Women have been posting pictures of their short hair on social media. Why? As a show of support against anti-feminism. South Korea’s online anti-feminist community has been growing. In their view, being a ‘feminist’ means hating men and creating barriers for them. The country’s men feel that feminist policies and ideas have been unfair to them. Men have to serve eighteen months in the military before attending university. Men also don’t have the option of a university which admits only the male gender, unlike the several all-women universities in the country. While these men complain, Korea’s gender pay gap is 35%, larger than most other economies on the same level. The Economist ranks it as one of the worst environments for working women.
This issue was brought into the spotlight during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, when 20-year-old Olympian An San, was attacked for wearing her hair short and being enrolled in a University. According to the online commenters, these two attributes make her a ‘feminist’. One man posted, “It’s good she got a gold but her short hair makes her seem like she’s a feminist. If she is, I withdraw my support. All feminists should die.”
According to author Hawon Jung, 2018’s “Cut the Corset” movement made short hair a political statement when women challenged beauty ideals by cutting their hair. Just a few weeks before the controversy about short hair arose, an ad designed by a woman in South Korea received hate from the male online community. The ad was for camping products, and besides the usual camping equipment, showed a pinching hand holding a sausage between the thumb and index finger. Many men felt that the sausage was supposed to represent something else, and that this ad was laughing at the size of their private parts. The unnamed woman’s company publicly apologized for the ad after the protest online, and announced they had disciplined the employee responsible.
An San received the support and defence the unnamed woman attacked a few weeks before did not. Women rose to defend the archer, cutting their own hair, and quoting her response to a question on Instagram when asked why she wore her hair short. “Because it is convenient.” The Women’s Shortcut Campaign (#여성_숏컷_캠페인) was started on twitter by Han Jiyoung, in support of the archer’s right to make her own choices about how she presents herself and cuts her hair. Jiyoung says, “This kind of mass attack… sends the message that men can control the female body and a message that females need to hide their feminist identity.” More than 60,000 women responded to her campaign by showing off their own short hair on Social media.
Support has been garnered from plenty of other high profile Korean celebrities and groups. One is Koo Hye-sun, an actress, director and movie director. One politician, Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong, from the Justice Party shared an old picture of herself with short hair. The Korea Archery Association has received thousands of requests for An San’s protection and defense. South Korean women have spent the past few years finding ways to fight misogyny and continue to garner interest and support. The attacks on An San is just the last and latest, and with renewed interest South Korea’s women are continuing to fight for equality and freedom of choice.