Gender war at college
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Your looks are not so bad,” a male freshmen at Sogang University told a fellow female student: he was then referred to the college’s student association. He was ruled to have committed verbal sexual abuse and was banned from participating in both his department’s and the college’s official activities. Male students subsequently protested, saying he received an excessive punishment. As the controversy grew, the student association admitted some procedural flaws and apologized.
The gender conflict among university students is deteriorating by the day. Disagreements over special lectures on feminism and decisions to either keep or scrap female-student associations are the types of battles seen these days. Last year, the #MeToo campaign and feminism swept the nation.
Now, backlash from men in their 20s is on the rise. An analysis shows the government’s pro-women attitudes have contributed to its falling approval rating among men in their 20s.
In a poll from December last year, opposition against feminism was highest among men in their 20s. The survey showed 41.5 percent of all people asked supported feminism, while 40.2 percent opposed it. Among men in their 20s, however, only 14.1 percent supported it, while 75.9 percent were opposed it.
Men in their 20s said they feel they are being treated unfairly as they themselves are not offenders. Their perception differs from those of women in their 20s, who consider digital sex crimes, heavy reliance on mothers for child caring and the disruption of mothers’ careers as serious gender issues, even if they have yet to experience them.
Men in their 20s said they are different from their fathers’ generation since they received gender education. They also said female students actually perform better at school, so they have no disadvantage in finding jobs.
The fierce gender conflict is also changing the culture of courtship at universities.
“Students nowadays don’t even have relationships. Couples on campuses are rare, differently from our generation,” said a university professor in his 50s. “Because the gender conflict is fierce, friendships are more among people of the same sex. Although they have no sexual problems, many of them don’t engage in sexual relationships and courtship.”
In order to fight against the patriarchy and Korea’s male-dominant family system, some female students refuse to enter relationships, get married and have children.
Male students have their own complaints. They ask why they alone have to pay for expenses of dating and buy a house when married.
Students even worry about the possibility of their partners secretly filming their intimate moments. They sometimes worry that they will later be accused of date rape. They are insecure. They are good at online relationships, but weak in real-life relationships. The peculiar nature of the digital generation — which wants to avoid injury and the responsibilities of a real relationship — has become part of their character.
Despite being passionate young men and women, they aren’t lonely because they can experience the fake courtships of celebrities and idols.
University students in the 1980s took to the streets and held demonstrations when they realized Korean society was not the democracy they learned about at school. Their children are now college students and they are engaged in a cyber-war based on the realization that Korean society does not yet have gender equality.
They are also uncovering the difference between what they learned in school, what they learned at home and what is true in real life. This is because the democratization generation failed to create gender equality and handed the issue to their children. The job crisis and the slowing of the economy are actually fueling today’s gender crisis.
“The men and women in their 20s attribute their social frustration to their opposite gender and argue that they are victims, creating a gender war that is fiercer that the Korean War,” said Honorary Prof. Cho-Han Hae-joang of Yonsei University.
“Gender conflict at universities seems to be amplified, and the problems are highly noticeable as they are taking place in an open space. We need to see it as a process where participants are looking for answers,” said Prof. Lee Na-young of Chung-Ang University. “Silent places are actually a more serious problem.”
Our children’s gender war is embarrassing, but they will resolve the conflict on their own, as was the case with Sogang University.
It is just too bad we handed down this difficult world to our them.
JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 19-20, Page 30