Thursday, 31 January 2019

Interview with Korean Radfems about molka, women being assaulted for short haircuts and how Korean women are escaping their corset.

KORADFEM is a South Korean twitter account. I first became aware of the when they tweeted about the abuse of a woman in South Korea, assaulted for “looking like a feminist” (click here for link). I reached out to KORADFEM to ask some questions about feminism in South Korea: how it works, how their culture reacts and how they think they’re doing in their battle for liberation.

KORADFEM is part of the radical feminist movement in South Korea.

Radical Feminism can sound alarming if you don’t know what it is. Radical Feminism is basically a root-cause analysis of the structures of power which oppress females. Analysis of patriarchy and male violence, for instance, often come from a radical feminist lens. If you’ve thought that perhaps female oppression might be even partially due to our bodies or our reproductive abilities, you’ve applied radical feminist thinking.

I will put a disclaimer here that many liberal or mainstream feminists do not agree with radical feminist analysis and have differing theories regarding concepts such as male feminists, makeup, femininity in general, gender etc. I want to make it clear that this is not a recruitment piece for radical feminism. Rather, I wanted to share a perspective from feminists that isn’t very often heard, and of the movements discussed, Escape the Corset, is very much a radical feminist movement. I hope with this in mind, the interview and replies can be taken in good faith, even if you disagree with this particular feminist analysis, or these particular feminists.

I have lightly edited Ara and Crystal’s replies, for ease of reading.

Hello! Can you tell me about yourselves?

Ara: 30, Ara Koh, Youtuber KORADFEM for Korean radical feminism. 
(The channel makes English videos of protest for MOLKA, BlackSunday in Korea, and translates for Radfems in the world. Activist of Women in Korea.)

Crystal: Hello, I am a Korean woman called Crystal (*fake name). I’m 25 in Korean age. I suppose it’s 23 in international age. I live in Seoul which is the capital of Korea. Currently I participate in the translation team of KORADFEM channel.

How is feminism viewed in South Korea? Is it difficult to call yourself a feminist? Is it dangerous?

Yes. We've always been dangerous to men or the Korean government. For example, mostly men and some women mocked and insulted me for my “Escape the Corset” profile. I had uploaded my pic with my hair shaved on my Instagram; they posted it online using illegal methods. It's not just me, they mocked us openly for the short haircut, mocked all those shaved women who have fought for the Corset. I’ve heard public derision on the street because I have shaved my hair and removed my make-up. A man sent a threatening message to my mother on Facebook; he said, "You know your daughter is a Megal (Korea’s very first feminism site) bitch."

There was an actual case where a woman got fired from her work because Korean men complained that she was a feminist. The company required her to officially declare that she is not a feminist. And then they fired her because she rejected it.

There are also national petitions by men that demanded to execute a woman celebrity because she pressed “like” on an instagram post that was about women’s rights.

That’s why the women who officially “escaped their corset” are so brave. Not only because they choose to resist social norms, but also they are openly feminist.

Especially in youth communities. It is very common to be taunted and bullied when you are known as feminist in school. So I think that underage feminists should deserve more attentions and protections.

I have seen you tweet reports of a woman being hit for "looking like a feminist" (click here for link). Does harassment or assault of feminists happen a lot? Is this a vocal minority, or the majority of men?

Every Korean man is hostile about feminism. They demonize feminists and censor every woman around them. My brother also once asked me: “are you a feminazi?”

It is socially prevalent that men are criticizing, mocking, and threatening feminists. I’ve seen some cases where women were physically attacked. So, no, it’s not safe to be openly feminist in Korea. Most people choose to hide their faces and personal information. Even I knew it could be dangerous, but still we were all shocked by this case. And it’s such a shame that victims are terribly ridiculed and criticized by Korean men now.

Here in Australia, and around the world, we’ve seen a few of your recent radical movements. I'd like to get your views on them.

In the 80s, South Korea had a severe case of abortion for girls (femicide) (I found a study here affirming this:click here for link), which is now proved by sex ratios in the nation's population between women and men. This means it led to male violence growing up, with women dying every three days for dating violence, and one in every five women dying because of their husbands.(click here for link: Korean Broadcasting System(KBS)), "Last year in South Korea, 20% of all crimes committed was by husbands who killed their wives.")

(Included from Ara is affirmation of violence caused by an uneven sex ratio, extrapolated using China’s One Child Policy. Click here for link). Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy - Columbia Univ, Chinese Univ of Hong Kong, "The rise in the sex ratio coincided with a dramatic increase in crime. Between 1988 and 2004, criminal offenses rose at an annual rate of 13.6% (or 12.5%, population adjusted) (Hu (2006)), and arrest rates were up by 82.4% (Figure 2).1 The overwhelming majority (70%) of perpetrators of violent and property crimes in China are between 16 and 25 years old (Hu (2006)). While we do not have the gender composition of arrestees by age, in 2000, 90% of all arrestees were men (Law Yearbook of China (2001)).")

Although Korea is known for its safety without guns and drugs, male violence is considered serious; it is drawing the attention of researchers around the country. MOLKA is just one of the aspects of the crime.

Molka means “secret camera”. Victims of this are photographed or videoed as they are walking, or even in change rooms or bathrooms. (Click here for link)

There's been a huge and angry response to "molka". Tens of thousands of women have protested this harassment. How did you feel about women coming together to protest like this? Has this large of a protest ever happened before?

I’m so proud of my sisters and it’s hopeful that more and more women will become conscious of feminism. As I know, “the courage to be uncomfortable” protest is the largest women protest ever among all Asia.

That’s amazing. I've seen that slogan: "the courage to be uncomfortable"- what does this mean?

In Korea, there is a slang “프로불편러” it becomes “prouncomfortabler” if I translate it literally. This slang is used to make fun of people who point out inappropriate points. So, the slogan contains the meaning we need to be brave to point out something wrong and especially about misogynistic problems. And “the courage to be uncomfortable” is the name of protest. The main slogan is “the courage to be uncomfortable will change the world”.

How widespread is the molka problem? Does it make you nervous - walking around worried to be filmed? Do you check for spy cams in toilets etc?

It was a common and well-known crime; taking pictures or recording women’s body parts in public spaces such as [the] subway. But I was shocked to know the fact that the little holes in the public restrooms which I had seen since I was little were actually for hidden cameras and that men were consuming those videos as porn.
Image is of small holes drilled into bathroom stalls

Every Korean woman feels fear that her toilet habits might have been recorded and shared at anytime and anywhere. Furthermore, because pornography is illegal in Korea, every Korean porn is illegally recorded from everywhere in our life. There are illegally filmed videos from motels, changing rooms, restrooms, even from women’s private houses. You can so easily buy various forms of spy cameras on major shopping sites of Korea.

Now, most Korean women are sharing their ‘tips’ to break and block hidden cameras. We are carrying our own awl and silicone sealant everywhere.

Image of silicone and tools to plug up small holes

Image of small holes in public restroom that have been plugged up with silicone

Also, you can find these things in Korea public restrooms- the holes women tried to block with tissues.
Image of tissue being shoved into small holes in bathroom stall

I love how innovative women are! This is amazing.

How do police respond to complaints?

Actually, this protest is primarily about a male biased judgement. We knew about those illegal spy cam videos and there are sites uploading and selling those videos before. But when victims tried to sue the criminals who recorded and uploaded videos, the police always answered “they cannot track the criminals”. Because of this neglected duty, many women committed suicide. Even if the charges have been filed, the punishments of the criminals were ridiculously light (mostly suspended).

But last year, there was a case where a picture of a male nude model got uploaded online. And the woman who uploaded that picture was immediately arrested and known nationally as a ‘crazy bitch’. Women got angry that actually they were able to catch the perpetrator this quickly and easily. Therefore, the protest started.

Sadly, that woman was sentenced to 10 months. It’s insane. In Korea that amount of sentence is not even for child sexual abuses (of course only in male cases).

What made women snap - what ignited the protests?


Before the 6th protest, it was revealed that [the] strong reputation of Korea as the global IT powerhouse was actually built based upon illegal spy cam videos of women.

So many industries, companies and even the government institution [are] involved in this Illegal Recorded Pornography Cartel. I assume this made 110,000 women to participate in 6th protest.

Infographic of The Structure of the Webhard Cartel (

Crystal :
This article illustrates the situation very well: click here for link

I've seen slogans "leave Korea right now" - what is this about? Are you trying to warn foreigners/tourists?

Yes it is. Because the protest was held in Gwanghwamun which is one of popular tourist attractions, the organizers made these warning announcements in several languages.

How do you think molka could be stopped?

I think to stop entire molka crimes, the government should change. More than 90% of Korean politicians are male. Even though this demonstration that was held on the sixth [Nov 2018], the government is still ignoring voices of women and do not mention anything about [the] protest. We need much more female politicians who can speak up for women’s rights.

I wanted to ask you about “Escape the Corset” – where women rebel against beauty standards and femininity oppression by destroying their makeup supplies, shaving their heads/cutting their hair.

What are makeup standards in South Korea like?

[...] many people know about "Korean beauty culture" as "Plastic Surgery's Country", it's very common here. Because Korean women are used to being openly criticized for their appearance by Korean men; even teenage girls are under pressure from their families to have plastic surgeries and make-up, and now children are increasingly forced to wear makeup.

What does "Escape the Corset" mean to you?

Women are not born with a long hair, wearing make up from birth, but they are made to grow in that way. It in turn reduces women's abilities by allowing them to spend time only on their appearance.

Shaving my hair has reduced my shower time. Now I always walk with pride, use my time to study English instead of looking into mirrors, and the thought of losing weight has changed; instead I’m focusing on becoming healthy. I was so upset because it was all a culture that men encouraged us to do from the start.

People say they are helping women who are going through their chemotherapy by donating hairs to make them look “normal and pretty" again, and it is such a hypocritical, coy lie since what they really do starts from defining women’s natural appearance as “abnormal and ashamed” first. Then society proceeds to make them wear wigs to look like a long-haired barbie again. This reinforces “the utter feminine" stereotype, creating new type of corset afterhand. And corsets destroy the body.

Do you think this movement will undermine the Korean beauty industry?

Absolutely. In fact, Korea's beauty industry is already getting down. We hope all beauty industries will be affected.

How linked is the beauty industry to South Korea's plastic surgery industry? Is there pressure for women to have plastic surgery?

Beauty industry and plastic surgery industry are like identical twins with different names in reality. Those two thing always grow together.

If you go to station of "Gangnam" in Seoul, (which is famous for the song Gangnam Style) it is literally plastered with a plethora of plastic surgery advertisements inside and outside.

Young female children are also under passive-aggressive coercion to have plastic surgery and make-up.

Image is a screenshot of google search results for Gangnam station plastic surgery

Ara advises searching on Youtube to see tutorials for “make up for kids” – she advises not to click and watch any of the videos to ensure the uploaders don’t make money for these videos. (Youtube searching "어린이화장 (Make-up for Kids)).

How do people react to women who’ve escaped the corset?

Men are so afraid of women making their own opinions, so most Korean men use the term "Feminazis", "Femtardism". Some mothers with sons want more women to focus only on their appearance because they fear that their son's grades will drop because of smarter girls.

"Short-haired women" are always getting attacked online. Abroad, "Escape the Corset" is seen as a movement receiving positive reactions, but women are seriously suffering and the fights they've gone through are not known.

It’s terrible women are being judged so harshly for how they look, or failing to perform femininity.

Is it true you must provide photos when you are interviewing for a job? If so, will “Escape the Corset” affect potential careers?

South Koreans must put a picture on their resume. Most women have already been excluded from the job because they are women, and Korea's gender wage gap ranks always the first in the OECD.  (34.6%, 2017, OECD: click here for link).  A woman with a short cut often fails to get a job. Moreover there has been a case where a woman got fired from her job because she took off the corset after her job interview. The employer said that her appearance was “not neat and tidy enough to work at my cafe" and fired her, even though she was just as clean and tidy as a male worker right next to her. When she protested that it is unfair, he only repeated saying “but you are a woman so you should care more than men, it is natural" and “you had longer hair and applied makeup on your face at the job interview, and that’s the girl I hired, you fraud.”

Is “Escape the Corset” spreading? Despite the attacks women are receiving, are you excited about this movement?

Many Korean women have gained courage from short cuts for each other. It's revolutionary to be known abroad, but I am still unsatisfied-we want more. I can't give a complete positive answer for it because I know that there are many sisters who took off their corset are still afraid of men's violence as a retaliation. But that is the reason we should strive [harder] to let this movement catch fire even more.

Waiting for the wild fire we ignited to spread all over the world-it is more than mere excitement.

Are you hopeful that these new rebellions are only just the beginning?

Foreign journalists also regard the "Escape the Corset" as just the latest trends in Korea, but I sincerely hope it will continue into the world. Long hair and makeup suppress other women in a chain reaction. We, women, have to change first.

Korea have fostered culture and society of misogyny for thousands years, and that misogyny permeated deep into even our language. Korean feminists are now pointing out and changing misogynistic and patriarchal aspects in society. I think our movements are very militant and full of enthusiasm. Although it’s not easy to be feminist in Korea, no matter how [long] it takes, I believe we will win at the end.

Thank you so much, Ara and Crystal, for answering my questions and sharing your perspective with us.

By: Tee Linden

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of writers to put forth their ideas and explore topics. 


Tuesday, 22 January 2019

NASA’s First Female Astronauts

Russia sent the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space onboard Vostok 6 in 1963. It would take America another twenty years before it would send its first female astronaut, Sally Ride, skywards. Besides being the first new group since 1969, the astronaut class of 1978 was special because of its diversity, notably for including Black and Asian Americans. Selected from thousands of highly qualified candidates, the group (nicked named ‘Thirty-Five New Guys’) also included NASA’s first female astronauts. After the class announcement, each individual underwent a year of intense training before graduating and becoming an active astronaut.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. Ride was born on May 26th, 1951, in Encino, California. She briefly tried to become a professional tennis player but quit in order to get a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English. Leading up to her first flight in 1983, Ride was a member of ground control operations for two shuttle missions. Ride also went to space on mission STS-41-G in 1984, making her the first American woman to go to space multiple times. She was a member of the Accident Advisory Boards for the Challenger incident and the Columbia disaster. (In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated when it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. Investigations found that the shuttle’s heat shield was damaged after it had been struck by debris at launch). She retired from NASA in 1987 to become a Professor of Physics at the University of California. Ride was a big voice in encouraging and inspiring young people (especially girls) in STEM fields. She passed away from cancer in 2012. The US Navy named a research vessel after her and a Moon site has been named in her honour too.

Anna Lee Fisher

In 1984, Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother to fly in space. Born on August 24th, 1949, in New York City, Fisher obtained a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and then a Doctor of Medicine. While in grad school, she contributed to a number of science papers. Fisher worked in a number of hospitals around Los Angeles before she applied to NASA. Her only time in space was as a Mission Specialist on STS-51-A aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Fisher left NASA from 1989 to 1995 to prioritise her family. When she did return, she worked closely with the Astronauts Office and Space Station Operations during the development of the International Space Station (ISS). Fisher is still an active member of NASA and has worked in many areas of ISS operations. She was a vital part of CAPCOM during Expedition 33. CAPCOM is short for capsule communicator and is the person who relays messages between spacecrafts (and space stations) and ground control.

Shannon Lucid

Shannon Lucid was born in China in 1943. Lucid and her family were held as prisoners by the Japanese during World War II. When the war ended, they moved to Oklahoma in central United States. She developed a love for science at an early age and was inspired by the work of American engineer Robert H. Goodard, who invented the first successfully liquid-fuelled rocket. A dedicated mother, she still managed to find time to get her pilot’s license and a Doctoral in Biochemistry. In 1996, while on her fifth space mission, Lucid was part of a media controversy. In a NASA-Roscosmos joint mission, she spent nearly 200 days aboard the Russian Space Station Mir with cosmonauts Yuri Onufrienko and Yury Usachov. Being the only woman, the Russian media had a frenzy saying she’d be doing all the cleaning and pointed out that the cosmonauts had intentionally put tape over sensitive controls they didn’t want her to touch as an insult. Lucid was very diplomatic responding that the three were a team delegating tasks equally and that, if she were in charge, she would’ve made the same decision for sensitive equipment too. She officially retired from NASA in 2012.

Judith Resnik

Born in Ohio on April 5th, 1949, Judith Resnik defied her family’s wishes by going to university and studying an Electrical Engineering degree, eventually earning a doctorate. Resnik was part of the Discovery crew in 1984. It was during this mission that her long hair accidentally became stuck in an IMAX camera while filming in microgravity. She had to have some of her hair cut off in order to release the camera. It continued to work and filmed for the rest of the mission. Sadly, Resnik was one of the astronauts killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff on January 28th, 1986. She received a Medal of Honour after her death.

Margaret Rhea Seddon

Margaret Rhea Seddon was born in Tennessee on August 11th, 1947. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Physiology and a Doctorate of Medicine. She worked in general surgeries and hospital emergency departments after she graduated. She has contributed a great deal of research to understanding the effects of radiation treatment in cancer patients. She has logged 722 hours in space and flew on three shuttle missions. She officially retired from NASA in 1997. 

Kathryn D. Sullivan

Born in New Jersey on October 3rd, 1951, Kathryn D. Sullivan holds a Bachelor of Arts in the Earth Sciences and a Doctorate in Geology. Besides her NASA work, Sullivan is a famous oceanographer and is known for being a member of several scientific expeditions that explored the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans seafloors. On mission STS-41-G, she and astronaut David Leestma and performed a 210 minute spacewalk to work on a captured satellite. The activity made her the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan flew on two other shuttle missions, including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Sullivan parted ways with NASA in 1993 to become Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These six individuals paved the way for future women at NASA. Eileen Collins became the first Space Shuttle commander in 1999 and Peggy Whitson became the first ISS commander, on Expedition 16, in 2008. Mae Jemison became the first black American woman in space when she flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992, breaking the glass ceiling for African American women astronauts. In 2017, NASA’s newest group of astronauts were announced, and five of them are women. They’ll be going to space within the next few years.

By: Matthew J. Healy

This article is the first in the "STEMinist History Series".


40th Anniversary of the Astronaut Class of 1978…the TFNGs (
1978 Astronaut Class (
Astronaut Anna Fisher: The First Mom in Space (Photos) (
Dr. Anna Fisher (
Heroes of Space: Shannon Lucid (
Kathryn Sullivan (
Margaret Rhea Seddon (
NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts (
NASA STEM Engagement (
Resnik, Judith Arlene 'JR' (
Sally Ride: First American Woman in Space (
Women in Space (

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Climate Justice as a Feminist Ethos: Why Gender Dimensions of Climate Change Matter

In its growing prominence as a threat to the world as we know it, climate change has inevitably proven to be one of the most complex challenges of our time. Left unchecked, this accelerated rate of ecological degradation will leave devastating impacts on our environment, society and economy. Yet, these adverse effects are already being felt by many across the globe, particularly by the marginalized and disadvantaged communities in developing regions. However, many environmental issues that have occurred have been due to the unsustainable lifestyles of the most affluent populations within developed countries (Kaijser & Kronsell, 2014). Moreover, it is the voices of the marginalized and the disenfranchised that continue to lack representation on all levels of discussion and decision making about climate issues. From this position, the climate crisis entails more than just an understanding of the inherent relationship between consumption patterns and carbon emissions, but necessitates a deeper look at the interplay between power, privilege and prejudice and its impact.

According to Zoloth (2017), women encompass the “seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living below the threshold of poverty” (p. 140).  This is because women, particularly women of colour within marginalized and developing communities, depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which are now threatened by the effects of climate change. This includes drought, famine, deforestation and so many other environmental patterns that are detrimental to the lives of women with regards to their physical, psychological, sexual and reproductive health and rights. Not only do they struggle obtaining scarce resources such as water, food and energy, but also face the same social, political and economic barriers that women across the world endure, reducing their capacity to cope with limited resources and opportunities to partake in the climate discussions and decision-making processes that affect them. These gendered inequalities within climate issues are pervasive and continue to limit the voices of women in matters that primarily affect them.

Because women in developing countries face gender inequality and poverty, along with illness, violence and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, climate change puts them at a further disadvantage (Lim, 2017). This includes contracting water-borne diseases from regions where water is scarce and unhygienic, which affects their reproductive health (e.g. spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, etc.), or difficulty in accessing food in times of famine or droughts, leading to malnutrition, higher pregnancy risks and the inability to menstruate in young girls. Climate change also increases the burdens of women, as they are allocated traditional feminine roles of taking care of the young, sick and elderly, cooking and cleaning, as well as fetching energy and water (Lim, 2017). This leaves most women susceptible to abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence. Some of the more prominent forms of violence in these regions also include child marriage as a means of selling off the girl child to escape poverty and rid a 'financial burden’.

A lack of gender perspectives within climate discourse not only erases the struggles of women, but assumes that climate change is gender-neutral, when ample evidence proves otherwise. This idea of climate change as purely ecological is dangerous, particularly without the inclusion of gendered, racial and other intersectional dimensions, when considering adaptation and mitigation strategies. A common strategy that has often been brought up within conferences such as the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, forming the UNPF (United Nations Populations Fund)), is population control. This is due to growing emissions in greenhouse gasses as a result of the rise in global populations. Though an inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights within climate policies would benefit women and population control goals, women’s bodies are not vehicles for climate change solutions (Silliman, 2009), as they are and must continue to be the sole deciders of whether or not they want to have children, and how many. As Lim (2017) argues, the rights of women are “non-negotiable, and States cannot pick and choose which human rights they would grant to women” (p. 19).

One of many women-led organisations trying to combat climate change

As the article by McKibbin (2017) accurately states, “there’s an almost perfect inverse relationship between how much of the problem you caused and how much of the pain you’re feeling”. This encapsulates the climate change dilemma: capitalism and modernity thrive on the marginalized populations that continue to struggle for survival and endure the harsh effects of climate change, as we continue our unsustainable and non-ecofriendly ways. This is apparent in observing how the autonomy and agency of women in developing regions are often unacknowledged or compromised as a result. But women are not just ‘victims’ of climate issues; they are active agents of change in terms of mitigation and adaptation due to the knowledge they have of the resources they use, their skillsets in domestic work, navigating for food, water and energy and the roles and responsibilities they have within their communities that are central to sustaining their livelihoods.

A debt is owed to the communities that still struggle as the rest of the world strives and modernizes, and the only way we can ever overcome climate change is to start repaying that debt with action, and with justice. Climate change must become as central to feminist ethics as women’s bodily autonomy, reproductive rights and equality of opportunity.  Zoloft (2017) hauntingly warns us if we continue on this perilous road of climate injustice, “there will be a time when the last well is dry, and then it will be too late” (p. 141).

By: Mya Gopal

Kaijser, A., & Kronsell, A. (2014). Climate change through the lens of intersectionality. Environmental Politics, 23(3), 417-433. Retrieved from
Lim, H. M. (2017). Why prioritise SRHR in climate change programming and policy
making. SRHR in the Era of the SDGs,23(2), 18-21. Retrieved from
McKibben, B. (2017, August 25). Climate Justice Is Racial Justice Is Gender Justice. Retrieved from
Silliman, J. (2009). In search of Climate Justice: Refuting dubious linkages, affirming
rights. ARROW For Change,15(1), 1-3. Retrieved from
Zoloth, L. (2017). At the Last Well on Earth: Climate Change Is a Feminist Issue. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion,33(2), 139-151. doi:10.2979/jfemistudreli.33.2.14

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