[FOUNTAIN]Women Gain Political Influence

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[FOUNTAIN]Women Gain Political Influence

Men do not dare insist on superiority over women in public these days. But their attitudes turn 180 degrees in private, their sexist comments rolling off tongues often lubricated with alcohol. Some say the double standard originates with men's inherent conservatism, dissatisfaction over their weakened position at home, and paranoia generated by women's gains. Every popular television drama shows a woman protagonist yelling at a man, and husbands are often depicted as being pushed aside by their younger wives.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, insisted on a male chauvinistic theory stemming from prehistoric ages, and he still is a subject of hatred by many women's rights activists. Feminists who research animal life argue that females of other primate species have higher social status than women in human society. In the early 1990s, a U.S. futurist, John Naisbitt, declared that a sleeping goddess had been awakened, presenting empirical data on the advancement of women's participation in society.

In 1991, Edith Cresson was the first woman ever appointed prime minister of France. She is a proactive feminist who challenged the French Parliament, mass media and male chauvinists.

In Korea, as women's collective voice gains more power, the political community, bracing for elections next year, is reacting positively. There are increasing opportunities for women's interests to be reflected in political activities, as seen in the increasing participation of women in various government committees.

But women activists say they are not even close to their goal. Last year, women's organizations filed law-suits against the Grand National Party and the United Liberal Democrats for failing to meet the 30 percent quota for women candidates in seats decided by proportional representation.

This year, the ruling and opposition parties have worked to insert a clause in the law that mandates women receive 30 percent of the candidacies for proportional representation seats, starting with local elections next year. When will we see the emergence of an elite class among women in politics that could transform the framework of the political structure, which has come to a standstill, caught in a swamp of political disputes, corruption and ineptitude?

Many obstacles must be cleared before Korea can declare the principle that women and men are to be hired at a 50-50 rate for government posts, as in the United Kingdom, and that they should occupy 40 percent of public sector jobs.

Most of all, women need courage and the capability to deconstruct the wall of politics built by male politicians.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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