March 18, 2022
SEOUL – Feminist author Rebecca Solnit has said the anti-feminism sentiments amplified by president elect Yoon Suk-yeol is similar to racism under the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States.
“In a way this almost seems more analogous to racism in the United States,” Solnit said of the current political climate in South Korea during an interview on Tuesday. “Trump was elected because of his racism by racists and part of the racism is to claim that there is no racism: Black people and other people of color are not oppressed. There is no discrimination and that to say there is oppresses white people.”
Solnit made the comment during a round table Zoom interview with the South Korean press on Tuesday when asked about an overlap between the current political climate in South Korea and the Trump administration.
Yoon has claimed structural gender inequality does not exist. He has reaffirmed his plan to abolish the Gender Equality Ministry since winning the election. He also said recently that the ministry had “run its historic course.” But Yoon faces challenges in following through, as the current ruling party holds a majority in the National Assembly.
The author, known for helping establish the term “mansplaining,” said this denial of racism is now “very widely asserted” and is “useful” for getting people “angry” and to “stop thinking and observing reality carefully” and make them useful for right-wing movements.
The press event took place to celebrate the release of her memoir “Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir” in the country. She also visited South Korea in 2017. At that time, she praised the candlelight demonstrations calling for the resignation of former president Park Geun-hye who was later impeached and said the US could learn a lesson from it.
Recalling “GamerGate,” an online harassment campaign which began in 2014 targeting women,” she warned of the radicalization of young men in online spaces such as social media.
“A lot of what happened in the US was the result of very organized propaganda. It wasn’t that lots of men woke up hating women. It was carefully orchestrated,” she said.
“GamerGate in which men in gaming launched raging attacks on a small number of young feminists for daring to speak out that lasted for years and included death threats and other forms of harassment.
“You could see that feeding into broader right-wing views, broader anger and the building of radical right-wing which took its final form in the Trump era with the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021.
Despite the warning signs, Solnit also had a positive message for feminists in Korea.
“It must be terrible for women and for feminists in South Korea right now but one thing that always consoles me is to look at the long-term picture — not how feminism has done in the last five years, but what about the last 50 years.”
“And then you see the world has utterly transformed. The status of women is almost unimaginably different,” she added.
“I often also think patriarchy is thousands of years old and anybody who expected it to change in 50 or 100 years completely needs to take a longer view.”