(EXID’s Hani. Source: Asian Junkie)
When I think of my shoes, nothing repulses me more than imagining sticking them on my head.
When I think of ads and magazine photoshoots, nothing infuriates me more than seeing so many women sticking their shoes on their heads. I don’t care how clean they are.
(The shoes I mean, not the women).
Most cases, naturally enough, are by shoe manufacturers—or in magazines heavily influenced by the prerogatives of shoe manufacturers. Presumably, their motivation in having the models fondle the shoes, play with them, and generally put them anywhere but their feet, is to make the shoes appear as much more interesting, fetish-worthy objects than they really are. Which is all well and good.
But for every guy that gets a faceful of rubber, I’d wager there’s at least 10 women. Combine that gender difference with the playing, and it becomes one of a host of childish representations of women in advertising, so ubiquitous that we come to take such behavior as only natural. As explained in A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose:
“Look at these images. What do they suggest to you about these men? Do they seem silly?”
“Most viewers find the images of the men odd or laughable. But the images of the women seem charming and attractive…Why should it seem funny to see a picture of adult men striking a pose when the same pose seems normal or charming to us in pictures of adult women?”
See my post ‘Beauties and the Beast? Understanding and Subverting the Male Gaze through Soju Advertisements‘ (or the Gender Advertisements tag) for many more Korean examples. Lest we forget though, that oh-so-feminine charm sometimes involves women sticking their shoes on their heads.
Their shoes. On their heads. In 2015.
(The Wondergirls’ So-hee. Source: Unknown)
(Go Joon-hee. Source: Korean Magazine Lovers)
(After School. Source: Focus Newspaper, 8 May 2012, p. 14)
(Lee Hyori. Source: zziixx)
(After School’s Nana. Source: Korean Magazine Lovers)
(Girls’ Generation’s Soo-young. Source: soozarr@minus)
(Lee Yoo-bi. Source: Korean Magazine Lovers)
It’s not all bad though. With the proviso that advertising is a very broad subject, with sometimes huge differences between different mediums, my own impression is that while sexualization has greatly increased in recent years (albeit by no means a uniform evil), it’s rare that I’ll find a glaring gender difference (à la Goffman) worthy of mention here. That’s what makes these ads stick out so much, and why they’re so infuriating. Cute, yes. But still infuriating.
Please tell me about any more examples you know of, of either sex, and I’ll post them here. Or, shoes on heads aside, what ads bug you the most these days? Please rant away!
Update: Hat tip to reader chocole, who found a variation on the theme with a guy:
(Hong Jong-hyun. Source: I love Hong Jung-hyun)
It’s not a shoe of course, and it’s specifically the thought of putting a dirty, smelly shoe on one’s head that bugs me, and which prompted me to write this post. But I acknowledge that Hong Jung-hyun above looks equally childish, stupid, and/or cute (or whatever) as the women do in the other examples, and indeed in the photoshoot as a whole. This raises an important point mentioned in the comments to that old 2010 post of mine I linked to, which I began incorporating into my presentations:
“As noted, Korean men are increasingly shown semi-nude and/or with confident and assertive poses. But…”
“…they are more likely than Caucasian* men to be shown behaving cutely and childishly.”
*As is still the case today, it is very rare to see non-Caucasians among foreign models in Korean advertisements.
(A much more detailed version of my caption): “According to Nam Kyoung-tae et. al. in Gender Role Stereotypes Depicted by Western and Korean Advertising Models in Korean Adolescent Girls’ Magazines (from 2011; but I was using a 2007 version), Korean men were:
‘…more likely than Western men [and even Western women] to be associated with many female stereotypical behaviors such as self-touching, canting postures, smiling, and childlike and cute expressions. This might indicate that in contemporary society men are not immune to commercial and sexual objectification and this phenomenon was more evident in Korean advertising.'”
“They concluded that if young Koreans usually only see strong, confident, sexy, and assertive Caucasians, then they may feel that their examples don’t apply to them”.
But that’s based on an old study, so I’ve been working on getting more recent data. To quickly sum up my findings for you here (no link sorry; it’s in the process of being reviewed for a journal), through my
tedious, mind-numbing examination of 2329 fricking ads in various selected months of Metro newspaper between 2007-2013, I determined that K-pop stars at were sexualized at about the same rates as Caucasians, and that both were sexualized at much higher rates than other celebrities, so there’s no longer so much of a gap between those two groups at least.
Unfortunately though, there were actually so few ads with either that it was difficult to draw any definite conclusions, not helped by Metro declining in page numbers and circulation over the period because of the advent of smartphones. Also, I didn’t specifically look for assertiveness and childishness and so on (not the focus of my study, which was more on the numbers of celebrities), and of course Metro is very different to Korean adolescent girls’ magazines too, so we should be very, very wary of making comparisons between them. Sorry!