On feminism and ISIS

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On feminism and ISIS

A few days ago, an 18-year-old Korean boy identified by the surname Kim went missing in Turkey. It has become certain that he voluntarily joined the Islamic State (ISIS). He grew up in a Christian family and is still a teenager. But he left his family to join a terrorist group in a faraway land where he doesn’t speak the language. Why?

On his Facebook page, he has written that he despises feminists. What did he mean by feminist? Because of the post, “feminist” was ranked high in the most-searched word list online. Also, the definition of “feminist” in the Standard Korean Dictionary published by the National Institute of the Korean Language became an object of controversy. The dictionary defines a feminist as “1. Someone who advocates extension of women’s rights or gender equality. 2. Someone who worships women or a man who is kind to women.” They are very outdated definitions, since feminism has been expanded beyond gender equality to include standing up against the discrimination and exclusion of minorities and a respect for life. Can someone be called a feminist for being kind to women?

Seoul National University’s sociology professor Bae Eun-kyung says she was reminded of the Oslo shooting massacre in 2011. Anders Behring Breivik, a Christian fundamentalist, killed 77 people out of his hatred towards diversity and feminism. Professor Bae says, “ISIS provides easy targets for those who are discontent with society to concentrate their hatred by blaming Western-centrism, Christianity and the United States for all neo-liberalist capitalistic problems. And one part of its rhetoric is misogyny.”

Of course, there are extremists in every tendency, and I also find that feminist fundamentalists make me uncomfortable. However, feminism is excessively misunderstood today, and the hatred within the Internet subculture of women and minorities has inflated unreasonably. Bae said, “The frustration and rage of young people over competition and unemployment is turning into hatred of women.”

The Charlie Hebdo attack in France is not just about freedom of speech and its limitation but also about the French society’s class discord. French philosopher Alain Badiou said that it is France itself that raised the terrorists. Perhaps some desperate young Koreans now consider that women are no longer the weak but a new form of oppression. So 18-year-old Kim left the country to stand up against feminism. It is an eerie tale, indeed.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 24, Page 31


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