Education as an academic basis of feminism
It is important to develop a strong theoretical base to correctly understand feminism. However, in general, feminist studies in Korean universities are evidently in decline. Among 23 universities in Seoul, not a single one has a department for feminist studies. The Women’s Studies majors in Ewha Womans University, Sookmyung Women’s University, Sungkyunkwan University and Sogang University are operated in the form of interdisciplinary programs or as part of the sociology department. Elective courses related to feminism is constantly decreasing. Also, most recently in 2015, Dongduk Women’s University discontinued Women’s Studies as a major due to a decrease in applicants because students viewed the study as a less practical subject for employment. As time progresses, feminism as an academic study is being neglected due to today’s reality.
“Nowadays, I feel that feminism in Korea has a tendency to go viral online, and shadowed offline,” said a sophomore taking Women’s Studies at Ewha. “Although Ewha seems to be an exception with classmates passionate about feminism and a comparbly wider range of feminist studies related course choices, I hope this interest can spread to many other co-ed universities by establishing more elective courses related to gender studies and actively promoting Women’s Studies majors.”
With the lack of theoretical knowledge of feminism due to the decrease in proper academic guidance, the Korean public makes many mistakes while understanding the concept of feminism. Some common examples are misinterpreting the term “misogyny” and regarding feminism as a display of hatred or backlash towards men.
Halfway across the world from Korea, unlike the situation in Korean universities, Stanford University is well-known for providing a leading Feminist Studies program. Offering an undergraduate course, secondary major, and a PhD minor open to all Stanford students, the department also opens doors to students who seek to individually build their own feminist studies program with a self-defined focus. Popular fields include arts and culture, global studies, health, LGBT and Queer studies and much more. Providing diverse concentrations in the wide field of feminism, Stanford enables its students to ponder the specific chapters of feminism that students are passionate about. Studying “Representation of Women of Color in Written and Visual Media,” Monica Alcazar looks back and states that the experience was phenomenal.
“I found Feminist Studies’ academic language and space where I felt noticed and encouraged to grow,” said Alcazar. “Being a Feminist Studies major allowed me to immerse myself in classes that validated my presence and provided the intellectual and emotional space to develop a voice in the classroom, in the program, and in my Stanford communities.”
Although one of the main concerns and reasons why Feminist Studies is declining in Korea is due to the notion that it does not give a practical incentive for future employment, she approaches the matter in an entirely different way.
“I am currently attending law school in San Francisco and have found that my Feminist Studies background grounds my approaches to legal issues,” said Alcazar. “It gives me a unique perspective in the classroom and in the profession in general.”