4B Movement 

 

Words and photos by Amiyah Golden 

 

As a little girl, the dream of finding my own Prince Charming was a sentiment that was always encouraged … by firsthand accounts of my own family’s love for each other, Disney movies and covert societal influence. 

 

It was an ideology sympathetic to my own altruism, the aspiration to love and be loved in the way the fairy tales depicted. It wasn’t a desire that seemed too far-fetched with love being an innate human trait after all — decidedly pure (until it isn’t) — as my own optimism struggled to accept confessions shared by others that were contrary to my own beliefs surrounding the ebb and flow of devotion.

 

Before my exposure to the chaos of modern dating, my attitudes toward courtship were constantly reassured by witness and the physical manifestation of myself being evidence of generations of that love portrayed by my kin. The wavering of my supposition only truly began when stories from confidants and strangers alike began to sound repetitive. I was starting to predict the climax of these revelations before their unveiling; all first-hand accounts of being blindsided by their inveigler. 

 

Wiping tears from the eyes of my friends, cosplaying a therapist without the proper degree, and being a shoulder to lean on was becoming routine as we collectively transitioned from “boys have cooties” to flustering crushes to puppy love and then the adolescent exchange of vulnerable connection. My role of appointed comforter was tried and true, but it didn’t completely shatter my perception of my chased fantasy — not until my role abruptly shifted, and I found myself in need of the comforter. 

 

Even with my own whimsy, it never took away from my own caution, pickiness, and the fear of the inability to escape. My first account of my own love came with great hesitation but enveloped into that feeling that I read about as a little girl — the dream I mentioned earlier. I was tailgating a feeling that came to an unexpected stop that flew me off headfirst: no helmet, no brake lights and no signal to foreshadow a disavowing end.

 

My first heartbreak hurt, but didn’t deter me. And although I was met with “all men are the same” and “f*** men” from my friends, I knew it wasn’t the case. Constant anxieties, distorted perceptions and family trauma experienced by my partner were issues too big for me to handle, so it had to be let go! This didn’t lead to my disbelief in the fantasy; what came after did, more sinister than I could imagine and an unfortunate actuality for many women.  

 

The broken trust of body and soul was what shattered my perception, what made me reexamine certitude in the practice of a bond with an initial stranger — a man. 

 

The resurgence of past love that was given new life after much hesitancy was also the beginning of a trauma I had foregone, generating the antithesis of the love I craved.

 

Persistence won, words won, change of actions won and the warning from my gut was waved away. I could never have anticipated the cataclysm that would ensue.

 

What once was a couple of shed tears wrapped up in the span of two weeks turned into a nervous system on constant high-alert, depression and a distrust for men.

 

The remembrance of hellish stories I had heard before — beyond ritual disappointment — sucker-punched me into my reality of being a woman.

 

My parallels of love couldn’t grasp an act of hurt so egregious. It not only warped my mind — but also the mind of 9-year-old me, who cried every time someone stepped on an ant — to hurt someone, let alone someone you loved, was very foreign to me, although I was present for the recounting of stories from others.

 

I wasn’t oblivious to the threats present, nor was this the first time (trauma protected my brain from various memories). My immediate response was denial and a plethora of excuses. This time was different as I couldn’t avoid the reality with my friends serving as firsthand witnesses to the violation against my own body from my first-ever love.

 

Confusion entered and anger flooded. Swapped tales from other women came back into my memory bank. The search for understanding only unveiled more stories and more stories and more stories. My stomach began to cave in as the scroll felt endless and unearthed the reality that accompanied womanhood for many normalized under false pretenses of servitude to partnership, anatomy and assumption. Even the relationships built on trust and purity didn’t exempt someone, as a realization that offenders were being safeguarded under these extenuations. Toxic masculinity continues to expose the deceitful portrayal of women through the lens of a twisted patriarchy presumed to benefit men solely.

 

Growing pains such as these became shared with others ultimately igniting a movement in South Korea in mid-2010 called 4B. Deriving its name from the Korean words bihon (meaning heterosexual marriage), bichulsan (childbirth), biyeonae (romance or dating) and bisekseu (sexual relations), 4B

 

being shared between women ignited a movement that started in South Korea around 2010 and has made its way to several other countries including the United States, known as the 4B movement.

 

The name deriving from the four Korean words: bihon, bichulsan, biyeonae, bisekseu – meaning heterosexual marriage, childbirth, dating, and sex comes with a call to avoid in these traditional standards due to the continual sexual and physical violence, misogynistic disposition and discrimination many women in South Korea were experiencing — and still are.

 

Regardless of the language, cultural and geographical boundaries, many women have adopted the movement in their own lives.

 

The movement wasn’t hugely popular at first — with followers being estimated in the low thousands — but its recent growth can be attributed to fearless testimony shared between women virtually with many sects of women experiencing crimes against them, betrayal or exasperated conformity to a dated cultural view.

 

My discovery didn’t come from the desire to wave good riddance to the male species. Rather, I stumbled upon it due to countless women sharing similar stories so I wouldn’t feel alone in my healing journey. Many women using their media platforms to advocate, heal or connect with others created a safe space of sorts. An unexpected overlap joined the conversation with chatter surrounding disdain for present-day dating, gender roles and expectations; many hypothesizing a potential link between culture both past and present and a common denominator being ruled by men. Many weary from the pressures of settling, conforming, or dealing with bullshit for the sake of “boys will be boys” and “men will be men” demanded a change. 

 

Before you disregard this piece and classify it as, “feminist crap” or a smear campaign against men, I ask you to adjust your lens a bit because, I wish it were as simple as that.

 

I personally don’t subscribe to the entire notion of the movement, but I understand the implementation — as a woman first and foremost and as a hardcore proponent of selfish survival.

 

Hearing the discourse that surrounds the 4B movement has highlighted how integrated men are in the lives of women. How much value is placed on heterosexual women to adhere to made up gender roles or male desires: to submit to subconscious ideologies that further instill what womanhood should embody or endure such as birth, marriage, engagement, beauty, and sacrifice; and this honestly feels somewhat dystopian due to past eras and the monumental strides we have made toward equality. 

 

It doesn’t dismiss the reality of the recent legislation passed in the United States — not to mention other countries where women have no rights at all — that expectation again, to relinquish control of our bodies to the same will that doesn’t value our sanctity or protect us the same way they protect a fetus with no trauma.The same will that fuels a system historically vindicated through religion, power and enforced strength continues to oppress. 

 

So this is bigger than “Timmy was mean to me,” but a stand from many women who are fighting to take back their power.

 

“Women are experiencing a modicum of control over their lives for the very first time. We are living out the dreams of our female ancestors; aspirations have risen and so have our standards,” contributor Isha Sharma said in a “USA Today” article. “Instead of blaming women, we should strive to understand that this isn’t a personal attack on men — it’s a step forward in dismantling the patriarchy.”

 

I don’t want to overshadow the accomplishments women have made and make this feel like a “woe me” piece because women are badass all over the world! 

 

The power to start a movement to empower self-autonomy is a testament in itself of granted freedom, but it doesn’t take away from the fragile balance that bends the will of given power. 

 

You can have a legislative win in some areas such as being considered a human (big win for the ladies, I guess) while still being oppressed by the lack of enforcement to prosecute crimes against women and bodily autonomy.

 

The decision for many women to guard their womb, their sovereignty and mental wellness doesn’t come from just “shitty” dates, empty promises and heartbreak, but from the importance of self-preservation.

 

With factors such as the rising maternal mortality rate rising and frequent violence in heterosexual relationships — and the Domestic Coalition Against Domestic Violence reporting that one in four women experience violence and/or stalking from their partners and one in five women in the United States alone has been raped in her lifetime — the choice to opt out of tradition is due to fear for many.

 

One online 4B forum, created to connect women from around the world, is just one example of a space women can unite to be a part of a growing lifestyle that says adios to patriarchy. Tons of women share their personal reasoning for integrating in the forum, including one woman who is a trafficking and sexual assault survivor, who shared her own story, as well as those before her being affected by violence from men and influencing her choice to stay abstinent.

 

“I have zero interest in complicating or messing my life [up] with all the drama and crap that gets brought from men,” the contributor stated. “It’s now too dangerous for us to even be in relationships with men.”

 

Another woman in the same group shared her own story where she experienced the death of three women in her life killed by their partners, influencing her decision to join the 4B movement.

 

This movement serves as a step-back for many, while some embrace the rejection of men fully. Contributor Isha Sharma sharing her own sentiment (similar to my own) stating:

 

“Personally, I’m a lover girl: I do not hate men. I do not think all men are evil or toxic. I do want to find a partner, get married and have children. But I will not do so at the cost of my inner peace — sacrificing my values or identity to overlook bad behavior — nor will I continue to downgrade my achievements or suppress my needs in order to inflate a man’s ego.”

 

I think many modern women agree with Sharma in not taking a full dive into the movement but creating a concise understanding that men will no longer be at the center.

 

“What’s intended to be harmoniously symbiotic turns parasitic with the women giving an immense amount of her time and energy to a man,” she added.

 

While this movement has begun to root itself into today’s society, it is a small fraction of women actually taking full heed. Many are choosing to apply doses here and there to their life — many choosing celibacy and intentional singleness, prioritizing platonic relationships and hobbies, decentering the patriarchy essentially.

 

Fairytale love just simply isn’t enough anymore for some. Financial security at the expense of compensating one’s morality isn’t enough anymore. Psychological game-play isn’t enough, and mediocre sex isn’t enough.

 

I’m curious to see how the 4B movement plays out. While there is much talk online, will it be applied in real life? Will mass acceptance mold the way many men behave? Will it create generational change for the path many young girls choose to go down?

 

Is it just an online phenomenon or the beginning of historical strides to change traditional associations to being a woman?

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