South Korean archer Ahn San may have won three Olympic gold medals in Tokyo, but she didn’t receive an outpouring of praise upon her return home. On the contrary, a rain of criticism was waiting for him due to his short hair, according to the BBC.
Amid all the insults directed at her, Ann has been labeled a “feminist,” a term fraught with meaning in South Korea, where it is often associated with misogyny.
In one post, it read: “It’s good that she won the gold, but her short hair suggests that she is a feminist. If so, I withdraw my support. All feminists must die.” But with the outpouring of criticism of Anne, a campaign to defend her has also gained momentum. Across the country, thousands of women have posted pictures of themselves with their hair cut, saying it doesn’t make them any less feminine.
In South Korea, women have long fought against discrimination and misogyny, but in the past decade they’ve made great strides, from the country’s #MeToo campaign to lifting the ban. to an abortion. Han Jeong is the woman at the heart of the Twitter campaign dedicated to short hair, which she created under the hashtag #women_shortcut_campaign. She told the BBC that she was very upset when she read “Not one or two, but [plusieurs] misogynistic comments [à propos de An]». These anti-feminists are usually young men, but they also include older people, and sometimes women as well. “This kind of mass attack sends the message that men can control women’s bodies and that women need to hide their feminist identities,” Twitter user comments.
But why is short hair associated with feminism? Hawon Jung, author of a forthcoming book about the #MeToo movement in South Korea, explains that the two have been linked since the “Cut the Corset” movement. In 2018, young South Korean women defied beauty ideals by cutting their hair and going out without makeup. “Since then, short hair has become a political act for many young feminists,” Haun Jung concludes.
The root of these hateful movements, made up largely of young men, is their belief that women’s success comes at their expense. For example, because competition for higher education in South Korea is tough, some men feel they have been unfairly disadvantaged. But the reality is very different. South Korean women earn on average only 63% of the salaries of their male colleagues, one of the largest salary gaps among developed nations.
Will this latest Twitter campaign bring societal change? “[Je pense] That there have already been real changes in recent years, Haun Jeong says. Women are trying to chart their own paths and defy societal pressure.”