From #MeToo to the fight for equal pay, women and girls around the globe are taking a stand and fighting for their rights, yet many countries still have laws and policies in place that regard women and girls as second-class citizens. In some countries, women are even policed by very outdated patriarchal practices or misogynistic men.
In Afghanistan, which has spent the last 20 years building a more equal society, has been suddenly thrown back to the dark ages; women now fear a reprisal of misogynistic Taliban rule, where they’re basically banned from their hard-fought freedoms, like the right to work and have access to education. Women also fear for their safety, and some in Taliban-controlled cities already feel “like prisoners in [their] home.”
The recent rape allegations against Kris Wu in China highlights the progress the #MeToo movement has made, but some see it more as a political tool to police the power celebrities have.
Here are some other recent cases that have exposed the misogyny and patriarchy – both systemic and newfound – that women have been subjected to (and still are).
South Korea: Short hair and anti-feminists
When South Korean archer An San won an unprecedented three gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, she wasn’t just greeted with jubilation from her fellow countrymen: a sizeable group of misogynistic (mostly) young men sent insults her way instead and even contacted the Korea Archery Association to ask to take return the medals, accusing her of being a feminist. One of the insults An San received read “All feminists should die.”
She was accused of being a feminist because she went to a women’s college, used expressions that online mobs deemed ‘misandrist’, and of course, had short hair.
Only in South Korea, women sporting short hair are icons of feminism – and “feminism” is a loaded word in South Korea. While the country ranks at the bottom of first-world nations for equality, women who fight for equal rights are often perceived as a threat to men. Young men see women as competition at school and at the workplace, and therefore short-haired “feminists” are seen as being anti-men.
While older Korean men see themselves as patriarchs who oversee women, younger men consider themselves victims of feminism. This is probably why in one survey, 58.6% of Korean men in their 20s said they strongly opposed feminism, which is contributing to the rise against feminism in South Korea, especially among younger men who are policing public figures they suspect as “feminists.”
Indonesia: Army women had to be virgins
Did you know that the Indonesian army once required its female cadet applicants to be virgins? The army only recently announced the end of this controversial practice.
The army has subjected female recruits to this inhumane test for decades; in some instances, even the prospective wives of male soldiers, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The group conducted investigations in 2014 and 2015 into the practice, speaking to more than 100 female military recruits who underwent the tests. It renewed calls for it to end in 2017.
It’s also interesting to note that the army wasn’t the only organisation to practice virginity testing – it has been used on female police recruits and women who applied with the Ministry of Home Affairs, although these tests have been stopped. Although the navy doesn’t engage in virginity tests, it conducts pregnancy tests on women to check for cysts or other complications that could impair recruits’ ability to serve.
Perhaps the most baffling is the reason behind the tests: to determine a recruit’s morality. Apparently there was a view among men that “easy women” should be barred from taking military and police roles.
While the reasoning for the test is questionable, what’s even more dubious is the method. This abusive and invasive test, called the “two-finger test,” was performed by doctors of either sex. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the “two finger method” has “no scientific validity” and is a “violation of the victim’s human rights.”
Incels and the men who murder
The word ‘incel’ means ‘involuntary celibate’ – men who blame women for denying them sex (and relationships), and therefore have a bizarre hatred of women. These men meet up regularly on chat groups online, further spreading the hatred – some of them advocate violence against women.
The word ‘incel’ crept up a number of times since the the 2018 case of Alek Minassian who was convicted of murder after killing 10 people when he drove a rental van on to a crowded Toronto sidewalk. Just last week, an incel-related case happened in Plymouth, England, when self-professed incel Jake Davison shot dead five people in Plymouth, including his own mother. He ranted online that “women are arrogant” days before rampage.
Earlier in August, a 36-year old Japanese man stabbed 10 passengers on a commuter train, the rapid express Odakyu Electric Railway, in Tokyo. The first victim, a female university student in her 20s, was in serious condition. After he was arrested, he told police that he wanted to kill women who appeared happy, and that he chose his targets at random.
While he didn’t specifically identify himself as an incel, his behaviour is very similar. His frustration at women stemmed from the past 6 years, after being ridiculed at social gatherings and rejected on dating services.
The fight for equality?
Feminism is about working against the systems built to keep certain groups of people oppressed, and striving towards equality for everyone. Women and men today are fighting for equality in the workplace, freedom from violence, and a break from traditional family roles – but as they fight systemic sexism, newer and more ominous forms of misogyny are hindering that progress.