[FOUNTAIN]You’ve come a long way, babyMax Planck, a Nobel laureate in physics in 1918, said that female students could attend his classes at Germany’s Berlin University, but only under several conditions and clauses.
“It would be hard to find a woman who is brilliant in the principles of physics,” Mr. Planck said. “But if there ever is one, she can attend my classes under the rules of the university and on the condition that I can expel her from class whenever I want.”
Early in the 20th century, a controversy arose whether women should be admitted to higher educational organizations in Western societies. Male scholars and politicians thought that women did not have the ability to study complex fields such as physics. Moreover, it was believed that if women did study at universities, they would likely suffer myopia or a psychosis that could be transmitted to their children. This gender discrimination is a result of the combination of biological prejudices and a feudal system that existed for ages.
A half-century later, “The Feminine Mystique,” written by the American feminist Betty Friedan, was published, and the book has been regarded ever since as a milestone in modern feminism.
In chapter one of the book, an American housewife confesses that there is something seriously wrong. “I am trapped with guilt when I think about behaving as a human being, not as a mother or as somebody’s wife.”
The “feminine mystique” refers to an ideology created by male-oriented societies. The author wanted to break that mystique, and thus gave her book the title that it has. However, many of her male counterparts made a fool of Ms. Friedan, calling her a “neurotic schizophrenic,” which simply came from the 19th century’s stereotypical view of women.
Korea long held traditional views on this subject. Those views include believing that men are superior to women and that women must follow rules set by their fathers, husbands and sons.
The modern meaning of feminism was introduced in the 1980s. Two decades later, half of the newly appointed judges who have graduated from the Judicial Research and Training Institute this year were women. And out of the 34 distinguished graduates who were appointed judges in the Seoul District Court, 24 are female.
In Korea, it appears that the feminine mystique is no longer an illusion or an ideology.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.