[Viewpoint] Feminists need to hear the criticism

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[Viewpoint] Feminists need to hear the criticism

“There are a small number of regular, aggressive critics who are against the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. They recreate and exaggerate controversies and encourage criticism among the public.”

The above quote is from a ministry official. It is rare for a government agency to attract this kind of criticism and antagonism.

Last week, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family’s official Web site was under a cyberattack, but the criminal act received more encouragement and compliments than reproach. The ministry has reason to be concerned.

In a short period of time, the ministry has accomplished a lot. Since the Presidential Committee on Women’s Affairs was created in 1988 and then became the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in 2001, policies for women have developed drastically.

The Equal Employment Act and the Maternity Protection Act were revised and the male-oriented household system challenged, strengthening women’s rights and offering systematic protection.

These accomplishments made under the progressive administration are considered “clean and complete” compared to policies on women in other countries. In the Lee Myung-bak administration, the focus has shifted to womens’ second careers, the prevention of harmful environments for children and young adults and a healthy family culture.

Therefore, the ministry possibly does not deserve so much criticism. Nevertheless, the opponents are extremely aggressive. They make ungrounded, false accusations such as the allegations of the ministry’s attempt to ban sales of a snack because of its shape.

Aside from these ridiculous claims, critics have consistently attacked specific policies.

Recent controversies include the classification of popular songs with lyrics about alcohol as harmful to young people and the implementation of the Internet shut-down system, which blocks users under the age of age 16 from online gaming sites between midnight and 6 a.m.

Generally, feminists consider the criticism to come from a few male chauvinists. Of course, this is partially true.

However, it is popular to view this type of criticism as originating from sexist viewpoints. Therefore, we need to address whether or not the ministry’s approach to the problems is valid.

There are good and bad things in the world, but they should not be judged as good versus evil or right versus wrong. For example, the water in the water supply is clear and the water in the sewer is dirty. But the sewer serves a necessary function; if you shut down the sewer because it is dirty, the waterworks will be polluted. In other words, even bad things are essential in society. As long as the function is needed, it cannot be eradicated.

Alcohol, gaming and online cartoons may be harmful to young people, but blocking such content and labeling them as evil won’t protect children and young adults. They exist in the society they live in, and covering their eyes won’t make them disappear.

Children will have to come to terms with such content eventually. There are ways to lead a healthy life under such circumstances, and it is desirable to seek and propose a healthy coexistence.

Let’s look at the incentives given to men who have completed their mandatory military service.

It is unfair, and therefore it is bad. However, is it unfair to offer a small reward to those who served the nation for two years of their lives? How about excluding an entire gender from military duty?

Nowadays, 50 to 60 percent of those who pass the civil servant examination are female. Is it fair to offer half of all public positions to the citizens who did not fulfill military duties in a divided country?

Now, it is about time feminists demand a more female-friendly military drafting system to expand the recruitment of volunteer servicemen - if mandatory service for women is not possible. They should argue that both male and female citizens should be given equal incentives for their service.

Sex trading is not good. However, the law that banned it has not eradicated the industry. As the red light districts are shut down throughout Korea, the sex trade has gone underground, operating illegally in residential areas.

Eradication and regulations are limited in making the world a better and fairer place. Moreover, the dynamics of good and evil are complicated, and good intentions do not necessarily bring good results.

Compared to two decades ago, women’s rights have improved drastically. Women are discriminated against less simply because of their gender; the social status of the female will be enhanced.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has made the greatest contributions. However, the world has changed over the last 20 years, and the ministry needs to adjust its perspective and approach as well.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family as well as feminist leaders need to listen to the criticism and opposition with a more open mind.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Sunny
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