In a show of humorous feminist triumph, a group of South Korean women organized the eleventh annual Anti-Miss Korea Festival this past weekend to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the beauty pageant’s demise in the country—for which the group takes credit—as well as advocate for change in crucial areas of Korean women’s lives, like workplace discrimination, sexual exploitation, and the disproportionate effect of the recession on women. Festival planner Gang Soo-Jeong told AFP, “Amid the economic slump, discrimination against women in job opportunities, for example, has become worse. Through this festival, we’ll shed light on their adversities and give them a pep talk.”
This year the organizers decided to change the event’s name to the IF Festival (as in “if you want to be a real feminist,” then attend this event!), and created the theme “We’ll Survive!” As many women in South Korea are struggling to make ends meet, an optimistic sentiment for the 1000+ attendees was necessary.
The program for the day consisted of a performance by the Korea National Opera (whose singers were only given “irregular” worker status in order for the opera house to avoid paying them more than minimum wage or provide health insurance); skits that are critical of laws and societal norms that oppress women, including a mock trial about the country’s adultery laws that favor men and a recent sex-for-favors scandal that purportedly caused actress Jang Ja-Yeon to commit suicide; and a dance number of over fifty women grooving to (somewhat ironically) Abba’s “Waterloo.”
Held at Seoul University, this mocking and lighthearted festival demonstrates the enduring desire of South Korean women to “establish a cultural human rights movement to overthrow an andocentric society.” And that’s radical!