Recently on Korean Twitter, hundreds of people are posting before and after pictures of themselves. The uploaded pictures show a dramatic contrast – while one on the left presents “feminine” looks with tight clothes and long hair, the other one shows short hair and comfortable clothes. Such tweets are followed by hashtags saying, “taking off the corset,” “from a doll to a human,” and “corsets students experience.”
The recent trend, or what I’d like to call a social movement, has been launched predominantly by teenagers. Feeling oppressed by the pressure to continuously follow the beauty standard, some teenagers chose to “take off the corsets.”
One can easily find the reality of high beauty standards imposed on Korean teenagers by following the hashtag reading “corsets students experience” on Twitter. Wearing a makeup has now become a norm and Twitter users confess how much effort they put to be a part of everyone.
“Friends of mine say they’d rather kill themselves than to show their bare faces without makeup,” one of the students’ shares. Another teenager, who identifies herself as a 7th grader, writes that she started wearing makeup to avoid bullying.
Most of the teenagers on Twitter clearly understand the structural obstacles they’re faced with.
“I’m a 9th-grade student and more than a half of students at my school wear makeup,” writes one of them. “I don’t intend to blame everyone who wears makeup. I understand their desire to look pretty. But are they doing that because they really want to?”
“Do they really want to worry about their makeup being smudged and hairs going messy all they long? Teenagers develop obsession, seeing skinny K-pop artists portrayed through media. Kids believe that being pretty is the only way they can be loved and they go on a diet continuously, thinking they’re fat and ugly.”
“Is that really one’s own will? We’re oppressed by media’s ‘social corset’ even unconsciously. And if we don’t change this now, this social corset will be succeeded to the following generation.”
According to several Tweets, even teachers suggest students to wear makeup by teasing faces without makeup. They force girls to wear skirt uniforms because they look more “neat” and ban dark-colored bras because they’re visible through the uniform shirts, which is apparently thin enough to show underwears through.
To break free from the corsets, a significant number of young women in Korea started “taking off the corset” movement. The hashtags mentioned earlier take you to numerous pictures showing girls with short hair (sometimes even shaved) and smashed cosmetic products. Some of them even call their long hairs “protein hijab,” confessing the freedom they felt after cutting their hairs short.
“I’m a sixth grader at the elementary school,” writes a Twitter user, attaching pictures of herself in short hair. “I cut my hair short yesterday to take off the corset and I’m regretting not doing this earlier.”
Another Twitter user shared why she cut her hair. “I was afraid at first to cut my hair this short, but I wished to motivate someone else to take the corsets off, just as I was motivated to do so.”
By Heewon Kim