After Me Too, what’s next?The Me Too movement is exposing sexual violence and shaking up Korean society. While Koreans offer their support and solidarity, the victims may continue to face difficulties. Celebrities who have committed acts of sexual misconduct are socially punished, but many others who have been harassed or assaulted by their bosses find it harder to build a case.
The first response of the perpetrators after they are exposed is an apology. They say that they will give up everything. But it is questionable whether they are being sincere. Apologies often make me angrier. It almost sounds like they did not think what they have done in the past was wrong, or at least until they were exposed. But once they are caught, they feel guilty and apologize? The idea of a broad public apology is also ridiculous. The celebrity offenders issue statements to apologize to the public, but the primary apology should be given to the victim. I haven’t heard of any assaulter who went to see the victim and knelt before them.
Most perpetrators admit to sexual harassment, but not rape. They claim that the sexual encounters were consensual. The consent is likely to be the main focus in the court. However, it is doubtful whether there could be “voluntary, equal consent” within asymmetrical power dynamics. In “The Disorder of Women,” British feminist and political theorist Carole Pateman wrote that democracy is operated by words and the consent of citizens, but women’s words are ignored or misled, and Western democracy excludes women.
The perpetrators did not accept “No” for an answer. Hwang Hyeon-jin said, “The perpetrators only treat women as beings who only agree and concede. They made women surrender and live their lives in fear. The latest revelations of sexual assault are the result of considering forced submission as voluntary consent and defining violence as something that can happen in close relationships.”
Commentator Kim Eo-jun’s remark may have been inappropriate, as he saw a possibility of political maneuvering as some use the Me Too movement to attack progressives. Liberal artists and priests were no exceptions to sexual violence, revealing that some political progressives are not very progressive when it comes to sexual harassment.
In a radio interview, Minister of Gender Equality Jeong Hyun-baek said, “The administration that was established in the aftermath of the Candlelight Revolution emphasizes human rights and rejects authoritarianism, and many women felt empowered to speak up.”
But I think that comment was also inappropriate. The reality of life revealed by the Me Too movement is so desperate that praising the administration for its support for human rights seem excessive.
Democratic Party lawmaker Geun Tae-seob was criticized for taking Kim Eo-jun’s comment out of context as he said, “There is no left or right in sexual violence.”
In Hollywood, the Me Too movement was followed by the Time’s Up movement. More than 300 actors, directors and producers raised $13 million to help low-income women who seek justice for sexual violence at workplaces. The idea that Me Too is for celebrities is over. Actors and actresses dressed in black in support of Time’s Up at the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards. Oprah Winfrey said, “A new day is on the horizon!” as she received an award at the Golden Globes. They were the most appropriate words for the Me Too movement. It doesn’t seem easy, but the world is certainly changing.
Moreover, I hope that we no longer have to hear inappropriate comments on feminism such as “Girls are smarter and tougher than men,” or “My wife has the most power in my family.”
JoongAng Ilbo, March 3, Page 26
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.