Café Doing
Café Doing
  • Shin Hyo-jae
  • 승인 2017.04.24 12:26
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A feminism agora in central Gangnam

A bright yellow sign reads “Doing,” alluring passerbys. Inside, rows of books, colorful eco-friendly bags, and mugs welcome the curious visitors. Doing, a feminism café, is a hub for those who are interested in feminism. 
“I wanted to create a space where people can comfortably express their ideas and thoughts on feminism,” said KimHan Ryeo-il, the owner of Doing. 
This year, KimHan opened Doing at Gangnam specifically for studying and exploring feminism. The location, Gangnam, holds much significance as it was where a young woman was brutally killed by a misogynistic man, a case that later sparked nationwide debates on feminism. Gangnam murder case also was the final push for KimHan to open Doing.
The idea of creating Doing first came to KimHan during her junior year in university when she became aware of the discrepancy between her male and female classmates. 
“In class I noticed that male students were loud and confident with their opinions, while female students preferred to stay quiet and only share with those close to them,” KimHan said. “Then, it struck me how women were more likely to be deprived of their confidence and self-esteem through social experiences. So, I wanted to create a space where women could discuss feminist issues and personal experiences free from any kind of restraint and fear.”
Though KimHan was passionate about her dream, her road to opening Doing was not easy. Weighed down with the burden of raising two sons while dealing with an abusive husband, KimHan had no choice but to postpone her dream. 
“After the divorce, I was finally free,” KimHan said. “But it left me economically unstable, with two sons to raise.” 
Now, with her sons all grown up, she was finally able to seek her long lost dream. 
Much like a book café, customers are able to read any of the shelved books and request purchases as well at Doing. However, Doing differentiates itself from other book cafés by specializing in feminism specifically. All the books focus on feminism regardless of genre, author, or era of publication. They are neatly organized on shelves and small labels on each shelf indicating the main topics the books contain. Ranging from LGBTQ to art, the topics are intricately laced with feminism, indirectly showing how feminism is not confined to only gender equality.
Doing has an expanding archive, and one special way Doing does so is through customer donations. These donated books play a big role in creating the intimate communal atmosphere unique to Doing. Customers freely donate feminism-related books, giving a personal touch to the shelves, and forming a personal bond between the café and customer. 
“I made a list of books on feminism before opening the store,” KimHan commented, looking at the shelves filling an entire wall. “Unfortunately there were about 80 books I could not get my hands on. Others were either out of stock or completely sold out. So, I uploaded a list of those books and asked if anyone could donate them.”
The 800 well-thumbed books at Doing contribute to the café’s friendly and analogue atmosphere. Alongside the books, hand-painted mugs rest on the shelves and eco-friendly bags hang on the walls. The bags and mugs, all personally designed by KimHan, are available for purchase. The warm colors and touching messages on the mugs comfort people like the warm drinks the mugs carry.
“I naturally gravitated to messages that solace the hurt,” stated KimHan on the warm messages. “I loved pastoral counseling and wanted to continue to help people even if they do not explicitly ask for help.”
The final touch in the amicable atmosphere of Doing is counseling. Based on her previous studies and passion for counseling, KimHan holds personal sessions for those who come to seek consultation. Ranging from university students to married women with kids, many come to Doing to speak of their hardships as individuals in the current society.
“Korea is still far from achieving proper gender equality,” KimHan emphasized. “I don’t just mean disparity between conventional genders, but other individual identities such as transgender, homosexuality, asexuality, and many others people identify themselves with.”
As a multipurpose café, many seminars and lectures take place at Doing. The first organization to hold a meeting at Doing was the National D.Va Association also known as For D.Va. At their first meeting, the members discussed the sexist remarks other players make when members reveal their gender and how to refute against people who belittle women. 
“I was inspired by their simulation of how to respond to sexual harassment,” KimHan recollected. “With plastic hands, the members stimulated sexual harassment situations and each would take turns loudly pointing out the harassment.”
Additionally, even though it has only been a month since its opening, KimHan has booked at least one reading discussion session every month until June.
Buzzing with customers and passion for feminism, Doing strives to introduce feminism into the society where it is yet to be properly perceived and endorsed. KimHan believes that it is a long-term objective and feels there is too much burden on the younger generation. Hoping that Doing becomes a stage for those who seek change, KimHan urges women to be more confident. 
“The worst thing a woman can do is to blame herself,” KimHan said. “No matter how the society oppresses you or individually discriminates you, always be proud of who you are.”

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