Pyeonghwa (평화) = peace
I would like to tell you that I was raised by feminist parents, but you decide. My father was raised by brilliantly strong women who took a stand in the Suffrage Movement. My mother, raised in a patriarchal society, succumbed to an order of survival. Daughters were meant to be married and bear sons. As a woman who lived a majority of her first 20 years running from evil and terror, she leaned quite nicely into survival mode.
If I look at my mother, however, she might be viewed as a feminist, but she could also be viewed as a strong woman who survived the atrocities of war and having to make decisions based on survival only. Does that make her a feminist or a survivor?
“One of her key concepts is intertextuality, which can simply mean that narratives are woven of echoes and traces of other texts, a web or “mosaic of quotations”” (Location 647). Just as intertextuality is about two texts that echo one another, can’t people’s lives do the same?
When our family finally came to the US, I was 14 and just entering high school. It was not an easy time for any of us, but one thing was certain–my parents wanted the best for their children. Both of my parents were raised and surrounded by very strong women so they modeled the same for me. “Becoming a woman means being indoctrinated into a certain code of behaviour that can be resisted” (Location 1327).
“The persistent comparison of women to Eve or to Mary – and women’s position between the two examples – is now commonly recognized in feminist thinking (Williams and Echols, 1994). Although Eve’s sin was appetite and Mary’s virtue was (sexual) abstinence, most considerations of women and their bodies relate in some way to the sexual: early feminists argue for female capability to do much more than produce children …, and second and third wave feminists argue for separate study of women’s bodies and experiences” (106).
I can safely say that my father was a feminist. He wanted me to know that though I had two strikes against me, I was more than capable of showing up and being present at the table.
Unfortunately, society had some very different ideas about my presence and although day by day, I might return home in tears or with bruises (depending on whether I wanted to take a swing or not), my father picked me back up, put me back together, always preparing me for the next day.
This is a portion of my story from Mixed Korean: Our Stories.
“Barely graduating high school, I desperately hoped for a year off, but my parents insisted that I go to college immediately. Anxiety, depression, and loneliness now ushered me into another four-year period of more academic and social paddling. And then it came — the letter telling me that I was not invited to return to university. My 1.9 GPA was too low for their standards. In an effort to appeal, I scheduled an appointment with the Dean’s Office and my father offered to go with me.
I ended up meeting with the Associate Dean — a man I had never met before but from that day forward referred to as the ogre. Eager to prove myself, I proposed a plan and asked for a second chance to which the ogre replied, “No. Not only will you not be able to return to this university, you will never be able to attend another accredited university ever again.” The words were so final as they crushed my spirit.
The walk across the quad began silently. Somewhere in the middle, my father whispered, “Maybe you weren’t meant to be in school.” I could feel his disappointment wash over my body.”
Obviously, since I am in this doctorate program, you know that my academic history did not end there. One person who didn’t know me spoke some damning words over me. If I had allowed that to be my story’s narrative I would have given up on being the best version of myself.
There is a liturgical prayer (“Ricing Community”: Liturgy of Gathering) that was spoken at the Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM) 30th anniversary gathering, which sums up how I sense God has called me into this world. This is only a portion of the complete making of rice cakes, familiar to many in Asia.
“Litany of Coming Together
Liturgist B: We thank you, God, for sugar (sprinkle sugar on the bowl): that small amount of crystals that enables sweet flavor of rice to rise, that creates tenderness in coarse rice flour and water mixture, that enables rice cake soft and moist, that reminds us of the fact that even small works we have done can enable our shalom, hépíng, pyeonghwa, heiwa, kapayapaan, shanti, perdamaian, khwām s̄ngb s̄uk̄h, hòa bình for all people to be the sweetener for the troubled world . . . we thank you, God, for sugar. (Location 2586-2593)”
 Sim, Professor Stuart. Introducing Critical Theory: A Graphic Guide (Introducing…) . Icon Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
 Falke, Cassandra. Intersections in Christianity and Critical Theory. Palgrave Macmillan UK. Kindle Edition.
 Blackman, Nancy. “The Embracing and Fumbling of Two Cultures.” Mixed Korean: Our Stories, eds. Cerrissa Kim, Katherine Kim, Sora Kim-Russell and Mary-Kim Arnold, Location 3122-3238. Bloomfield: Truepeny Publishing Co., 2018.
 Pak, Su Yon. Leading Wisdom: Asian and Asian North American Women Leaders . Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.
11 responses to “Pyeonghwa (평화) = peace”
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I am so glad you didn’t listen to the ogre. I’m grateful your parents instilled resiliency within you, and that your dad picked you up and dusted you off after each of life’s blows. I’m thankful for the many small acts you offer into this world so that shalom can become a reality.
I wonder what you’d advise for those young women who don’t have such support structures, who may have been told “You will never……”? And considering the complexities of intersectionality, what is key societal structure that needs to shift in order for them to be able to walk that quad with their heads high?
Thank you, my friend. I will say that I’m not sure that I feel that I offer shalom into the world, but I trust that God is with me showing me the way.
I have spent time with women such as these. If they are Christian, I tell them to look to Christ as their strength and don’t let anyone tell them they can’t do anything or be whatever they want to become. I tell them to look at the dove of peace and imagine they are soaring, just like that bird.
If they are not Christian, I tell them to think about what gives them strength (generally it’s sports) and hang on to that. Most third world countries are patriarchal so the sports helps them to be strong internally and externally.
Your last question has so many layers. It depents on the culture that those women are a part of, and even then it’s not an easy task to dismantle, but I have hope that women like Malala will rise up and make changes in their own communities.
One of the principles of critical theory that stuck with me this week had to do with Marxist tradition and its understanding of power and class domination. I read in your reflection an example of one who knows what it is to live in the “in between” of race and culture, yet is fully alive and growing in the world. Your witness is a gift.
Thank you. I don’t always feel like a very good witness.
Nancy, I think you’re onto something – using the strengths of intertextuality for the texts of our lives. I might add the third text of “the” Text in which to draw echoes, allusions and derive its interrelationship.
“I might add the third text of “the” Text in which to draw echoes, allusions and derive its interrelationship.” Can you tell me more about what you mean? I understand that you are pointing to “the” Text as the Bible (yes?). I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “in which to draw echoes, allusions an derive its interrelationship.”
It was a late night for me last night. You’re not the first to ask for clarification on my responses. I’m trying to say that people think of intertextuality between works of written text, I’m thinking of the power of the relationships between the three “texts” of two lives and the Bible. Is that any clearer?
You wrote, “we thank you, God, for sugar.” The word I tried to write on was hegemony, which speaks to dominance. The truth is that something or someone will have the upper hand. That is not always the best for all concerned. But, God is faithful.
Now to sugar. I love sugar! I’ll let sugar have teh upper hand! Let good thoughts of others have the upper hand. And, along the way, some really good, squishy, black licorice.
Ugh. The Ogre. Sheesh.
Is there a correlation between the oppressive, patriarchal systems that your mother survived and the manifestation of that same oppressive ideology that showed up in the office of the Ogre? It’s fascinating (devastating) to me how skilled the oppressive ideologies are at evolving into contemporary expressions and how happy people in power are to let them evolve.
Yes! That’s the answer to your question.
When the Japanese invaded China and Korea they forced people to learn Japanese and change their names to Japanese names. I don’t know if you remember a few Olympic ceremonies ago … a Korean man who had lived through the Japanese invasion was carrying the torch for a portion of the way. The power of that moment was that he was, for the first time in public, honoring his country by carrying the torch using his Korean name again.
I knew the moment I heard the ogre’s words that he was trying to keep me down. I was a little surprised given that my father (a Caucasian man) was enduring this as well, but the other layer of that message is that the ogre was also damning my father. When we were walking across the quad, I eventually turned to my father and asked, “Why didn’t you say something?!” to which my father replied, “It’s obvious the man was a jack ass.” So, you would have to know that my father was not a man to curse and that was the worst curse word you would ever hear him say.
Where my father sat in his confidence of his opinion of the ogre, he also knew that he, once again, needed to figure out how to pick up his daughter and help her along again.
“One person who didn’t know me spoke some damning words over me. If I had allowed that to be my story’s narrative I would have given up on being the best version of myself.”
It’s always a seeming give and take or push and pull as competing narratives vie for that coveted position of our primary narrative. If those alternative and corrupted narratives take root, it’s sobering to think how our lives can take a different path. As I reflect on my own life, I can see where at times an alternative narrative has tried to take over as the central narrative (and at times, how it did for a short stint). But it’s also a testament to God’s grace that those narratives never stuck longer than they did.
I was reminded of Rev. Martyn Percy’s talk on resiliency as I read through your post. With so many strikes and so many obstacles, your resiliency humbles me. So glad that you’re part of our cohort, Nancy 🙂