Liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem (D-Venus) is on the march – literally – for the cause of peace between North and South Korea. Or maybe it’s for women’s rights in the repressive communist nation. Or something else. But whatever the reason, she’s leaving China and plans on leading a group of women on a trek across the demilitarized zone.
Gloria Steinem is among 30 women activists marching from Beijing through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea in a call for peace next Sunday. The event marks the International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament.
The 81-year-old activist told Reuters that “it seems to me that the past of no contact has not worked,” invoking former President Ronald Reagan’s call to tear down the Berlin Wall.
“We are saying: ‘Take down this isolation,’” she said, according to the report, which also notes that the organizers will meet with North Korean women and tour a maternity hospital, a women’s factory in Pyongyang and a preschool.
On the one hand, hats off to Steinem I suppose. Too many on the Left are ready to give a pass to at least some of the activities of communist nations because of their one for all, all for one advertisements. (Even though the reality of life inside a communist nation is a very different thing from some idealized notion of a nation of equals.) If she wants to do anything to highlight the horrible treatment of women at the hands of the North Korean regime (along with anyone else who isn’t well placed with the party) then I suppose there’s something to be said for making the effort. But at the same time, realism must intrude here. Kim Jong-un’s government has approved the demonstration, which means that they obviously think they’ll be getting something out of the deal. These guys are experts at spinning propaganda gold out of nearly anything, so it will likely just turn into a state media display of how “open minded” and welcoming they are while accomplishing nothing.
It’s good that pre-approval was granted, though, because otherwise the marchers might be captured and held in North Korea. And nobody would want that to happen. That would be just terrible. And there would be all sorts of negotiations taking place to try to get Steinem back in one piece. Or would there? I mean, assuming they were keeping her in a detention center, somebody would have to go and feed her and… talk to her periodically, right? I’m not sure how much the North Koreans could take before they would pay us or give up their nukes or something just to get rid of her.
Hey… maybe this idea has some merit after all.
But in case Steinem has any misguided notions about the lives of women in North Korea, take it from someone who grew up there. There was a brief period when the ladies saw a few more opportunities following the war, but it was largely propaganda like everything else in the country.
Actually, women played a large role in this rebuilding. The government bestowed awards for working women who achieved great things, labeling them “hard-working heroines” to encourage more women to work harder.
But when things got better in the 1950s and 60s, when the North Korean economy was outperforming that of South Korea, they didn’t need the women’s labour force anymore, so they stopped encouraging women in the workplace.
Gender equality and women’s role in society were considered important when women were needed but not when the need passed. In North Korean society, when women do a good job at cooking, cleaning and other housework or when they bring home money from selling goods at the market they are highly praised.
But when a woman breaks the glass ceiling to get a highly respected job or becomes a high-ranking party member, people quote the old Korean saying: “It goes ill with the house when the hen sings and the cock is silent.”
Don’t make deals with North Korea over anything. You’re laying down with dogs and you’ll be lucky to get up at all, to say nothing of having fleas.