“The less you wear, the bigger the discount”

(Sources, edited: left, right)

“Want to talk third wave feminism, you could cite Ariel Levy and the idea that women have internalized male oppression. Going to spring break at Fort Lauderdale, getting drunk, and flashing your breasts isn’t an act of personal empowerment. It’s you, so fashioned and programmed by the construct of patriarchal society that you no longer know what’s best for yourself. A damsel too dumb to even know she’s in distress.”

Chuck Palahnuik, Snuff (2008)

Via Genderly Speaking, a typically provocative quote from Palahnuik to ponder. Not least, when you’ve just translated today’s article, about a clothes company offering discounts to customers for wearing mini-skirts and hot-pants.

Cancelled for being too lewd, I think the event should have gone ahead, and not just because I wasn’t all that impressed by Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs (2005) either. Rather, it’s mainly because I completely reject the notion of any woman— or man—as a mere unthinking pawn of the patriarchy. Also, heavily promoted by the media, there’s already a huge demand for such revealing clothes, so this event stood out only for being more explicit than most.

While there are legitimate issues of sexual objectification that can be raised in light of that, another problem is that the writer of the article (or the parties involved—it’s unclear) implies that it was the “sexual provocation” or “sexual suggestiveness” (선정성) that was the greatest concern. Whether she was talking about the clothes or the event as a whole though, is a little vague, but if the former then I imagine that many women would take offense at the implication that they should never wear revealing clothes? (Source, right)

Had the event gone ahead as planned though, I do realize that it would have been just as empowering and tasteful as, say, a wet t-shirt competition. (Seriously, I’m wincing at the thought of lecherous cheering and the flash of cameras as customers are revealed to have over 30cm of skin showing above their knees.) Also, even if this did all happen a month before the first Slutwalk in Toronto, and 4 months before Korea’s own, it was still disappointing that the company representative only offered platitudes in defense of the event.

Is it hypocritical of me to intellectually support such an event, but — were they old enough to attend — hope that my own daughters would avoid it like the plague? Or merely honest? Or both?

Sigh. Like Peggy Orenstein explains in the first chapter of Cinderella Ate My Daughter (2011), sons sound so much easier to raise!

“벗는 만큼 세일” 의류업계 ‘막장’ / Just Typical For The Clothing Industry: “The less you wear, the bigger the discount”

코오롱인더스트리 이벤트 ‘성 상품화’ 논란…결국 행사 취소 / Kolon Industries event leads to sexual objectification controversy, is ultimately cancelled

Consumer Times, 9 March 2011, by Choi Min-hye (최미혜), choimh@consumertimes.net

코오롱인더스트리가 최근 치마길이에 따라 옷 값을 깎아주는 행사를 기획한 가운데 선정성 논란이 일자 다급히 취소하는 촌극을 벌여 소비자들의 눈살을 찌푸리게 하고 있다.

While planning an event in which customers would receive discounts depending on how high their mini-skirts were, Kolon Industries abruptly cancelled it in light of the controversy over its sexual provocation and the [anticipated] negative reaction from consumers.

참여자들의 과다 노출과 같은 부작용을 우려하는 목소리와 함께 ‘성상품화’라는 지적도 나와 행사를 예정대로 강행하기는 무리라는 업체 측의 판단이 작용했을 것이라는 분석이다.

As voices of worry were raised about the sexual objectification and such side effects as participants’ sexual objectification, the company judged that to go ahead with the event as planned would be unwise.


◆ 할인권 걸고 ‘여성 노출’ 부추겨? / Encouraging Women to Expose Their Bodies via Discount Coupons

코오롱인더스트리는 오는 13일 자사 패션 브랜드 매장인 ‘조이코오롱’에서 길이가 짧은 하의를 입은 고객들에게 제품 할인권을 증정하는 ‘하의실종 종결자를 찾아라’ 이벤트를 진행키로 했다 돌연 취소했다.

Kolon Industries abruptly cancelled an event titled “Who has the shortest?” that was to be held on the 13th at one of their stores, in which customers would have been offered discounts on clothes like hot-pants or mini-skirts if they arrived already wearing really short ones.

연예계를 중심으로 유행처럼 번지고 있는, 하의 길이가 매우 짧은 이른바 ‘하의 실종’ 패션을 제품 할인이벤트에 접목시켰다 여론의 뭇매를 맞은 탓이다.

While the entertainment world has spread this so-called “Disappearing Lower Body” trend of wearing very short clothes, Kolon Industries was roundly criticized by the public for grafting a sales event onto it.

당초 이 업체는 행사에 참여한 고객의 무릎부터 하의까지의 길이를 재 5cm까지는 50%, 10cm까지는 60%, 20cm는 70%, 30cm가 넘으면 90% 할인 쿠폰을 제공하겠다는 계획이었다. 다리 노출을 많이 할수록 옷 값을 더욱 깎아준다는 얘기다.

The intention of the company was to offer customers a 50% discount on clothes if they arrived exposing 5cm of their legs (from their knees), 60% for 10cm, 70% for 20cm, and 90% for 30cm. Or in other words, the more they exposed their legs, the greater the discount.

행사에 참여키로 예정돼 있던 이 회사 의류 브랜드는 ‘헤드’, ‘쿠아’, ‘쿠론’ 등이다. 헤드는 스포츠브랜드지만 쿠아와 쿠론은 각각 여성복, 핸드백 등 액세서리 전문 브랜드다. 행사의 주요 타깃이 여성이라는 분석이 가능하다.

Clothing brands that planned to participate in the event were Head, QuaCouronne, and so on. While Head is a sports brand, Qua and Couronne sell women’s clothes and handbags and accessories respectively. Women were clearly the target of the event.

일각에서는 국내 대표 의류업체가 할인권을 내세워 여성의 노출을 부추긴다는 곱지 않은 시선이 쏟아져 나왔다.


Some people are critical of the famous national company for planning an event that will encourage women to expose themselves.

코오롱인더스트리는 선정성 논란은 ‘기우’에 불과하다며 패션 트랜드를 반영한 행사라는 사실을 강조했다.

[But] Kolon Industries emphasized that to describe this event as sexual provocation is misguided, as it merely reflects current fashion trends.

이 회사 관계자는 “다른 업체에서 (하의실종 종결자 이벤트를) 하면 문제가 될 수 있겠지만 우리는 패션회사”라며 “패션업계에서 핫 이슈인 ‘하의 실종’ 패션을 깜짝 할인행사에 접목시킨 것”이라고 해명했다. 선정성 논란 등 행사의 부정적 효과는 이미 기획단계에서 내부적으로 논의됐다는 부연이다.

A company representative explained “If other [non-clothing] companies had hosted an event like this, it would have been a problem, but we are a fashion company.” Also, that “possible reactions like controversy about sexual provocation were anticipated and already taken into account before deciding to host the event.”

(Sources: left, right)

◆ “패션업계 ‘핫 이슈’ 행사에 접목 시킨 것”…결국 이벤트 취소 / In the end the event was cancelled

이어 이 관계자는 “평소 소비자들이 입고 다니는 반바지나 치마를 입어도 할인권을 받을 수 있다”며 “하의를 최대한 짧게 입고 오라는 취지는 아니다”라고 강조했다.

The representative added “Customers that wore normal-length shorts and skirts would also have been able to receive discounts, so the intention was not to encourage them to wear as short clothes as possible.”

“과열 경쟁 등으로 지나치게 노출이 심한 옷을 입은 참가자가 등장하면 문제가 되지 않겠냐”는 기자의 질문에는 “상황에 따라 대처하겠다”고 두루뭉술하게 답했다. 사진촬영도 막지 않겠다는 입장이어서 현장 단속이 사실상 전무한 것 아니냐는 추측이 나온다.

When asked by a reporter if people wearing too revealing clothing [in order to get a bigger discount] would be a problem, the representative replied “We don’t anticipate that, but will deal with any problems if and when they occur.” [However] it will be too difficult to police the event and prevent people from taking pictures.

이 관계자는 “기본적으로 신분증을 지참한 성인남녀만 참가할 수 있도록 했지만 행사 자체는 모두에게 공개된다”며 “(지나친 노출 등) 누가 봐도 문제가 될 상황이 발생하면 현장에서 해결할 것”이라고 말했다.

The representative also said that “the event will be open to the public, but only adults (we will check IDs) will be allowed to participate,” and again that “we will deal with any problems of excessive exposure if and when they occur.” (source, right)

업체 측의 해명에도 불구하고 ‘선정성 논란’은 수그러들지 않았다. 결국 이 업체는 문제의 행사를 열지 않기로 입장을 선회했다. 소비자들의 반응은 냉담했다.

Despite these explanations, the controversy about the sexual provocation didn’t die down. In the end, the company decided not to hold the event in question. But consumers’ feelings about it are still cool.

한 소비자는 “결국은 짧은 치마를 입고 와야 옷을 싸게 살 수 있다는 것 아니냐”며 “성 상품화에 대한 논란도 많은데 코오롱인더스트리가 꼭 이런 행사를 기획했어야 했는지 모르겠다”고 지적했다.

One consumer complained that “Why would we have to come to the store in high mini-skirts in order to receive the discount,” and wondered “why did Kolon Industries plan such event when sexual objectification is such a controversial issue?”

또 다른 소비자는 “의류업체에서 유행 아이템을 반영한 행사는 개최할 수 있다”면서도 “다만 행사 내용이 지나치게 선정적으로 비춰지면 소비자들이 거부감을 느끼지 않겠냐”고 말했다.

Another consumer said “A company can certainly hold an event that reflects current fashion trends,” but “if it is too sexually provocative, won’t people reject that?”

한편 코오롱그룹 모기업인 코오롱인더스트리는 ‘캠브리지멤버스’, ‘헤드’ 등의 브랜드로 유명한 패션 전문기업이다.

The Kolon Group, the parent company of Kolon Industries, is well known for fashion brands like Cambridge Members and Head (end).

Update — Via this blog, a video promoting the event:

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7 thoughts on ““The less you wear, the bigger the discount”

  1. ” Rather, mainly because I completely reject the notion of any woman — or man — as a mere unthinking pawn of the patriarchy. ”

    Except that’s what internalization means: when even when you are “asserting yourself” or whatever, it’s possible to have a really *fucked-up idea of self* that’s predicated on awful patriarchal/sexist/whatever-ist notions, and (get this) *sometimes you don’t even realize it*.

    It just gets sticky because it is impossible to figure out when it’s in play with anyone except yourself and it can be a long weird road before you realize it. Whether or not internalization applies to a sale that gives discounts based on short skirts…who knows.

    I think if my fat ass showed up in hot pants the promoters would have immediately regretted their decision. ^^


    1. Thanks for the comment. And I don’t disagree with what you say about internalization per se (and I’m not saying you disagree with this next!), but I just think it’s very unhelpful to use the language of vast, impersonal forces. I don’t think Girls Gone Wild participants, for example, would be much persuaded by me telling them that they’re just doing what they do because they’re “programmed by the construct of patriarchal society” (to the extent that they’d listen at all to a fat, bald, middle-aged guy telling them how to be more feminist at all that is), whereas in more academic circles I think there’s a strong tendency to overlook people’s agency and subjectivity. Add that, frankly, much of what I’ve heard about patriarchy is very poorly explained and/or just as abstruse and deterministic-sounding as, say, Marxism, then ultimately I think it’s best to avoid using the word altogether!


  2. Oddly enough, I just came back from seeing Im Kwon-taek’s film Low Life (shown as part of a big Im retrospective in London), which includes a scene where policemen are measuring skirt lengths and also cutting men’s hair. One of the main character’s employees has been arrested for wearing a too-short skirt, but he gets her out by bribing the captain.


  3. P.S. One of the cops puts a ruler on a woman’s leg and then pushes it up inside her skirt, in a not so subtle comment on the hypocrisy of the Park Chung-hee era. (The film quotes various government proclamations about fighting crime and building a moral society; meanwhile gangsters have mistresses, politicians have mistresses, gangsters run construction cartels, the Korean CIA dishes out contracts to its favourite contractors, and everyone goes to hostess clubs. And thus the Korean Miracle is brought forth.)


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