Photo(edited) by Marco Xu on Unsplash
To get you started, a provocative comment I just received on an old post, which would be wasted in obscurity there. With apologies to the author if this sounds impolite, but I ultimately find much of his argument superficial, although it’s always good to have one’s views tested:
…Hi, just stumbled on to your blog last night in between reviewing flashcards for my Chinese class, and I have to say I’m thrilled to find someone as interested (at least in this and recent posts) in the topic of standards of beauty, particularly in Korea. I do however have to argue a point. And this isn’t necessarily aimed at you personally or the views you hold, but you seem to be a willing enough participant in the discussions that occur because of your blog posts that I though I’d give it a shot.
Looking back over said “beauty” posts, I continually find myself asking, “so what”? So what if Koreans openly put an exceptionally high standard on external appearance? So what if women in Korea try to become most easily divisible by which letter they most look like? So what if even kids are targeted by the media in what amounts to little more than marketers seeking the widest possible audience?
Is all this something that doesn’t happen in western countries? You yourself have said that it is not.
Granted, I come from something of a biased perspective in a number of ways. First of all, I don’t think of women in ad campaigns, subconsciously or otherwise, as sex objects because I’m gay. Secondly, from my “objective” perspective on feminine beauty, I tend to lean more towards the thinner, petite side of women that are shown so ubiquitously in magazines from Vogue downwards. Thirdly, as someone who has been very tall (6′5″, so ~195cm)and called thin all his life almost in place of standard introductions, I can see where all of the body-consciousness in our society comes from; it’s only natural to judge someone first and foremost on appearance.
Anyway, back to the gist, I have to say, is it a bad thing that Korean ad firms target womens’ physical appearance so blatantly? After all, at least it seems as though a Korean woman knows what’s expected of her in terms of appearance. In the West, on the contrary, we constantly say that size doesn’t matter, which we know perfectly well to be false. Heterosexual males may not be as turned on by a 100lb, 170cm woman as they are by one maybe 20lbs heavier, but the upper limit to what most males find attractive, by my subjective observations, is significantly lower than what the average woman in the U.S. (my country of residence) now weighs. Because we’ve told women (and men) that size doesn’t matter, things have, to be polite, gotten out of hand. According to the U.S. gov’t, which calculates these things based on body-mass index (admittedly a very poor way of doing so, basically just weight divided by height), more than two-thirds of women in America are overweight.
Although of course there are exceptions, in most East Asian countries overweight and obese people, particularly women, are fairly rare. I think in part it’s because the culture in that part of the world (yay generalizations!) says outright that size does matter, whereas we say it doesn’t, but really it still does.
In short, long-winded post aside, I’d rather be in a country where people say to my face that I’m fat instead of whispering it to each other as I walk by. At least that way, the social pressure to be thin is so much greater and clearer that it can’t be overlooked or downplayed to save face for those applying that pressure. And in terms of health, I think more would rather be underweight than overweight. After all, eating disorders affect, what, about 10% of women in the U.S., while obesity-related diseases kill millions each year. Just from the perspective of someone living in the U.S., I think maybe being a bit more upfront about the natural inclination towards “thinner” (when compared to the national average) women may not be such a bad thing after all.
Then again, having never been to Korea, you’re more able to say whether this is quite so helpful there as it would be here. Of course, culture aside, that brings us to the question of whether certain ethnic groups are naturally thinner or not, which is another issue entirely of questionable validity and fairness…(end).
Actually I don’t disagree with all of that, and by coincidence its “so what?” tone struck a chord with me because of some similar advice about writing I’ve been putting into practice in recent months. Unfortunately, I feel too guilty about my daughters being glued to the television for hours to provide a proper critique this weekend sorry, and will have to rely on my choice of accompanying images to speak for themselves. Besides which, I’m much more interested in what you think!
If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)