BUSAN, South Korea — I shaved my head two weeks ago. I did it to support a friend who was having surgery. I did it to raise money for charity. I did it to support my mom who had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. I did it to emotionally cleanse. I did it to become less vain. I did it to make my hair healthy again, after years of box dyed blonde. I did it for a thousand reasons.
What I didn’t expect was how much more feminine and feminist it made me feel. Once I was free of the hair, I was free of so many things. Yes, people stare. Some people stare and see whatever label they want to apply. But other people stare and approach me and say how I am inspiring them to go short, to go bald, to be exposed, but still be a woman. To still look like a woman and exude femininity.
I love that being bald has made me more aware of women and our position in society. I feel like it motivated me to become more active and vocal.
I participated in a Slutwalk on Saturday August 31st. It was Busan’s first. Not tied to the group Slut Walk Korea, it was put on by an organization called Don’t Do That. Approximately twenty-five people, Koreans and foreigners alike, participated.
With the exception of one crazy heckler, it was well received and civil. Yes, we were not dressed in an overly showy manner, but the information was out there. This was the first time this had happened in Busan, and perhaps one step at a time is the key to success in Korea.
I had mixed feelings about the Slutwalk concept in general. The idea originated only a few years ago in Canada, in response to a police officer stating that women should avoid dressing like sluts if they don’t want to be raped. The Slutwalk movement wants to bring an end to rape culture, and raise awareness for sex crimes.
One reason it has gained so much attention is because many participants are scantily clad, and rejects the incorrect notion that the clothes are to blame for the rape. The blame lies with the rapist. However, women walking around in nothing but their underwear still perpetuates the idea that women are here to be ogled and desired for appearances only. As I said, I have conflicting opinions.
I have had this debate with many of my friends in Korea, and I find myself on both sides of the argument each time. I was unsure of how this could help, if it’s really feminist at all, and then in the other direction, I was resentful of the idea that this walk had a dress code and male protectors. Slutwalk in Seoul had also made some negative press with regard to the Busan Don’t Do That walk, saying that they were not embracing the full concept. However, after thinking and talking it over, I came to the conclusion that it’s a great way to raise awareness and it’s a great first step for Korea, restrictions or no.
I decided to walk on Saturday morning after debating internally for several days. I went with six other friends and found the Don’t Do That organization to be incredibly welcoming. They gave us signs to carry so we could be active participants and were excited to have more people included. The walk was not based in anger, it was based in awareness. It was sharing information with the people we walked by, not in an aggressive way, but in a way that planted a seed that they would hopefully think about later.
The entire walk was about an hour, looping around the Judie’s Taehwa area and then looping around Lotte in Seomyeon. With the exception of one crazy heckler, it was well received and civil. Yes, we were not dressed in an overly showy manner, but the information was out there. This was the first time this had happened in Busan, and perhaps one step at a time is the key to success in Korea.
As the walk went on I found myself feeling more and more empowered. I was surrounded by a positive group of men and women who all wanted the improvement of the lives of women. We were raising attention to a serious problem in Korea, where women are sexually assaulted and the first question is What were you wearing.
The longer we walked, the higher I held my sign, not noticing that my arms were tired, just hoping that other women could feel what I was feeling. The feeling that it doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter what your hair looks like, it doesn’t matter if you are fighting for a cause with people who don’t speak your language: you still have a voice.
Korea’s First Slutwalk