Korean Gender Reader, 26 Jan. – 1 Feb.

Life A User's Manual(Source)

Saturday

Low South Korean birth rate shows signs of increasing (The Hankyoreh; ROK Drop)

Kang Min-kyung’s Gillette CF: Possibly The Worst Thing Ever (Seoulbeats)

Syringes, surgery and slaps: Thais suffer for K-pop beauty (The Marmot’s Hole)

Why did men stop wearing high heels? (BBC)

Yellow Face and Orientalism in the Media: Controlling What it Means to be Asian (Phenomenology/Intervention)

Sunday

Reading List: The Lesbian Rights Movement and Feminism in South Korea (The Kimchi Queen)

I can’t stop thinking about other people who can’t stop looking at Korean women (Feministing)

Transgender students suffer discrimination in silence (The Hankyoreh)

“I Didn’t Think Living as a Gay Man in Korea Would be This Hard” (Arari)

How a Japanese Diplomat Saved 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust (Allegiance Musical)

Monday

Korea’s Youth Divided Over Memories of Military Rule (koreaBANG)

Dating Chinese Men: Sure, why not? (Life Behind the Wall)

North Koreans don’t like women with big boobs: report (The Marmot’s Hole)

There are “entire organizations of brokers and doctors dedicated to throwing perfectly fine, functioning people into mental hospitals against their will” (Netizen Buzz)

“School 2013”: Fiction or Reality? (My Musings)

Tuesday

Korean Hanbok vs Japanese Kimono – Epic Dress Battles of History (Kimchibytes)

Top 10 stars with the most CFs in 2012 (Netizen Buzz)

Meet the (Chinese) Parents (Speaking of China)

Is it possible to be a die hard fan of k-pop idol culture without fetishization of Korean ethnicity? (Angry K-Pop Fan)

“The Construction of the Feminine in Korean Popular Music: A Performance Analysis of “I AM: SMTown Live” and Multi-Artist Musical Variety Shows.” (Footnotes; update1; update2)

Wednesday

Koreans ‘Biggest Clients of Prostitutes in Southeast Asia’ (The Chosun Ilbo)

I Feel Pretty Unpretty: Why Anthea Shouldn’t Get Plastic Surgery (The Oneshots)

Korea Times Perpetuates Beanpaste Girl Stereotype (The Korea Times)

Statistics About Sexual Assault Within the Korean Military (ROK Drop; see my post “Sex as Power in the Korean Military” for some context)

A Pink’s Eunji’s oranges controversy is the most I’ve ever seen Koreans care about traffic laws (Asian Junkie)

Thursday

All the K-pop fans, where do they all come from? (Frank Kogan)

Seoul’s 12 Best Gay Bars in Jongno (Discovering Korea)

Foreign Women and Korean Men: Who’s objectifying and who’s objectified? (I’m No Picasso)

Korean women shatter glass ceiling at foreign drugmakers (The Korea Times)

Meditations on Junk, #1: Ugly Koreans/Ugly Americans (Gord Sellar)

Friday

Having sex with a suspect: is it bribery? (Human Rights Monitor)

KCSC censures comedians for satirizing Park Geun-hye (The Marmot’s Hole)

Busan’s Hyeongjae Welfare Center-Another Example of 有錢無罪 無錢有罪 (Arari)

On dating Chinese men… Are Chinese men the best kept secret? (YinYangJinFeng)

Japan’s Demographic Disaster (The Diplomat)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

“Cute Lines for Cute Girls”: Street Harassment Framed as Fun

With her permission, here is a reader’s email I recently received. While I don’t usually post things that aren’t specifically Korea-related, I thought I’d make an exception this time!

Dear Mr. Turnbull,

I thought you might be interested in this video since your blog is about gender studies (Apologies for the long e-mail, but I want to explain myself thoroughly).

I was just curious about your and others’ thoughts on it. I remember watching the Korean street harassment video with the bikkis (nightclub workers?) and thought this was an interesting contrast. It’s not often that you can see a compilation quite like this.

One of my subscriptions posted a video called “Cute lines for Cute Girls” with the description “Everyone dreams of using corny but sweet pickup lines on random unsuspecting women. My friend and I show you the reactions we got :)” (My emphasis added)

I watched it and instead of making me smile, it just made me cringe. The video consists of him and his friend approaching random women in the street and in buildings with corny pickup lines. What made me uneasy is that I couldn’t help but see that some of the women did not seem to enjoy it. Sure, the background music makes it seem light-hearted and fun, but mute it and look at their body language. Some did have fun with it and laughed, but to me most 1) couldn’t walk away fast enough, 2) gave an uncomfortable laugh and smile (that “what the hell just happened” smile).

Korea Slutwalk(Source)

I think most people can see that whistling and making lewd comments are wrong. What complicates things and divides opinions is that these are “nice guys.” They are not your typical catcallers lurking in a doorway, but “regular, non-threatening” guys on the street. But does this make it ok? I would say not.

Perhaps I was wrong about the video, but his replies really disturbed me. Even if you do not agree with me about the video, the conversation we had was really telling about attitudes about street harassment today.

I don’t know if he’ll remove my comments or not, so I’ll paste the conversation here (my emphases throughout):

NSAM08 17x11_txt rep_v2.inddMe: I don’t know about this. I mean, you’re going after women you have no interest in other than to make a video so people can laugh at them. Most of them just laugh uncomfortably and walk away. This is like one step above cat-calling.

Him: Hey waterlily6782001, this is an exercise in overcoming false constraints that many individuals place on themselves. Also, many of these girls played along when they heard these lines because they were cool and fun girls who knew how to banter back. If anything, this is a great profile on the decent quality of women at University of Pennsylvania.

(Almost feels like he’s saying I’m not cool or fun or of decent quality because I do not like his “exercise”)

Me: Yes, I understand and I do like your other videos, but this one… From your videos, I don’t think you’re a mean person and I don’t think you ever intend to hurt anyone, so I wasn’t too upset. Yes, some of them bantered back, but can’t you see that some were also clearly uncomfortable? It’s just that when you have to deal with totally insincere guys chatting you up all the time as a dare or just to get a reaction, it goes from flattering to tiring.

Him: They could’ve been having a bad day; school could’ve been stressing them out. Even if our lines caused the discomfort, my friend and I were simply giving them compliments. If they can’t take a compliment, then their frame of mind needs work. For example, I love your constructive criticism. But I could easily have said, “This person is a hater. I should delete the comment.” But if I did that, we wouldn’t be having a great discussion. Frame life positively. You’ll be much happier =)

Me: Please read this, it explains it better than I ever could ^_^

I think what we have here is just that you, as a man, will never experience life as a woman. So it’s difficult to grasp that what you see as “compliments” can mean different things to different women. There’s just no way for me to make you fully understand, but I appreciate your replies and wish you the best. ^_^ (end)

Street Harassment Korea(Source: leftycartoons)

He implies that I’m 1) a hater 2) pessimistic and 3) unhappy because I do not like his video. I’ve read hater comments before and I thought my commentary was pretty tame. I’m also pretty sure haters don’t promote your videos on their blogs as I’ve done with his in the past (He did a student documentary on Asian male and white female relationships).

It was clear that I couldn’t make him understand, and he implies that he made no one uncomfortable (“Even if our lines caused the discomfort”). But you can’t tell me that the girl at 0:53 is not uncomfortable while she’s speeding past, head down, eyes averted, walking around him, and not even stopping. The girl at 2:10 is also clearly not amused even though you can’t see her face. Listen to her voice! I also wonder if the girl at 2:30 was really having fun having a guy 1) corner her at work and 2) continue to talk to her even after she emphasizes TWICE that she has a boyfriend.

This in particular really disturbed me: Even if our lines caused the discomfort, my friend and I were simply giving them compliments. If they can’t take a compliment, then their frame of mind needs work.

…which is probably the #1 argument guys have for when girls don’t like their advances. It’s a COMPLIMENT and if you’re uncomfortable YOU need to change. So if I don’t like a guy following me along the sidewalk giving me an insincere “compliment” I need to change my attitude.

Korea Slutwalk Newspaper(Source)

Do I hate compliments? No. I appreciate heart-felt compliments.

Do I hate jokes? No. I make them all the time.

Do I hate corny pick-up lines? No. In fact, they can be cute and are good ice-breakers.

What I do hate is a stranger who has absolutely no genuine or honest interest in me, and:

  • 1) cutting in front of me
  • 2) following me
  • 3) giving me a completely fake compliment just to see my reaction,
  • 4) walking away,
  • 5) laughing
  • 6) recording the whole thing, and
  • 7) posting it on the internet.

So what do you think? Do these guys get a free pass because they aren’t dirty old men hanging on the street corner?

Thanks for reading this long e-mail and have a good day!

James: What do readers think? I’m in complete agreement myself!

Update 1, Feb. 3: Just for everyone’s interest, here’s something I stumbled across in a review of a book on the history of online dating:

Of course, single people have always had means to boost their odds. You can move to a city, where the population of as-yet-unclaimed hearts will be larger. You can lower your standards to broaden the radius of your dating pool. You can also just toss out game 24-7 with utter indiscretion. One acquaintance likes to tell random women on the street that he thinks they’re beautiful. “Like 1 in 5 will slow their roll a little and give me a smile,” he says. “And like 1 in 5 of those stop and talk to me and let me hand them my business card. And like 1 in 5 of those actually call me.” I would assume that at least 2 in 5 women he approaches think him a frightening skeezball. And I think, for better or worse, he’s OK with that ratio.

Update 2, Feb. 5: See some related reading in “Korean Girls Be Scared of Me (And Every Other Dude)” at Gyopo Keith.

Update 3, Feb. 7: And some more in “How to Talk to a Woman Without Being a Creep” at Jezebel.

Update 4, Feb 14: Jerry Liu, the maker of the video, has asked me to ask what readers’ reactions to this one by “Simple Pickup” are.

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