A video went viral in South Korea showing two western men harassing, insulting, and threatening a local woman. The video is only 78 seconds long, and it’s definitely one of the most disgusting, gruesome and horrified vidoes that I have seen. Due to its disgusting content, YouTube has taken it down [Editors Note: We tried to provide a link, but they keep getting taken down].
To compound the issue, comments and reactions to this video tend to focus on the victim, blaming her for getting herself into the situation for being in a club and getting involved with western men, indicating that she deserved to be treated like that because she is actively seeking white men.
According to the Washington Post, a Jagei.com commenter said “She went crazy over white guys, lived at a club, and ran into trouble.” Another wrote, “After that, I think she’s going to go clubbing to meet white guys again.”
As a woman grew up in Asia, sadly I am not surprised by how many Korean men, or Asian men, perceived issues like this. Women are often to blame for falling victims of sexual violence. It’s always her fault, either the way she dressed, the way she talked, the place she choosed to be in, the group of people she chooosed to be with. It’s all her fault. But is it really?
As the Washington Post article points out, South Korea has one of the most largest gender gaps in the developed world, and a lot of young women are trained, educated and brainwashed to put marriage as their lifelong goal. Many women would quit their jobs when they get married and become fulltime housewives. Many young women’s purpose of going to college in South Korea is to have more leverage in choosing a better provider as her husband. However, more and more educated young women want to break out of the cycle, and having a western partner will be her way out of the gender inequality in her own country, where she is treated as a second class citizen. Gradually, having a western partner becomes a symbol of status among a lot of Asian women, which indicates they find wealth, freedom and respect.
However, not every western man is a Prince Charming. Many Asian woman caught herself in one more layer of discrimination apart from her gender, her race. Not every western man respects her, and treats her as equal. With the natural advantage of a white man, many American men who are uneducated and unemployed in the U.S. find themselves unexpectedly popular in Asia, and have innocent Asian girls who fantasize them as Hollywood superstars falling for them. Jobs, women and money are so easy for these men for just being white and male in Asia. Not just in Asia, but countries with a big gender gap. My German friend told me how some Botswanian women begged to marry him when he was there so they could get out of the country. My former co-worker, a 50-year-old American white man, was a good example. When he was teaching English in Beijing, he slept with a lot of his young Chinese female students, the youngest being 18. When he walked on the street and spoke Mandarin, his funny accent would get him more attention from women. The friendship ended when he asked to sleep with me and offered to pay me after I said no.
There is no doubt that Asian women need to understand that to empower themselves is through becoming independent, not by switching the provider. The core value of gender equality in the western world is the independence of women. Only women can liberate themselves from the mentality of being submissive, quiet, and controled. Also, we need to understand that being independent does not mean you are any less feminine.
It will be unfair to say only Korean men pointfinger at women for their sexual violence. It’s something that men do in general. To maintain their control, the party in power will try to strip away the diginity and resources of the powerless, and press down their voices. The biggest fear of the powerful is to lose their power and control. Unfortunately, I have learned firsthand how powerless a woman can be when she encounters harrassment. I used to live with two men in the same house, both Chinese male students at USC. One of them was acting very creepy to me. He knocked on my door at midnight, offered me cookies and said he wanted to chat and get to know each other, while I had shown no indication that I wanted to be closer than what we were. I rejected the offer instantly. Later he popped up in the kitchen when I was washing dishes myself, and asked if I wanted to have sex with him out of nowhere. He didn’t leave after I refused again, and said it felt great to ask and he was very lonely.
Fearful of what might happen if I didn’t speak up, I went to DPS after consulting with my professor and put a report on this person. The DPS officer, a man, appeared arrogant, disrespectful, and impatient, instantly rejected my request to file a report. I asked him how he would feel if it were his daughter, and his answer was “If it were my daughter, she would not live with two men in the first place.” After I insisted, he relunctantly drafted down what I said on a piece of blank paper that he picked up randomly, and yawned every two minutes throughout the process.
This has to stop. Educating women is not enough. Women certainly need to learn how to speak up and protect themselves, and most importantly, learn that it is not her fault. But men also need to be educated how to respect women and treat them equally. The empowerment of women doesn’t benefit women only, but it also empowers men. Men has so much to gain from the interlectual contribution from his female partner at home and office. Gender equality is not a zero sum game. It’s win win.