“We’re Speaking, Now Listen”

“Me too!” “With you!” What the women who flooded the streets shouted

Park Ju-yeon 2020-03-07

In 1908 in New York City, about 15,000 women marched for shorter working hours, better pay, and the right to vote. On March 8th, 1917, women in wartime Russia held a demonstration, shouting, “Bread and peace!” (Reference: UN webpage on the history of International Women’s Day)


One hundred and ten years after that New York women’s march, on March 8th, 2018, Korean women celebrated International Women’s Day by heading to a demonstration at 3pm, leaving work early to shout for shorter working hours and better pay.


▲ A drawing made by a participant in the “International Women’s Day Talk Show” on March 7th (Wed.), hosted by the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family. The drawing depicts a job interview. Above the interviewers, the writing in red says, “Are you planning on getting married? What about having children? Women aren’t interested in getting promotions, right? (No salary negotiations.)”. Next to the interviewee, the writing in green says, “Things I hear in job interviews and salary negotiations every year”.  ©Feminist Journal Ilda


Above all, women shouted, “Me too!” and, “With you!”, phrases that are currently overturning Korean society. Many of the women disclosed their own experiences in response to the #MeToo movement. But it did not end there. The participants raised their voices to articulate what needs to be done and what changes they want to see to end sexual violence.


Here, Ilda has compiled the stories and the voices of diverse women from the 34th Korean Women’s Rally held in Gwanghwamun on March 4th (Sunday), the International Women’s Day Talk Show hosted by the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family on March 7th (Wednesday), the Femi Parade held near Hongik University Station on March 8th (Thursday), and the Migrant Women’s MeToo Discussion held at the National Assembly Members’ Office Building on March 9th (Friday).


From school to the workplace and home to cyberspace, nowhere is safe


People have diverse experiences during different periods of their lives. But there is a terrible experience that many women have in common: sexual violence. Women experience sexual violence in school, at work, while engaging in hobbies or self-improvement, and even at home. And now, this nightmare continues in cyberspace.


“When I was in 4th grade, a male teacher who was my homeroom teacher sexually harassed me for a year, embracing me without consent and making me sit on his lap. I asked other teachers for help but was ignored—they simply said, ‘Would a teacher actually do that?’ To liberate young people from discrimination and violence, we need to give them political rights.” – Lee Eun-seon, student, at the 34th Korean Women’s Rally


“You might think that professors are not vulnerable to sexual assault, but we do experience these things. When a woman in this country becomes a section chief at work, she is harassed by the head of the department; when she becomes the head of the department, she is harassed by the executive director; when she becomes the CEO, she is harassed by the president of the company. Such cases of sexual violence as abuses of power are rampant in our society, but we lack laws and systems to address them. The sexual assault victim’s rights to live and work must be protected after she makes an accusation. Relevant organizations must prepare a system to take responsibility for failing to supervise the perpetrator and compensate the victim for the harm she has suffered.” – Nam Jeong-suk, former professor at Sungkyunkwan University, at the 34th Korean Women’s Rally


▲ On March 4th (Sunday), Korean Women’s Association United hosted the 34th Korean Women’s Rally in Gwanghwamun.  ©Feminist Journal Ilda

“I am a sex education teacher, and I experience sexual harassment when I go to schools to teach. It happens especially at boys’ schools. Once, I went to a boys’ school, and the teacher there said, ‘Students, it’s time for sex education. Aren’t you glad that the teacher is pretty?’ as an introduction. The students ask questions such as ‘Have you done it (had sex)?’ and say, ‘Because of you [your sexual attractiveness], I don’t think the sex education will work.’ I hope that things like this will stop happening.” – Speaker A, at the International Women’s Day Talk Show


“At home, where one should be provided care and a stable life, I was sexually abused by my own brother.  But this is a secret kept within my family, and other people don’t know about it. I’m a victim and survivor of sexual abuse, and to explain how I became a feminist and talk about myself I need to speak about this, but I’m afraid to do so because it’s intrafamilial sexual violence. Even now, sexual abuse victims are asked, ‘Why didn’t you run away?’ and are subjected to secondary victimization, but I didn’t have a place to run away to… I hope that we will now become a society where we don’t question the victim but ask the perpetrator, ‘Why did you do that? Shouldn’t you not have done that?’ Just as I found the courage to speak, I hope many others find courage and relief from their pain. Let’s fight together and expect society to change.” – Speaker B, at Femi Parade


“A former boyfriend of four years held a grudge against me after our breakup and created fake accounts pretending to be me on foreign social media services such as Tumblr. He uploaded my personal information, photoshopped my face onto a photo of a nude woman, and made posts saying, ‘I’m looking for a one-night stand.’ When I found out, I tried to file a report, but was told that I didn’t have enough evidence. On top of this, I had to worry about getting counter-accused if I filed a report. The penalties for online sexual violence needs to be raised to prevent cases like this. My suffering is still ongoing as we speak.” – Speaker C, at the 34th Korean Women’s Rally


▲ Open mic at the Femi Parade, which was organized by recently-formed feminist groups and held the evening of March 8th (Sunday).  ©Feminist Journal Ilda


There are also many cases that cannot be addressed through the MeToo movement 


Young girls, women who identify as feminists, women whose livelihoods are directly affected by disclosing their victimization, and women who appear to be socially successful and in power—all of them had experienced sexual violence, and these experiences no one had been able to avoid spilled forth.  


“I am going to talk about something I experienced during my childhood. I lived in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, in a particularly rural area even in that region where not many people live. I went to an elementary school that was 30 minutes away by foot. I want to talk about some things that happened on my way to school. Once, at a bus stop across a two-lane street, a middle-aged man called out and stopped me. And what he said was, ‘Hey, will you show me your pussy?’ I don’t know his name and don’t remember his face very well, so I can’t file a report, but he definitely caused me harm. But even if I did report him, it would have taken some time for the police to arrive. There are areas like this where it’s difficult to receive protection from the police administration, but there are people who live there, girls who live there. I wanted to talk about the fact that there are cases like this that cannot be resolved through the MeToo movement.” – Speaker D, at Femi Parade


“I think of myself as a proud and independent woman as well as a feminist. But does that mean we are free from sexual harassment and assault? (Participants: “No!!!”) No, it doesn’t. We aren’t free from sexual violence, simply because men always try to touch us just for the reason that we have breasts and a vagina, and they only see us as biological women. I hope that Korean society will take the MeToo movement as an opportunity to transform itself from its roots.” – Speaker E, at Femi Parade


▲ “Citizens’ post-it statements” in the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center booth, at the 34th Korean Women’s Rally on March 4th (Sunday).  ©Feminist Journal Ilda

‘With You’ for migrant women who experience sexual violence


“I will talk about a case that I supported in my activism with the Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea. The victim was a woman from Cambodia, and just 2 months after her arrival, she followed her boss to a place she did not know and was sexually violated. The victim did not know much about the law, and above all, she did not think she would be able to win in court against someone with power and money.


The current Korean Employment Permit System requires a migrant worker to receive permission from the owner of their current workplace in order to change their workplace. Therefore, it is almost impossible for victims who don’t know the Korean language or the law very well to sue or report business owners. I urge you to pay attention to these issues so that migrant women laborers may escape such environments. I hope measures to address this will be created in the future.” – Katsopani, Cambodia Community, at the Migrant Women’s MeToo Discussion


“I am a police officer who has been working in law enforcement for 20 years. One of my juniors who is female told me that she was being sexually harassed, and I reported the perpetrator, who is a constable. But the head of the patrol division criticized me, saying, ‘Our achievement ranking will be at the bottom because of you,’ and the perpetrator spread my personal information within police networks and painted me as a ‘gold digger’. The awful practices that remain alive in the police organization, men’s closed perspectives on sexual crimes, the culture around sex in which the perpetrator has no idea what secondary victimization is and raises their voice to retaliate—all these are things that our society has not been able to discard. I hope the Korean police force that I have great affection for will now take measures to transform itself into a democratic police force. – Officer Lim Hee-kyung, the 34th Korean Women’s Rally


What we can glean from the statements of these diverse women is that they are not shouting, “Me too!” because the perpetrator is famous, has enormous palpable power, has become a monster due to that power, or is special. The perpetrators are part of mundane, daily life.


▲ Participants march in the Femi Parade, held on Thursday, March 8th  ©Feminist Journal Ilda

Just as the women who shouted, “Bread and peace!” in Russia 100 years ago demanded the rights to survive and live a human life, Korean women in 2018 shouted, “Me too!” They did not say, ‘Yes, I was violated too’ to place themselves within the circle of those affected by too-common instances of sexual violence, but in order to say, ‘We want to live as humans too. Let’s change this society together.’


“I’m speaking, you listen.

We’re speaking, now listen.

Here, we will change the world.

We are here. We are here for you.”

-slogans from the Femi Parade


By Park Ju-yeon

Published: March 13, 2018

Translated by Hoyoung Moon


*Original article: http://ildaro.com/8150

기사입력 : 2020-03-07

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