South Korean Women Take to Social Media to Smash Gender Roles and their Makeup

South Korean women are protesting their country’s high beauty standards by destroying their makeup and Escaping the Corset.

South Korea could be the textbook definition of “impossibly high beauty standards.” Its market for makeup and skincare products is so extensive that “K-Beauty” is its own category in beauty shops around the world.

South Korean women are expected to maintain a strict skincare and makeup routine that can take up to two hours every day before leaving the house for work or school.

To bring attention to the high level of scrutiny South Korean women are under, many have begun to document destroying their make-up products and posting pictures and video on social media.

South Korean social media has been covered with broken lipstick, crushed eyeshadow and blush palettes, toner and moisturizer bottles overturned and poured over, all resembling Jackson Pollock paintings. Many of these posts include a poster flipping off the pile, with “#EscapeTheCorset” written in pre-smashed lipstick.

Escape the Corset is a feminist movement in South Korea that serves as an umbrella term for protests against South Korean misogyny. Corset, of course, serves as a metaphor for the country’s stringent body standards for women.

The feminist movement was under attack last July when the Seoul Metro banned ads that contained “personal opinions or motivations,” many of which were feminist-based and called for an end to spycam crimes and sexual violence.

Escape the Corset truly took off following the murder of a 23 year old woman at Gangnam Station in May 2016. The man who stabbed her said he felt “ignored and belittled” by women his whole life. As a result, large-scale protests sprouted all over the country to fight against sexual violence, harassment and impossible beauty standards.

A major issue brought up during the protests included “spycam porn,” where someone would record video of a woman’s genitalia while they were sleeping or going to the restroom, or shoot video up strangers’ skirts in public. Authorities have done little to apprehend perpetrators of this trend.

Pictures of smashed makeup and skincare products aren’t the only things women are getting rid of to “escape the corset.” Women are also posting pictures of themselves wearing comfortable clothes like sweatpants and t-shirts, next to pictures of themselves in tight-fitting dresses and lots of jewelry. Others posts show women with their once long, curled, dyed hair next to their new short, natural hair. Many women have decided to take all three measures and share their transformations online.

One of the most notable acts of protest online was a YouTube video posted by makeup guru Lina Bae. At the beginning of the video, she puts on heavy makeup starting with a bare face. Comments that have been aimed at her, both in real life and on the internet, are edited into the video, things like “you’d look prettier if you try” and “your bare face is a terror to my eyes.”

As she continues to put on makeup, the comments get worse. “I’d kill myself if I was her.” When she’s done, she shows off her face and gives a small smile. The comments change. “You look so pretty!” and “You’re so good at makeup!” But all too quickly do they become “you think she’s enough with just makeup?” and “I want to beat her up.”

She takes off her makeup again. No comments show on the video. When she’s done, she looks up and gives a genuine smile. The video closes with a black screen with text that reads “I am not pretty. And that’s okay.” The video went viral not because Lina Bae showed off her makeup skills but she showed off herself.

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