Don’t Express Your Feminist Thoughts if You Don’t Want to be Bullied at School?
The Collective Harassment I Experienced After Opposing Misogyny
When I was in middle school, the topic of ‘school violence that feminist students experience’ circulated briefly on social media. Since school is where most of the country’s teenagers are at, there are also many students who are interested in human rights, including feminist students. These students would start learning about sexual discrimination by reading different books and journals, and realize the true nature of the discomfort they experience in their daily lives.
Not all feminist teenagers express their thoughts strongly. Actually, most of them suppress their thoughts and tolerate this discomfort they experience because it takes a lot of courage to speak up and share a different point of view in Korean society. And the aftermath of those students speaking up is anything but pleasant. That’s what I experienced.
Male Students’ Collective Violence against a Feminist Student
I experienced school violence based on hatred towards feminism.
This violence did not have a concrete reason. No one could explain why feminism is bad or why my feminist claim was worthy of collective harassment. Even the perpetrators themselves did not know why. To those perpetrators, feminists were “people that the people they like hated” as well as “people that hated the people they liked.” Just because many people hated feminists, they also bullied a feminist. This violence based on ignorance naturally fell on me, a feminist student.
I am currently a senior in high school. Three years have passed since the bullying and harassment I experienced, but I still feel helpless against school violence [if I were to experience it again].
At that time, I raised the issue of misogynist phrases related to feminism that were commonly used by students. The bullying began then. It started with around eight male students surrounding me and shouting at me, swearing and verbally abusing me. That’s when I realized what it meant for my mind to go blank. I could not do anything but just collapse and cry.
For the next three months, most of the male students in my class swore at me whenever they passed by me. I had a group of male students collectively swear at me during class, a male student passing by look and swear at me while I was eating lunch at the cafeteria, and another male student kick me in the back, which left a footprint on my uniform. Whenever these things happened, there wasn’t much for me to do.
The School Tells the Victim to ‘Stay Still’
During the three months that I was being bullied, my teacher and friends told me to endure it. They said that my responses were making them bully me even more. So I followed their advice. I just stayed still and did not react to any of their bullying. Even when someone kicked me, I stayed still. But the bullying and harassment did not stop even when I stopped responding.
So I requested that my homeroom teacher hold a School Violence Autonomous Task Force meeting. They refused. It was only after my third request that the School Violence Autonomous Task Force meeting was finally held. They gave me a piece of paper and told me to write down all the school violence I experienced, including the dates/times/people involved. Because I had been trying really hard to not remember everything that happened to me, I could not recall every single incident in detail. But I was still able to fill up more than half the page because there were so many incidents.
( The Act on the Prevention of and Countermeasures against Violence in Schools used to mandate the formation of a School Violence Autonomous Task Force made up of teachers, lawyers, and other experts at each school. However, this requirement was abolished from March 1, 2020 in accordance with a revision to the act, and now a “School Violence Review Task Force” at each local office of education has taken over the associated responsibilities.)
The School Violence Autonomous Task Force meeting took place during summer break [midway through the Korean school year] . The school was hot and quiet when I visited with my guardian. A pretty big circular table filled most of the room and a few people were sitting there. They asked me some questions and I tried to answer them as accurately as possible. Would anything have been different if I answered those questions in tears? The result was like a nightmare. They concluded that since the perpetrators apologized already and were remorseful, the task force would not impose any punishments on them. I never received an apology from any of the perpetrators nor witnessed a remorseful attitude from any of them.
After the meeting, what I experienced was concluded to be ‘nothing significant.’ I had to spend the remaining half a year just as the last three months. Male students swore at me as I walked past in the hallway and I tried my best to ignore them.
Three years ago, when the school violence that feminist students experience became an issue on social media, I shared my story on social media and some media outlets covered it. After my story was published, I received a call from the local police officer that was in charge of school violence. However, at that point, I was too exhausted to even ask for help. After witnessing how nothing had changed after ignoring the perpetrators as I learned to do from the school, after asking for help from my home room teacher, and after holding a School Violence Autonomous Task Force meeting, I thought I would only be disappointed and hurt again if I asked for help elsewhere.
It Is Not the Violence that’s the Problem but Your (Feminist) Thoughts?
What I experienced is not all of the school violence that other feminist teenagers go through. When this topic became an issue, many feminist teenagers shared their experiences. There were many victims who experienced physical violence as well as verbal and other indirect forms of harassment. The common denominator among those experiences was that a lot of the verbal abuse they experienced contained hateful language against feminism.
I wonder how many feminist students that experienced school violence based on hatred against feminism have been able to receive help. I don’t think there have been a lot. When a student experiences school violence because they have a minority opinion, it is more difficult to explain the situation to the authorities because the authorities often try to persuade the victim that the fault is theirs since the ‘majority’ [of the students] blame the victim.
Moreover, a victim may think that their guardian will not agree with their opinion. Because they have already experienced harassment from speaking their mind, they think that their guardian also may not like what they think. In the worst-case scenario, that victim might have to endure both school violence and domestic violence. They can possibly reach out to their teacher or the police, but it is hard to predict whether these parties as well would or wouldn’t have prejudices against feminists, and the guardian will eventually hear about it.
For these reasons, a victim decides to endure their situation rather than asking for help and searching for the best measures to take. School is still not an easy place for a school violence victim to ask for help.
Is School an Institution for Training People Without Their Own Opinions?
When someone is constantly bullied and harassed by those around them, it is difficult to think straight. When everyone else keeps saying that your thinking is the reason for this harassment, the victim will start believing that and blaming herself. Anyone who has experienced even the slightest backlash for sharing their opinion will understand this: that even the smallest amount of harassment and gossip will make you deny your own thoughts.
This is how I’m feeling right now. Even today, I feel uncomfortable discussing issues related to feminism. I fear that I will experience the same kind of violence I experienced in the past by bringing this topic up. I’m sure that I’m not the only one thinking this way and that it is not only feminist teenagers who carry these concerns. Those teenagers who are interested in veganism, labor rights, or queer issues also carry the same concerns. Consistent harassment leads you to start doubting yourself and creates a society that makes it difficult to share opinions that are different from others.
After staying in school for 12 years, experiencing school violence, and witnessing countless school violence cases, I learned that school is not a good space for a person to grow. If our society’s aim is to use the current school system as a means of education and raise people without their own opinions, nothing needs to change. However, as everyone knows already, that is not the right direction for a society to head. Thus, school must change.
I want to make just one request. I hope that many people don’t ignore the struggles of the students experiencing school violence but instead start listening to them and try to bring about change. It might be difficult for people to give direct help if you are not part of the school, but even just showing attention to their stories and related articles can be a big help. I hope that the tyranny of the majority stops getting justified and the school violence that feminist students experience no longer become ‘something insignificant’ anymore.
Published: April 19th, 2021
Translated by: Seung-a Han
*Original Article: https://ildaro.com/9019
◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(https://ildaro.blogspot.com).
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