Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Before modern times, women were asked to follow the "three roads of submission": as a child to their father, as an obedient wife to their husband, and in old age, obedient to their son. When following this unwritten rule, they were eulogized as an obedient child, a virtuous woman, and a wise mother. The Catholic Times columnist, in the View from the Ark, asks why should that understanding be a negative way of looking at women? Because, in his view, it is based on the belief that women are inferior to men; and within the family, the patriarchal mentality ruled.
Today, the ideal of obedience is held in high esteem and rightly so, but an unconditional, dictatorial obedience is more likely to be found in Korean society. It's not unusual that a child does not raise her head in the presence of the father's orders, and to a husband's wishes a wife is not allowed a response, and in old age one is often restricted to silence by the authority of the son. Such cultural mandates are amply illustrated by a phrase from the past: a new bride receives recognition only after living for three years as if dumb, three years as if deaf, and three years as if blind.
In today's world, women have their own dreams and hopes, and have the same chances for education as the male. Though there is sharing of chores, and the same opportunities for work without being discriminated against, a glass ceiling does exists but much has changed.
However, many women remain with the mentality that was seen with the three submissions. The daughters have a difficult time expressing their hopes and desires to the father. They hope to meet the right man and with this vague expectation, they face the future. Said as a quip: "With 10 more minutes of study, the job of their future husband will change." (meaning that the more they study the better their chances of meeting a wealthier husband) Mothers feel that if their children do well their family condition will change. And very often, as soon as a child is old enough to speak, they are introduced to English, drawing, math, piano, Tae kwon do, and the like.
After marriage, it is this dream and hope that remain for the women. They live by trying to achieve their dream through their children, losing, knowingly or unknowingly, their own dream and hopes. The columnist wonders if this might be the reason diet and cosmetic surgery influences much of the women's world in our society.
The World Economic Forum recently published the Global Gender Gap Report for 2013. Among 136 countries, Korea ranked 111th. There were four categories studied: economic participation, educational attainments, political empowerment, and health and service opportunities. It was a surprisingly low ranking for Korea, said the columnist. The study was made, he believes, before the newly elected woman president and the increasing numbers of women elected to parliament.
Women should be as free as men and as appreciated for their independence as are the men. Women need to be conscious of this reality, the columnist says, and work to foster it in their lives. Will this not be the way to realize in our society true equality of the sexes? he asks, and quotes from the Catholic Catechism (#2335): "Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way."