After a long delay, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics took place with the public’s expectation to lighten people’s day up during an unceasing global pandemic. However, despite the increased participation of females and the fact that 49% of all the athletes are women, sexism seemed to pervade.
An San, a 20-year-old Korean archer, competed in the women’s team, mixed team, and individual games, receiving three gold medals for the first time in archery history. While everyone celebrated such a huge win, certain anti-feminist social media users started accusing her of being a ‘feminist.’ There are two questions that arise: for what reasons did they accuse her, and why is being called a feminist a problem? Those anti-feminists presented her short hair as evidence.
In Korea, a massive anti-feminist sentiment exists, especially among many males. When a female calls herself a feminist, she must endure immense social repercussions, ranging from getting fired from her job to enduring day-to-day harassment. The critics condemned her short hair as they considered short hair as a symbol of feminism. This view? that women with short hair are feminists, in other words, support women’s rights? stems from the belief that women should look a certain way for males’ pleasure. In anti-feminists' opinion, short hair is intolerable as it prioritizes females’ convenience over the look.
Similar issues emerged in Korea in the past when Starbucks advertised their product with fingers pinching to hold them up. The anti-feminists accused Starbucks of being a feminist company and a company that discriminates against males. This finger gesture, in their anti-feminist community, is a sign that is used to show hatred towards males. Because of this nonsense rule they have created and enforced on the greater world; Starbucks quickly uploaded a letter of apology to clarify that they are not a feminist country. Some people questioned the negative implication the media has put on for being a feminist, but as the anti-feminist community threatened that if Starbucks, or other companies and groups, does not apologize for using a sexist gesture, they will boycott their products, Starbucks chose to apologize for their profits.
The supporters of An San predicted this exact situation to happen and took action to prevent it. A social media trend where people upload photos of their short hair and tag #women_shortcut_campaign started, and numerous people joined to support An San. Furthermore, on Korea’s Archery Association's website, hundreds of people wrote a post asking for the Archery Association to take strong action towards those critics and to protect An San from the nonsense accusation. They also asked the Association not to make her apologize, which is a common trend when one is accused of being a ‘feminist’ in Korea.
Despite people’s concern, An San was firm in her beliefs and stood up for the accusation. When one social media user commented “Why do you cut your hair short,” with a sighing emoji, she responded “Because that is comfortable~” with a side-eyeing emoji. After winning two gold medals and receiving attacks from the anti-feminists, she posted on Instagram directly addressing those accusers; “While you are writing comments in your room driven by your inferiority complex, I'm winning two gold medals at the Olympics.” With her strong response, she showed young girls and women in Korea that one does not have to apologize for doing what one wants. Though her hair became an issue in Korea, and many attacked her, she earned her third gold medal, showing the anti-feminists that their criticism did not affect her a bit. Though unintended, her words and behaviors inspired young women to chase their dreams regardless of how the patriarchal society tries to impede them.
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