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15 Nov 2018 7:16
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  •   Home > News > International

    'I hated my ugly face': Korean women destroy cosmetics in protest of unrealistic beauty ideals

    South Korean women are destroying cosmetics and cutting their hair short to fight back against unrealistic beauty ideals in what is being dubbed the "escape corset" movement.


    South Korean women are destroying cosmetics and cutting their hair short to fight back against unrealistic beauty ideals in what is being dubbed the "escape corset" movement.

    In posts across Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms, women have been denouncing the use of cosmetics and a culture that pressures as many as one in three women to undergo some form of plastic surgery.

    One post on Instagram by user 6_feminist_9 confessed that she had low self-esteem and felt she had to use makeup as a mask just to leave the house.

    "I liked pretty things. I wanted to be pretty. I hated my ugly face," she posted.

    "Self-esteem came and went. I was always putting on makeup. I did not go to school on days when I did not have good makeup.

    "But now you do not have to. It does not have to be pretty. In the meantime, I took off the mask that plagued me and ruined my life."

    Another user said: "Today is one month since I decided to cut my hair and take a bath!"

    "Cosmetics, lenses, and clothes that are not easy to wear are now used as memorials."

    It is the latest development in the Asian country's exploding feminist movement in the age of #MeToo, in a country that was ranked a poor 116 out of 144 countries on gender equality by the World Economic Forum.

    The women abandoning demanding cosmetic regimens call themselves "beauty resisters" and are part of a broader push back against South Korea's highly patriarchal society which places a huge emphasis on a woman's appearance as being key to success in life.

    Stories about young women transforming their lives after having plastic surgery and makeovers are abound in soaps and movies, and popular on reality TV.

    The K-beauty industry is one of the largest in the world — worth somewhere $18-24 billion, according to analysts — and has been spreading to other Asian countries where the K-beauty ideal of dewy soft skin, soft pink lips, and delicate features has taken off.

    Even before #MeToo caught fire in 2017, an incident in 2016 had already set a spark to the tinder of a surging Korean feminist movement: the murder of a 23-year-old woman in a unisex toilet by a man unknown to her because he "hated women" brought thousands to the streets in protest.

    South Korean women protest against 'spycam porn'

    However the biggest issue uniting women in the country of 51 million is the use of spy cameras by men to obtain images of women in bathrooms, with many of the resulting images being posted online. The number of reported cases has leapt from around 1,000 to more than 6,000 over the last few years.

    Since May there have been monthly demonstrations against spycam porn involving tens of thousands of women in the capital Seoul.

    Heather Barr, a research from Human Rights Watch's division for women's rights, said earlier this year that the country's leaders still weren't listening to women.

    "South Korean women see inequality all around them, they have had enough, and are demanding action by the government," she said.

    The nascent Korean feminism movement has also seen some backlash.

    In August police issued an arrest warrant for the publisher of feminist website Womad after the site published nude photos taken of men without their consent in protest at what it said was police inaction on spycam porn.

    In a statement issued on the site after the warrant was issued, the unnamed founder said: "I am angry that many possibilities and freedoms have been violated by the police, who are constantly harassing me with no evidence."

    Last month an unnamed organiser of one women's rights group told the UK Telegraph that women felt they had no choice but to hide their faces behind masks when taking part in protests for fear of social repercussions such as losing their jobs or threats of violence received from men.

    "We are ridiculed and even fired from our jobs because we speak out … women can only survive by maintaining their anonymity because Korean society is run by men," she said.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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