Over the last few years I have been trying to increase the number of books I read by non-white authors. This is so I can learn about different perspectives and experiences outside of my own. One such book is Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo.
This book is an excellently written and well referenced book. It documents the effects of a patriarchal society on one individual girl, one girl in millions. The book is relatable and poignant in its explanation of how the patriarchy permeates every aspect of society and the impact it has on those most affected, girls. It addresses the work-gender divide in the home, to how schooling and education differs for girls compared to boys in Korea. The book covers how hard it can be for a girl to obtain a job and maintain it and the impact that marrying and wanting a family has on a girl’s life compared to her husbands.
The book begins when Kim Jiyoung is only a child and it is made clear to the reader that the family had hoped for their second child, Kim, to be a boy. We find out that Kim’s mother becomes pregnant a third time but aborts the child as it is a girl. She fears the disappointment and the stigma she will be on the receiving end of if she were to have a third child that was a girl. Eventually she has a boy. Once she does it becomes clear that there is a massive gendered work divide within the home. The boy does not have to do any chores or housework whilst his sisters clean the home, cook and do laundry all whilst attending school.
Once Kim is old enough to go to school she faces a new set of challenges. She is relentlessly bullied in her primary school by her male desk-mate. She eventually gets reassigned her desk but not before being told that he only hurts her because he has a crush on her (something a lot of girls will be familiar with). As she gets older and progresses in her education we see her learning being disrupted by a male flasher who preys on the girls in their uniforms. We see the gender imbalance of boys to girls who run clubs, societies and hold prestigious positions in the schools social hierarchy. We also notice how girls’ uniform is impractical and policed more by the school administration than the boys. The flashing incidents she experienced whilst at school become one of many sexual harassment incidents she experiences during her life.
As she gets older, pursues a university education and attempts to obtain a job we see how she is met with further barriers. In the final part of the book we see how her marriage, and her husband’s want of a child further disadvantages Kim in a system that never supported her to begin with.
I cannot emphasize enough how brilliant this book is. This book is relatable for any person that has lived their life as a girl, no matter where they are from. It works as an excellent tool for boys and men to learn about how girls and women are impacted by the patriarchy and systemic means of oppression. The question this book left me with was, How far would I have to go to have my voice heard?
Girl Museum Inc.