From Madwomen to Whistleblowers: MeToo in South Korea as an Institutional Critique

Friday, October 7, 2022 16:00to17:30
Sherbrooke 688 room #1041, 688 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 3R1, CA

The talk delves into the MeToo movement in South Korea, where MeToo has come to signify women’s collective attempts to speak out publicly against sexual violence as a systemic abuse of power and authority. It highlights the tension over how to translate the English expression “MeToo” into Korean, as a contested site where feminists reckoned with the polyvocality of MeToo in order to situate it within the legacy of South Korean feminist activism. By examining the landmark case of the prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun and other key cases, I show how MeToo in South Korea emerged as an institutional critique, as the women who came forward articulated the link between sexual violence and gender-based discrimination within male-dominated organizations, becoming whistleblowers instead of mobilizing based on shared pain and sexual victimization. Within such a formation, the scope of MeToo was limited to sexual violence perpetrated by men in positions of power, embedded in formal institutional structures. While this focus broadly mobilized alliances that transcend gender as a language of power and injustice, it also left out the question of how gendered oppression not formally inscribed within institutions nonetheless operates across all realms of the public and private divide. Through the MeToo movement, women have emerged as a collective subject demanding equal recognition in the public sphere, but the movement’s swift turn toward gender politics with emphasis on gender discrimination, away from sexual politics, has yet to foster a nuanced discussion on the interplay between sexuality, agency, and violence.


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