San E takes to Instagram to explain controversial song “Feminist”

Korean rapper San E released his new single “Feminist” on Nov 16 but has sparked controversy online with the lyrics. Fans have interpreted the song as a diss track to Korea’s feminists even though the artist has said that the song is a criticism of South Korea’s gender pay gap and also criticises dating culture where men pay for dates, the MeToo movement, the rise of the “escape the corset” movement in South Korea, and questions why women aren’t required to serve in the country’s national service as men are.

Youtubers DKDKTV who usually publish videos explaining K-Pop music videos, translated the Korean lyrics.

As a result of the controversy, on Nov 19, San E took to his Instagram to post an explanation about the lyrics to his song. He wrote:

“I thought that if I wrote an explanation, it would be seen as an excuse and that people would accuse me of changing my beliefs according to people’s reactions. I put out a song and it’s the public’s job to judge it. Since I thought someone would understand the song’s true meaning, I thought it would be better to stay silent myself.”

“But someone I love, a fan and friend who has supported me for 10 years, recently told me that she felt betrayed and that she regretted the time she spent being my fan. When I saw what she wrote to me, asking me if the lyrics were how I really felt and that I should wake up and realise that it wasn’t right, I decided it didn’t matter if other people thought I was making an excuse.

“‘Feminist’ is not a song expressing hatred towards women. If you listen to the song one more time, you’ll see that the narrator in the song is not me. I enjoy books and movies with this meta-perspective and I thought I had set up my song so that people would understand what I was doing. It seems that my set-up was weak. I chose this theme in order to speak strongly against the societal issue of hatred against both men and women. The original meaning of the song is to criticise people like the narrator in the song: people who say that they respect feminists, gender equality, and women on the outside but on the inside are hypocritical and contradict their words in the way they act and speak to women. I hope that this explanation can bring comfort to my friend and people who think like her.”

San E then posted a line-by-line explanation of “Feminist’s” lyrics:

“First, the narrator introduces himself as a feminist and believer in gender equality. He backs that statement up with a childish statement about how he puts women and his mother first. He says he has only read one book. In this case, it is easy for a thinker to become biased and narrow-minded, and it is especially difficult to have a broad point of view in areas of expertise.

“At the beginning, he makes a gesture towards being on the side of women. Then the narrator’s true feelings start to emerge. The OECD’s report on the wage gap between men and women is, as actor Son Soo Hyun has said, a fact. But the narrator is someone who believes in false rumours, like the one that said the Ministry of Gender Equality wanted to get rid of Jolly Pong [a Korean snack] because it looked like female genitals. He believes in random information he found online rather than facts.

“As you know, I immigrated when I was young and have American citizenship. Therefore, [mandatory military service] is not something that I have a right to make assertions about. In order to protect his true self, the narrator begins making increasingly childish claims.

“In the end, he gets mad and later he says sarcastically that ‘this is the system’s fault.’ However, he still insists that he is a feminist. The narrator gets mad at women who advocate against unreasonable beauty standards by cutting their hair short and says he doesn’t understand them. He then shows his conservative and contradictory self by saying he likes long hair and doesn’t want women to change it.

“I have no biological sisters [like the narrator says in the song]. The narrator says strongly that he is not the same as other men who have committed crimes while in the middle of drinking with a woman. He tries to persuade a drunk woman that she can trust him. Afterwards… Well, I think you know what happens without me having to say it.”

San E concluded his explanation post with the words, “The narrator does not represent all men. I am not even saying that most men think this way. Rational men and women respect and love each other. I won’t deny the existence of Megalia and Womad, but they are not feminists. They are not gender equality groups but sexual aversion groups like Ilbe. We recognise that this is a world in which women can become the targets of a crime just for being women. When I hear from my female friends how they have to go through scary things every day in their lives as women, I am surprised and sympathetic.

I know that because I am not a woman, there will be difficulties in fully understanding and sympathising with these experiences, unless I’m born in my next life as a woman. However, men also do not want to live in a world where people have to be afraid of crimes that could happen at any moment. I do not believe that attacking all men is a valid approach to this. I’m sorry, I hope that the misunderstandings can be cleared up even a little. I will humbly accept all further criticism.”

What are your thoughts on this?

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