Recently, Park In-seo cut her hair short. She threw away her cosmetics long ago and gave away all her earrings. When meeting with other people, she doesn’t wear short skirts or pants. Instead of wearing brassieres, she is now using nipple covers for men. She decided not to consume any products that may be a “corset,” namely, anything that forces a woman to conform to the typical image of “feminine women.”
“By pursuing one’s image, we could not deny the dominant meaning of it. Wearing make-up or changing oneself to match up with the beauty standard of the media or society is not far from misogyny,” Park added. “Following these society-made images redirects the thought of being who I am. In other words, I sensed that it constantly gave me tasks of being ‘beautiful’ all the time rather than developing my ego.”
As a gift, Jung Yu-jin buys Marymond products with letters written “I Marymond You.” These flowery products all resemble the precious lives and stories of the “comfort women.” Jung gives these Marymond products to her friends not only for its designs but to spread the meaning that the brand holds in supporting “comfort women.”
People are becoming more conscious on what they are consuming, leading to a new consumption trend #Meaningout among Korean youths. As combination of “Meaning” and “Coming-out,” it means to show one’s political or social convictions through consuming. Unlike the past, when people struggled to hide their divergent sense of values from others, now with the spread of SNS, people tend to show and share their identities. The function of hashtagging, pressing likes, and sharing posts has enabled them to show off what they think and do. People are bringing up what they think matters, whether it is feminism, animal rights, or something else that they are willing to show their support for through the act of buying. By consuming or by intentionally not doing so, people are using #Meaningout in various ways: sharing hash tags, buying slogan T-shirts, going to a fair-trade café, and not using offensive products such as animal-fur products or misogyny products, which are against their values. As to reflect this trend, the Vegan Festival Korea has been gaining popularity in the three years since its opening in 2016.
Vegan Festival Korea is all about consuming vegan products and animal rights products. People open booths and sell vegan edibles or anti-fur campaign items. Vegan Festival Korea first opened in 2016, when 500 people participated, and Vegan Festival Korea had gained more than 10,000 participants for this years’ 5th festival. This shows people’s increased participation rate in veganism or animal rights.
“We draw a lot of attention at the festival by selling goods such as stickers and postcards with the design of our school’s stray cats,” Park Sooyeon, current president of Ewha Cats stated. “Those goods were all related to the coexistence with stray cats in the university. We could also see the high interest in vegan or animal rights by seeing other booths selling vegan fashion items and foods.”
“#Meaningout” can also be shown by not eating, buying, or wearing, in other words, not consuming things that are against their values. Good example of this is the Korean Woman General Consumption Strike. The strike first started on June 30, with an SNS performance of posting light bulb images that represent the meaning of turning off the lights of consuming. On July 1, it started its movement, appointing the first Sunday of every month as the consumption strike day since then.
One can participate in the Korean Woman General Consumption Strike in three ways. First, by not following any patterns of consuming, such as cultural life, like movies or eating out, second, by posting images of a turned-off light bulb made by Korean Woman General Consumption Strike official team, and third, by saving up the amount of money that starts with “38,” which represents Women’s Day, March 8, on the installment savings account.
The team’s short-term goal is to raise awareness about the misogynistic market ecosystem and to raise awareness to the consumption market. For the long-term, the team wished to show that women’s consumption matters to the entire Korean economy.
“We thought, in this capitalistic society, cutting our consumption is the most concise and powerful way of expressing the economy’s dependence on women,” The Korean Woman General Consumption Strike official team told the Ewha Voice. “Also, the reason why feminism-based consumption is increasing is because people are starting to question things that they didn’t use to recognize – about pressure on women’s appearance and its consumption and the beauty consumption that women have to make. As individuals who now know about feminism, they tend to convert their consumption tendency to a more meaningful way.”