, here are some links on opinion pieces on VAWA.



Day 1: Why I’m a Feminist- and Why You Should Be Supportive

12 Feb

For my glorious Day 1 posting, I thought I should be talking about something that I always wanted to talk about. That is about yours truly, the person that you are friends with (or slightly acquainted with, but that’s OK, this is for people to read my stuff, no?). I will talk about how and why I have become a feminist. After all, I believe that storytelling is a powerful means for better understanding of each other, don’t you?

I was thinking about many glorious topics from different aspects, like pop culture (especially the Korean one as it is such a big deal in Asian part of the world), education, inspiring women in my life, feminist writers and activists, gender-based/sexual violation, marriage, religion, and you name it. Of course I want to talk about them at some point over the next several days. But I think without talking about where I stand, as a person who will be talking about gender issues as a feminist (amongst other roles), the rest of my stories may as well be just not-so-meaningful gibberish. More importantly, I decided that I’m not gonna be afraid to talk about who I am and what I think.

So the beginning was probably when I was in high school. Many people have thought it was quite interesting (or strange) that I spent several years in Birmingham, Alabama, and tend to think that it took significant amount of courage and adventure for a little (I was quite scrawny 11 years ago) Korean girl coming from a completely different culture. It would be a lie if I say that everything was completely fine, and I fit right into the picture, which was completely not true. I was an awkward foreigner whose English wasn’t good enough at the beginning and studied really hard (just like Asians should, right?). But the experience of being a minority, in terms of language, culture, ethnicity/race, how I looked, and other factors, gave me a totally different perspective towards life. The “me” in the South was imposed many new roles, and the growth that I was able to experience was enormous while my identity was framing in a certain way that would not have been possible if I had stayed in my home country. Also, simply the fact that I was living in the city which was the center of Martin Luther King Junior’s activism was inspiring enough.

Did I experience racism? People have asked, but the truth is that, I probably did (because the majority often tends to be ignorant about its own racism/biases/discrimination while sometimes deliberate, unfortunately, and this includes myself), and although I don’t remember most of it in detail, I have painfully learned how to deal with what I faced and fight against injustice. All these experiences accumulated to my interest in gender issues. After all, women are half the world, so we may not be minority numerically, but most women do not necessarily have the power in social, economic, political, domestic and many other spheres as much as the other half, unfortunately. And of course, everyone knows this, and some of you may wanna deny this.

Since high school, I got to be involved in very meaningful feminist activism. I got in touch with an advocacy NGO for military sexual slavery survivors from the WWII period by Japan (I will talk about it in detail in another post). The survivors of the war crime, who were euphemistically called “Comfort Women,” and the activists have left a deep impact in my life, and I’m still proud to be a part of the activism. At the beginning, it was a simple interest in the issue as I am a product of patriotic history education in Korea (a lot of it was due to many unresolved issues historically and diplomatically with Japan), but eventually, the survivors and activists who have continued the fight over the past 20+ years, eventually made me realize about the greater power dynamics between those who have power —whether physical power to impose sexual violence, political power to frame systematic rape camps as the military policy of a country imposing colonialism against many countries, or any power that imposes patriarchy as the justification for male superiority over others— and those who do not.

At first, I was mad and angry at this inherent injustice that has run for thousands of years in the name of patriarchy. Then I realized that it’s not simply an emotional upset, but an awakening. I dare to say that it was a “calling” for me that I should pursue the cause of feminism throughout my life. I’m not someone who believes in fate per se, but I believe that everyone has her own call in a life. Following this call, I got to pursue feminism over the past decade. I learned from and became friends with many feminist women and men during the 4 years in college, and learning in depth was challenging and painful at times because of the “diverse” and confusing nature of it which often does not fit into the current social orders, but it made my entire life only richer while I got to pursue academically as well, whether in my major classes (cultural anthropology), women’s studies or minority women’s feminism study group.

I have witnessed lots of discourses on feminism, and despite the numerous questions and criticism on the lack of unity among different types of feminisms, what matters to me the most is not a single, simple definition of feminism. Feminism in action matters as it has affected the lives of many women and men. I believe that feminism is the reason how I was able to obtain many years of education along with male students at the same institutions (especially my post-secondary education), the reason I can vote, the reason I can dream of many professional possibilities that were only held by men several decades ago.

But because the reach of feminism is not enough, many women in many parts of the world still do not get proper nutrition and education, have to risk their lives on their way to school (because women are simply not allowed to get smarter, according some people), die giving birth to children without proper medical treatments, are victimized by gender-based violence (including spousal rape which is not considered illegal in many countries), are told how to dress (and not to dress) by patriarchal rules (whether they be national laws or religious rules) instead of choosing their own ways, and work at young age for their families, especially for their brothers’ education while they are not getting any. And women who were victimized by systematic rape by a colonial military law are still not able to obtain proper justice (official apologies and formal reparations), because women were simple tools of the war, disposable ones, and the similar violence is still happening in many wars that are currently happening today.

Because the reach of feminism is totally lacking, I firmly believe that feminism is not “getting old” but must still go on.

I’m not forcing you to join the bandwagon, although I would be thrilled if do (For example, I don’t claim myself to be an environmentalist, although I am all for the cause and try to exercise environmentally friendly practices, part of it largely because of the lack of my knowledge in it). All I’m saying is that it is a cause to give my life for, and dear friends, if you are truly my friends, understanding an important piece of me would be very meaningful for our friendship, wouldn’t it?

Lastly, let me leave you with a Ted Talk by Isabelle Allende. Think her talk is somehow in the same line, in a more humorous, way more brilliant way. Passion matters, and I hope to remind myself of it everyday.

My Vietnam Updates, Research Progress, etc.

23 Feb

The truth is that whenever I’m walking on the street, waiting for the bus that makes me wait half an hour every time, or sitting in my cubicle, I have so many stories to tell and I structure them all in my head on how I’m going to deliver them on my glorious blog. But the other truth is that by the time I get back home, which takes about an hour everyday, I’m usually pretty exhausted (probably from the commute, weather, polluted air, busy-ness of the city) and all I want to do is watch numerous TV shows and go to bed, not even reading or writing in my personal journal. Yes, I’m embodying the pure laziness that anybody can possibly embody and express, but the saturated fatigue that I’m going through recently can perhaps only be cured by… I don’t know, whatever the opposit thing of what I’m doing right now.

The internship is interesting, but I won’t comment on it too much. It’s been mostly office-based research work, and the real exciting part that involves fieldwork and more active research will come in 2 weeks or so (early March, yipes!), so I can probably give you more views into my work then. My particular section (out of 5 sections at UNICEF Vietnam) is called Provincial Child-Friendly Program, and I’m given the responsibilities to migration studies in the South (around Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces) and other work that involves minority children’s welfare in Vietnam. What I can tell you is that now I feel like I know my way around at work and see several familiar faces here and there. The thing is that I find Vietnamese people initially quite shy, and being a closet introvert (wait, WHO is this introverted person am I talking about…?!?), I find it a bit difficult to reach out first. But all in all, I find my section people quite lovely, and I only wish that I spoke some Vietnamese so that I can connect with them better. My anthropologist self is telling me that I should reach out and “go native” in a way, but the thing is that I somehow find it very difficult to do so, which was never the case in any other countries besides my native Korea. So strange, but I guess there are a lot of similarities that I find between the two countries, at least culturally. I don’t want to be invasive either, so I mostly tend to mind my own business, fixed into my computer. I just let what may come to come in right time. But I sincerely hope that by the time  I finish my internship, I’ll have developed a great deal of trust and rapport with my section people as well.

To those of you who are curious, yes, I’m working on my PAE (thesis) research as well. The topic would be on sex-ratio at birth imbalance in Vietnam, and it was suggested my supervisor, as he knew that I was really into gender issues.  It doesn’t have much to do with my section’s work per se, but I find it quite interesting. A week ago, by (very lucky) accident, I got in touch with a gender specialist within UNICEF, and she invited me to tag along to Gender Program Coordination Group Annual Meeting. Gender PCG is a collaboration of different policy/political/legal stakeholders in Vietnam, from NGO advocates to UN officers to the Communist Party members to Ministry specialists. It was a half-day meeting and people from various groups presented the evaluation of last years work and the coming year’s agenda. What was repetitively emphasized was the SRB imbalance issue which, apparently, hasn’t been touched upon very much. To give you a brief view, the SRB of Vietnam is around 110-112 boys for every 100 girls, while some provinces have over 120 boys. China, for example, has 120 national average, while some provinces rating 130+ boys. Similar phenomenon in India and South Korea, although the latter is in the process of normalizing with 106-7 boys (it used to have the worst imbalance during the 80s and the 90s). Anyhow, it’s a fascinating topic, and UNFPA Vietnam has done quite an extensive research work, so look into it if you’re interested.

As far as my life in general… hmmm, I should say it’s rather mundane. As I said earlier, I get exhausted so easily by the end of the day, so doing anything during the week seems impossible for me at this point. Maybe the city is too overwhelming to take it in within such a short period. I’m trying to take a deep breath and enjoy it, even the weather that I complain about all the time. After all, I do enjoy challenges :). Will keep you updated.

I’m fascinated by all the articles on what is happening in the Middle East. Hope that things will lead to the better result for the people (democracy!). Will try to give you my thoughts on that as well sometime soon. Ciao!

I wish I were a Lawyer- long way for justice for rape victims in Korea

31 Jan

By now, my dear friends, you already know that I can’t just sit down and write regularly, unless I get inspired and fired up by certain things or I have pressing needs to share certain things about my life with you. But here I am, writing, because I read about this terrible situation regarding justice system in Korea regarding survivors of rape, especially those who are already socially vulnerable, in this case, female marriage migrants. By writing this, I am not saying that I am an expert on any Korean legal issues, and I’m rather not. I’m purely basing my opinion on numerous articles that I read about it.

So I read this article on Chosun Daily, one of Korea’s major newspapers. Sorry that most of you won’t be able to read this, but this is a vague translation of it.

“Mr. Kim (52) was sentenced 7 and half years in jail as he was guilty of raping his Vietnamese wife (26)’s teenage sister (note: Nothing was mentioned that he was accused of spouse rape but it was mentioned that he beat up his wife severely. I’m not sure what kind of charge was pressed against him regarding the violence committed against his wife). The sister, ‘B,’ now 21, was interviewed by the journalist at a very secluded rehabilitation house that she has been staying after her and her sister were found terribly violated by Kim 2 and half years ago (note: yes, it took almost 3 years to find the minimal justice for the sisters). The officer remembers how awful the sisters looked, the older sister with a lot of bruises and the younger one simply filthy and full of fear. The husband conveniently had seizures whenever he had to discuss anything against his position.

B, a petite woman, seemed more like a middle school girl with her young face. She seemed to feel hopeful since she will be going back to Vietnam soon. The head of the rehab said that at the beginning, she always seemed so depressed and told people that she wants to die when she was talking on the phone.

B lived in a greenhouse, and she worked for 300,000 won (about 300 dollars) for her labor in the farm, but Kim took it all. She feared every Saturday when he came to pick her up, because she knew that he would rape her back home. She reacts with extreme fear towards the word ‘hyongbu’ (which is a term for older sister’s husband in Korean), as well as not being able to have conversations with new people and afraid of Korean men.

For the first fetus, after being raped by Kim, she was able to get abortion, and for the second time, she had a baby through c-section. The police said that she was ‘lucky’ that she could get medical care since she was found after the brother-in-law was under police custody. Her sister (Kim’s wife) had to have the children at home without any medical attention.

The journalist asked why B signed the ‘agreement’ with someone who imposed such terrible violence on him (I wondered about it too!). She said that she doesn’t want her sister to suffer from the in-law’s family while her sister is still married, have 4 children, and will probably have to live with the husband when he comes out of jail.”

By now, I said out loud, WHAT THE HECK?!?!? I suppose the domestic violence charge was dropped, and the couple probably signed an “agreement.” I was angry when I read this article about nothing further was done in terms of the violence that the wife had to suffer and what a short sentence he is obliged to serve.

But I realized that I’m probably coming from a privileged woman’s position with high education and much protection (lucky enough not to go through such trauma) where I believe that in facing sexual violence, a woman should do A, B and C. But the truth is that I really don’t know what would happen if my husband/partner was a violent psychotic predator who has the guts to impose such violence on me and my family. Especially for the case of B’s sister, she is in an extremely vulnerable position, perhaps worse than me. I would at least have social protection, friends who are lawyers, activists and therapists, proper connections, access to justice, and for god’s sake, language skill to explain what kind of situation that I had been in, although I would have been physically and psychologically damaged. But this woman, as someone who probably comes from a not so well-t0-do family back home, has limited human connections, knowledge and power to do anything in a society where xenophobia and racism are still largely prevalent. Even if she had the courage to get a divorce out of him, what is next for her for the rest of her life? As mentioned, she already has 4 kids, and she would have to fight for custody. Can she go back home? I don’t know much about Vietnamese culture, but I know Confucian culture is dominant, and she would be stigmatized with a certain notion regarding her status as a divorcee with kids. How would she maintain her livelihood in the future while she probably has not worked for a long time and is not likely to be skilled in anything specific?

Perhaps I’m making a lot of assumptions here, and I may seem like I’m too focused on the victimhood. Yes, I’m so upset about this whole situation, and anyone with common sense should be. But what I’m more upset about this is to see the fact that the current Korean legal/justice system is still not ready to protect victims/survivors of rape, still not looking at it as a serious crime that should be punished more seriously than anything else. It is highly stigmatized, therefore many women still refrain from reporting to the police, and the un-supportive, largely patriarchal system do not take sexual violence as a grave crime which is extremely destructive to a society. It is a depressing cycle. Gender equality –despite the fact that the gender ratio in medical and law schools is roughly about 50:50– is something yet to come in Korea, and according to the US State Department’s Report in 2010, violence against women (mostly rape and domestic violence) is the most pressing issue regarding women’s human rights and Korea’s human rights matters in general (and this happens to be the most comprehensive English sources at the moment for me). According to the report, fewer than half of the 8,746 cases of sexual violence cases were submitted, and fewer than 4,000 were prosecuted. About 40% of married women suffer from domestic violence.

Now, can you imagine how many cases are not reported and/or ignored? What about spousal abuse against migrant women?

Of course, I do not want to undermine the various aspects in violence against women, but in this particular case, it is rather clear that Korean policies and justice system failed to provide proper protection for the women who suffered sexual violence and who are in an extremely vulnerable position as non-native Korean citizens. So what would happen in 7 and half years when the husband comes back out? Will the system really let this man get back to his wife and children while it seems rather obvious that the man is mentally unstable with violent tendency and would not be able to serve his responsibility as a father and a husband? And meanwhile, who is going to watch how the woman and the children will survive from this traumatic experience and excruciating memory? How does Korea prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again?

I’m not suggesting that I can come up with better laws and policies at this moment, especially when matters are so complex. And sexual violence has so many different aspects, that I won’t ever be able to understand the diversity of it fully. But I think there is a value in that we know these awful things happen everywhere in the world and that we should be concerned as, well, human beings.