*Written by Kyu Park, a former Berkeley Opinion member
Constantly evolving from the primal societies that had clear discrepancies in terms of sex, rank, and race, many societies today strive for equality. However, this pressure for equality has created- oddly – an unequal situation in many Korean households. Since women have the right and opportunity to pursue academics as much as men, they are open to well-paid jobs and they also take pride in their achievements. Thus, when conservative men think that married women should take care of the children, they get angry. This is fair, but I discovered irony in this anger. I asked women around me if they were okay with their husbands staying home and taking care of their children instead of them. I was ridiculed by the answers representing the fickle and selfish side of women demanding equality.
Many Korean women feel that men must work; men have no option of being home doing chores. Women feel like the role of a househusband is not fit for a man and is even embarrassing to an extent. Men without jobs are deemed as incapable. It is not okay for a man to not have a job, but it is okay for a woman to not because her role as a mother is natural. Is it fair to demand freedom to choose to be a housewife or a worker while not giving that freedom to men? Women expect certain things from men, just as men expect certain things from women. However, the notion of ‘women’s rights’ is now misused to fulfill only women’s expectations.
Men have certain expectations of women. One of the key expectations in the conservative mindset of men is that they want their wives to take good care of the household and nurture their children well. It is true that there are cases in which the woman is not given this option due to financial reasons. However, if the financial boundaries allow for a traditional household in which the children grow up with their mother, men would want their wives to stay at home. This is when the irony of working women surfaces as a big problem- when the household can suffice with the income of either the husband or the wife. Women don’t want to give up their jobs because for one to be able earn enough money for a household means that she has worked hard for that position too. They don’t want to quit their jobs but at the same time would despise their husbands if they were to quit their jobs to take care of the children. If a housekeeper is a crucial role in the house and one doesn’t want to take it, shouldn’t the other have the freedom to take it instead? Ironically, no. How dare a man stay home when he’s not even incapable? Furthermore, how could my man earn less than me? In the end, many households have the conflict of not who stays home but whether the woman stays home or not. This difficult discussion often ends in a deadlock, and sometimes the grandparents of the child or an employed housekeeper must get involved to take care of the children. As a child from a traditional household, I feel great pity for those who lose the familial connection from childhood due to the lack of communication and compromise of their parents. (Traditional meaning child grows up with at least one parent in the house) I accept that what I want - a traditional household – may be quite selfish if my partner has a different picture of a household. However, apart from one’s desire, I demand equal rights- men’s choice of shamelessly staying at home.
In a constantly changing society, perfect equality may be impossible. However, if the other side accepts certain parts as being unequal, one should be mature enough to accept certain inequalities as well- even if they are disadvantageous to oneself. Feminism isn't an advocacy for women’s victory in every ground, but instead, is an advocacy for women’s equality. Please do not debase such an honorable movement by using it as a justification for the selfish “equality” of women.
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