On June 9, the area around Hyehwa Station in Seoul was filled with women in red attire once again. More than 22,000 women took to the streets carrying placards inscribed with slogans such as “My daily life is not your porn.” The turnout greatly exceeded the over 12,000 who attended the first demonstration on May 19. There was also a hair-shaving ceremony for women who had volunteered in advance. But instead of the grim resolve that often accompanies hair-shaving ceremonies, it was a scene of cheering and applause.
In recent weeks, South Korean society has been facing a new kind of resistance from young women. The two demonstrations at Hyehwa Station – which were organized by a Daum internet café called “Uncomfortable Courage” – have mobilized an increasing number of young women who have never demonstrated before. While the investigation into the unauthorized posting of photos of a nude male model at Hongik University cannot itself be described as biased, that investigation was sufficient to ignite the latent rage and fear about society’s failure to do something about the spy cams that have harmed countless women and about the male chauvinism that has condoned that failure
On June 10, the day after the demonstration at Hyehwa Station, a group called Bwave held a demonstration calling for the complete legalization of abortion, the group’s 14th such demonstration. And on June 2, a demonstration held by Fire Femi Action protesting Facebook’s deletion of a topless photo of women became the center of attention and controversy.
Some critics have responded to these women’s repeated “action” by arguing that feminism foments the “war between the sexes” and “misandry,” but this only takes us further away from tackling this problem. Some partial problems that are seen in these demonstrations – tendencies toward anonymity, exclusivity and aggression – cannot be the grounds for rejecting the legitimacy of their demands. At the moment, women are not angry at individual men, but at a society in which they are not even guaranteed basic rights such as the right to life and safety and the right to make decisions about their own bodies.
Many experts contend that these demonstrations are not some passing fad but will continue and persist until concrete measures are taken and tangible change is seen. While the sexism that has calcified over the long years is unlikely to be reversed all at once, change begins by listening carefully, and without prejudice, to the voice of women.