Why are Korean women criticized for showing off their ‘feminist haircut’?

Korean women share photos of their short hair with the hashtag #women_shortcut_campaign.

When South Korean archer An San who won three Gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics came back home, she was not only welcomed with compliments but also criticism over her short hair.

According to BBC, the 20-year-old archer faced cyberbullying when netizens called her hairstyle “feminist”.  This term in Korea is considered to promote hostility in Korean men. “We don’t train and feed you with tax money just for you to show your feminist behavior,” said one commenter on An San’s Instagram.

It’s good that she won the Gold but her short hair makes her look like a feminist. If so, I withdraw my support. All feminists should die.“, another man commented.

In South Korea – where there are strict beauty standards – long hair is seen as a symbol of femininity, Womenlink activist Ryu Hyeong-rim told UPI.

But when she faced online abuse, An San received support from thousands of other women. According to the BBC, women across South Korea have shared their photos with short hair as part of a campaign to support the Olympic female archer.

A woman supporting the #women_shortcut_campaign campaign

The hashtag #women_shortcut_campaign was started by Han Jiyoung – who was outraged when she saw hateful comments aimed at the 20-year-old female athlete. “This kind of mass attack sends the message that men can control a woman’s body and that women need to hide that they’re feminist. I think that starting a campaign for women to show off their haircut and showing support to female Olympic athletes will effectively tackle both issues,” she said.

The short hair campaign comes just weeks after a fierce battle between men and “feminists” over the design of one of Korea’s largest convenience store chains. Many men claimed that the poster had a finger gesture almost like a small hot dog, implying mockery for the size of their genitals.

Many men threatened to boycott the company that operates the GS 25 convenience store, which is worth billions of dollars. Despite the poster designer saying that she “did not support any ideology” and denied “showing mockery of men”, she was still vilified and reviled on social media. The male resentments became so overwhelming that GS25 had to discipline the female employee and publicly apologized.

In South Korea, growing hatred for feminism stems from the belief that women’s success affects them, who mainly include young men. Some men in the country feel they are at a disadvantage when they have to go through 18 months of service – which they say hinders their opportunities for developing their careers. For example, women are “robbing places” of men by getting college lectures and job opportunities.

In reality, however, Korean women earn only 63% of men’s wages – one of the highest wage disparities in the developed countries. Sexist recruitment mechanisms are rife, with more than 65% of companies listed on Korean exchanges without female executives.  This country is also continuously ranked by The Economist as the OECD country with the worst working environment for women.

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