Hyundai Fit-Shaming Korean Girls

“In the 18th century, it was often assumed…that women were incapable of rational or abstract thought. Women, it was believed, were too susceptible to sensibility and too fragile to be able to think clearly.”

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

These days, I’m generally loathe to lead with quotes. Especially when I’m forced to admit I haven’t read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman since university, and had to rely for that line on its Wikipedia article instead.

But the video below deserves the hyperbole. Because ten years ago, I wrote a post about the widespread practice of calf-reduction surgery in Korea. It really got to me, learning about the literal slicing away of muscle and nerves to make legs slimmer and more “feminine” and “attractive.”

Afterwards, the women literally have to learn how to walk again. Why, oh why, is this still a thing?

For sure, technically Hyundai isn’t promoting operations. But it is contributing to their normalization by reminding everyone that muscular calves are “ugly,” thereby discouraging schoolgirls from exercising.

Like my 12 year-old daughter, who starts middle-school in two weeks. Thanks, Hyundai.

Part of a series (#1, #2, #3, #4) for cars fitted with Hyundai’s “SmartSense” system, the voiceover for the segment with the schoolgirl says:

우리 산중턱여고 나왔잖아

3년내내 아침마다 등산한 것 기억나?

이제 다왔다 올려다보면 고지가 저~기야.

그러다 문든 내 종아리를 봤는데,

헉 다리가 이게 뭐냐?!!

Our girls’ high school was on a mountainside.

Do you remember climbing it every morning for three years?

I’ve arrived, but if I look up I’m still not at the top.

Then at the gates I happened to look at my leg…

OMG, what’s this on it?!!

Are Korean girls and women still shamed for muscular legs though? Please let me know your own thoughts and experiences in the comments. It’s been ten years, so I would just love to learn that it’s actually a very outdated stereotype, and that Hyundai is just being lazy by relying on it.

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If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

2 thoughts on “Hyundai Fit-Shaming Korean Girls

  1. I can tell you as an East Asian woman that muscular legs are still something that most of us are ashamed of and don’t regard as feminine. My legs are my biggest sourcr of insecurity as they are toned and muscular due to years of soccer, followed by recreational running and weight lifting. I sometimes find myself restraining from wearing certain clothing because I don’t want to expose my legs too much. I value and love my body for allowing me to do everything I want to do on a daily basis. It frustrates me that I still sometimes buy into these toxic female beauty standards to feel validated.


    1. Thanks for your comment, and I’m really curious now as to the source of those standards. As in, I’m attracted to toned legs on women myself, and have never heard another cishet man tell me he doesn’t like them (have to admit to a small sample size though, as I rarely have that kind of conversation!). Have you ever been shamed personally by men for your legs, or would you say it’s mostly something women do to other women? Alternatively, would you say it’s something you take for granted, and so restrain yourself from wearing certain clothing because of the negative reactions you’ll assume you’ll get, but never actually have? Thanks!

      (Edit: I ask that last because a semi-parallel in my own life is back when I was a gym-junkie in my early-20s, but never wore tank-tops etc. for fear of being labelled a poser for showing off my muscles. Once I did start wearing them though–I still remember the day I did, and how…ahem…scary it was!–I never received a negative reaction at all!)


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