[FORUM]The 'virus of bliss' infects womenLast week Korea witnessed its newest and sometimes loudest soccer fans: the female species.
On the morning after Korea beat Italy, vehicles celebrating the victory the night before met long lines of cars rushing to work. Some of the women in the vehicles were hanging out of open windows, fluttering the Korean national flag like victory goddesses. On the sidewalks, many women were spotted wearing T-shirts of the official Korean national team booster, the Red Devils. A middle-aged woman who was opening her store in the morning proudly wore a red T-shirt.
These were not the only people excited about the victory. Never in history had more than 4 million people gathered on the streets to support the Korean team, as happened on Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon. The enthusiastic cheers from the women were loud and long. Long before the game started, at the plaza in front of Seoul's City Hall, where some 550,000 people had assembled, women cried out with all their might, "Dae-han-min-guk" -- "Republic of Korea" -- urged on by the leader of the Red Devils.
A 76-year-old grandmother, who was cheering with the younger women, said, "I feel so excited." A married couple in the crowd said they had come to the plaza with their aunt in place of a mother-in-law who had passed away. There were middle-aged women who said they had come with office colleagues, and a 40-year-old woman who had come with her daughter, who had bought her mother a Red Devils T-shirt. A woman with graying hair said she had come with her husband on a date, and a woman in her 30s said she had come with her entire family. Although middle-aged women could not keep up with the overflowing energy of the teens and those in their 20s, they cheered with all their might and played their part.
"These are great women," said most of the men, amazed by the enthusiasm bursting from the women. It was clear that most men did not expect so much female excitement. "When did women become such great soccer fans?" several men said.
Even I, who as a high school senior spent time watching baseball games at Dongdaemun stadium instead of studying for my college entrance exam, have never really seen many soccer games, and for women who have little or no interest in sports, soccer won't hold much interest.
But nowadays, watching the World Cup games on a television monitor isn't enough for most women, and these women are now going out into the streets to support the Korean team. As time goes by, more and more older women are dressing up in red and participating.
This surely seems a cataclysmic change. The publisher of the feminist journal If answered my curiosity about this change in women by saying, "The virus of bliss has infected housewives in the form of soccer." Housewives who have nothing to be excited over, whether it is politics or managing a shopping budget, wanted to taste the happiness and excitement that a soccer victory brings to a husband and children.
But why seek happiness from cheering in the streets? The middle-aged women whom I met on the streets answered in unison, "It's all about enjoying the excitement of being young again!"
Regardless of age and gender, Koreans are very enthusiastic. However, convention has previously barred moms from expressing themselves. That restraint remains for most middle-aged married women. Therefore, considering their tolerance of the convention in the past, it is understandable why they get overly excited on the streets.
Until Korea played its first match against Poland in this World Cup, street cheering had been limited to the younger generation. Now it has become a festival, complete with commercial photographers taking souvenir pictures of the crowd. Housewives could be jubilant without having to consider what other people would think of them. The excitement that cannot be felt in the kitchen is seducing housewives.
Women feel a sense of security in the anonymity among a crowd, where they can shout as loud as they want. More and more women are feeling a sense of unity just by wearing red T-shirts that break the boundaries of age and fulfill some deep psychological urges.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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