Adidas’ “Me, Myself Campaign”: Refreshing Body Images for Korean Women?

아디다스의-2009-우먼스-캠페인-미, 마이셀프And here’s the other reason I have the focus on the blog that I do!

Seriously though, while I am never lacking for pictures of attractive Korean women in sportswear and bikinis to attract “readers” to the blog with if I do so choose, there is still reason to single out this week’s Korean launch of the global Adidas ”Me, Myself” (미,마이셀프) campaign here. Consider its claimed raison d’être, however perfunctory its sentiments may be in practice (source, right: Naver):

Impossible standards of beauty continue to be foisted on young women today. Flip through any fashion magazine, and you’ll find super skinny supermodels on almost every page. Not to mention on billboards, on television and movies and the Internet. Young women feel pressured to live up to this standard of beauty, often to the detriment of their mental and physical well being.

Instead of pressuring women to conform to this impossible standard of beauty, sportswear giant Adidas wants to inspire women to be themselves.

With its new campaign philosophy, ”Me, Myself,” women are encouraged to be healthy, happy, fit, full of life and be true to who they are. It celebrates women’s individuality, confidence and motivation.

To launch the ”Me, Myself” campaign in Korea, adidas staged a unique fashion show featuring its spring/summer women’s wear line at Kring, Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, Wednesday. Korean celebrities like singer Solbi and girl group Afterschool were spotted at the event.

And crucially (my emphasis):

Unlike in most fashion shows with gaunt-looking models, the Adidas models were healthy and glowing. They showed that women could look stylish while working out at the gym, doing complicated yoga moves or swimming in the pool.

Granted, it comes from a blatant advertorial, but that last is much more important than it may sound at first. As while on the surface modern Korean exercise culture is very similar to its Western counterpart(s), albeit naturally with more of an emphasis on hill-walking and, in turn, free open-air facilities in those hills for its rapidly aging population to use, in practice Korean women have generally interpreted the modern Western imports of gym culture and health consciousness through their preexisting notions of consumption and feminine passivity (see here, here and here), often with quite startling and absurd results.  Indeed, one could argue that their gym-going merely serves to allow many Korean women to feel a certain sweet self-satisfaction in the mere act of doing so, never actually having to face the challenge of exercising to the extent that, say, sweat interferes with the cosmetics that many wear while doing so, or that it burns off excess fat. Instead, a vast and unregulated industry of passive dieting methods (e.g. diet pills, aroma therapy, diet crème, and diet drinks) takes that place, overall giving the impression that dieting is simple, easy, quick, and effective without pain, so long as women consume various products.


(Sources: 아이뉴스; Artsnews Paran)

Which is not to say that all Western women (or men) don’t also waste a lot of time at gyms, nor that the act of attending one isn’t also de rigeur for the trendy modern urban professional, and much less the quality of the exercise done there. But…well, as those links above make clear, these things — like so many other trappings of modernity here — are just so magnified here, almost like a hyperreal parody of the goals of modernity itself. In this particular case though, lacking an educational background of critical thinking, Korean women are to a certain extent its victims, which again renders any alternative message of self-agency and of being proactive in naturally achieving one’s desired body image worthy of getting out to as wide an audience as possible.

I dare say, however, that that message could have been done somewhat more effectively had anything at all about the campaign been included on Adidas’ Korean website (let alone in Korean), especially as news coverage seems to have concentrated rather more on the celebrities that attended instead. Being in the job-market myself soon though, then I’ll gladly take on that responsibility of ensuring that the site is regularly updated from now on (there’s my contact details in the top-left corner!), but until that point then I guess that this post and these Korean videos of the event will have to do.

Update: I’m afraid those videos didn’t embed very well: try watching here instead.

Update 2: Thanks to commenters, I now realize that the choice of models (specifically, their body types) should have been much more diverse, preferably with some real athletes included. See here for a follow-up post exploring precisely that, focusing on female boxers.