Update: I’ve just been informed that Slutwalk Korea and Don’t Do That are very different organizations, and that the latter — the organizers of Saturday’s event — advocate wearing more conservative dress than in regular slutwalks, arguing that participants who wear racier costumes run the risk of being charged with indecent exposure, and that toning things down would be more appropriate for a first event in Busan. Nevertheless, they accept short miniskirts, hotpants, croptops, and whatever slogans participants wish to write on placards.
Update 2: The Korea Times discusses the disagreements between the two organizations here, saying Slutwalk Korea has accused Don’t Do That of slut-shaming itself in its emphasis on conservative dress. I don’t know enough about either organization to comment sorry, but wager that any such accusation will have been greatly exaggerated to better fit the snarky tone of the article.
Don’t Do That Campaign welcomes you to participate in a slut walk
I had a great chat today with organizers of Don’t Do That (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓), a campaign to change mindsets about sex crimes. The group is organizing a slut walk campaign in Busan and Seoul. I translated the information below and hope that readers will share it widely.
Don’t Do That is a voluntary group that comes together to raise awareness about sex crimes. Their site offers a lot of information and is a great resource.
Please share the flyers below (James — I included one as the opening image):
Busan readers, if you attend the event, I would really love to hear about it~ I wish I could make it out this time, but I can’t. Please share this event and support the cause.
Readers in Seoul, I will be sure to provide similar translation/map when I hear from the Don’t Do That Seoul Team.
Another group that may interest readers is Slutwalk Korea. Slutwalk Korea organized the first slutwalk movement in Asia in early 2011. They launched a number of events in global solidarity with the slutwalks that started in Toronto and all over the world that year. They have also hosted global solidarity events for Pussy Riot and on March 8, 2013 for International Women’s Day. They have a great Twitter feed and regularly post information related to sexual violence or slutwalk-type events in Korea ( I learned about Don’t Do That from a Slutwalk Korea Twitter post).
The government is vowing stronger punishment on sex offenses. As a start, the Justice Ministry has rewritten the law to allow law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute sex criminals without a complaint filed from the victim.
But were loose laws ever much of a problem because the majority of our obtuse police officers are regressive enough to claim that some female victims simply had it coming?
The Korea Women’s Development Institute recently quizzed some 200 police officers in South Gyeongsang Province cities over their thoughts on sex crimes against women and the results were disturbing.
About 54 percent of the respondents supported the view that women who wear revealing clothing are somehow culpable in any attacks on them. Around 37 percent of them felt the same about women who drink and 21 percent about women walking alone at night. And 24 percent said they found it difficult to believe a victim when they don’t report the incident right away.
Read the rest at the link. Meanwhile, I’ll try to find the original KWDI report on the survey and/or related news article, and translate it for you by sometime next week.
Also, for anyone interested in the Korean Slutwalk (잡년행진), see here for information about the last two years’ events. I’ve been unable to find any information about this year’s, but do hope that one will go ahead. After all, as the police officers’ attitudes above indicate, unfortunately it’s needed more than ever…
When I lived abroad in Korea, I spent a lot of time doing work in cafes. Probably a 100 or more during my 2 years there. As such, I eavesdropped on thousands of conversations. And nearly every one of those conversations was about two topics: complaints re studying English and complaints re losing weight.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic for my bachelor days, but it’s conversations about “specs” (스펙) that I’ve really noticed myself. A Korean term for the criteria used to evaluate a potential spouse on, it’s also my experience that it’s almost exclusively used by women, although that may just be because there’s usually more women than men at my local Starbucks.
Either way, in February Kim Da-ye at the Korea Times argued that looking at marriage this way is a relatively new phenomenon, and that it’s “matchmaking companies that rate spouse seekers by specs [that] have fueled [such] materialism.” And, as if to bolster that point, Donga-Reuters would report on exactly the same phenomenon emerging in China after I’d already begun writing this post.
But as discussed below, matchmakers have been encouraging such pragmatism for decades, so they can hardly be described as driving that change in outlook. Rather, it’s economic factors that are responsible, as Kim later acknowledges in her article:
…today’s buzzword “Sampo” generation (삼포세대) …indicates a 30-something who has given up dating, marrying and giving birth because of the lack of financial means…
….What’s interesting about such preferences for the partner’s economic qualification is that they don’t come from conservative parents or rigid social structure but independent, young individuals….
….The near obsession with fine lifestyle is a contrast to the attitude of the baby boomer generation, many of whom used to say that they can start from a small rented room….
When asked why the younger generation isn’t willing make such a humble start, Lee, a single woman in her mid-30s working at a media firm, said, “Back then, amid fast economic growth, people had hoped that they would be able to climb up the social ladder and afford a bigger place in the future. Nowadays, people feel that if they start in a small room, they will be stuck there for the rest of their lives.”
The high cost of getting married naturally leads to some couples to be heavily indebted after the honeymoon ends. In addition to the Sampo generation, another phrase linked to both the economy and marriage has emerged — “honeymoon poor.”
And Kim — whose article is still very informative overall — gives several examples of engaged couples’ fights over money, some of whom ultimately break up. Yet those would not be out of place in popular discourses of marriage in, for example, the 1980s, when women’s magazines were similarly promoting the virtues of arranged ones. Presumably, at the behest of their advertisers:
Passage Rites Made Easy [A 1982 Korean book by Ko Chonggi] describes marriage through an arranged meeting as more “rational” behavior than simply falling in love because the candidates for romance and matrimony have already been carefully scrutinized by parents and matchmakers. Korean women’s magazines also emphasize the value of prior screening in choosing a mate, suggesting by the frequency with which they address this topic that their youthful readership is by no means convinced of the merits of matchmade matrimony:
Today, with the trend towards frankness in sexual matters, talk of “arranged meetings” or “matchmade marriage” might sound excessively stale. Even so, in marriage the conditions of both sides enter into things. Matchmade marriage, where you can dispassionately investigate these considerations beforehand, has some advantages that cannot be ignored (“The Secrets of a Successful Arranged Meeting,” Yong Reidi, 3 March 1985: 347).
The evolution of Korean courtship practices provides one excellent example of how notions of progress, of an enlightened “now” versus a repressive “then”, mask the particular disadvantages for women in new forms of matrimonial negotiations, be they “matchmade” or “for love” — a mask which sometimes slips in angry conversation or social satire. Through courtship and through all of the talk about getting married, notions of ideal “man” and “woman”, “husband” and “wife”, “son-in-law” and “daughter-in-law” are constructed, reinforced, and resisted….
….In Korean popular discourse, the evils of old-fashioned matrimony, in which near-children were forced by the will of their elders to marry total strangers, have been replaced by more enlightened practices. The “old days” are still on the horizon of living memory, but are recalled as from an utterly vanished time. In confessing that he never saw his wife’s face until his wedding night, the writer Cho P’ungyon states [in 1983] with a touch of hyperbole that “Today’s young people would consider this laughable and the faint-hearted might swoon away, but in my day these procedures were considered natural.”
The difference being that in 2012, financially-strapped singles can no longer afford to be so dismissive (nor Japanese ones either). Moreover, while they’re not marrying complete strangers perhaps, many Koreans do marry people they’ve only known a few weeks, as discussed in an earlier post. Also, some mild social coercion can indeed be involved, as Gomushin Girl explained:
It’s important to differentiate between different kinds of matchmaking arrangements…lots of Koreans use services that are similar to eHarmony, It’s Just Dinner, and other similar paid and unpaid services. Just like in the US, there’s free and paid computer matching sites, and more expensive and comprehensive personalized dating services. These offer a great deal of flexibility, and allow you to reject partners at many stages of the process – the worst consequence being that the agent in charge of finding you matches will decide you’re too picky, and start sending you “lower quality” matches. You’re free to meet multiple people at once, and they’re basically meant to facilitate dating.
However, 선 (Seon) matches are pretty different. Most of the time the people proposing the arrangement are close family or friends (of your parents), and parties are expected to make up their minds pretty quickly. Delaying too long or changing your mind after the first few dates is strongly frowned upon, and may even cause major social riftts. This means that women especially are pressured to marry people before they’re comfortable with them, and even if they’re not really what they’re looking for. Seon is serious, and you’re expected to commit yourself pretty quickly.
It’s also expected to override existing social relationships. My Korean host mother once called me up to ask if I’d go down to Busan to meet a friend’s son, who was interested in a seon meeting with me. I told her I’d just started dating someone, and her response was essentially, “That’s wonderful! When can you come to Busan?”
And on that note, let me leave you with a translation of the image that prompted this post, a poster for last week’s Slutwalk in Seoul. The slogan reads, roughly, “Let’s stop these fantasy gender roles now. Let’s play at being ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, 2012 Slutwalk Korea.” Many of the specs it mentions would be shared by people the world over, but there are also some quintessentially Korean ones:
For the “man” (literally, it says “manliness”):
키180이상 Over 180cm in height
전문직 A professional
대기업정규직 Regular worker at a big company
인서울4년제 Went to a 4-year university in Seoul
자차소유 Owns a car
장남아닐것 Not a first-born son
데이트비용 Pays for everything on a date
신혼집구입 Buys a home after marriage
사회생활잘함 Good social skills
성격좋음 Good personality
술잘마심 A good drinker
정력왕 Good sexual stamina
For the woman (“womanliness”):
키170미만 Under 170cm tall
몸무게50미만 Under 50 kg
가슴C컵이상 A C-cup or over
30살이하 30 or under
날신한몸매 Thin body
작고하얀얼굴 Small and white face
화장은기본 Always wears make-up
제모는상식 Shaves legs and underarms
명품백하나쯤 Have at least one brand-name handbag
애교있는성격 Have aegyo
시댁을부모처럼 Treats parents-in-law like her own parents
섹스경험없음 Be a virgin
Are there any others readers would add? Especially Korean ones?
(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)
Starting 4pm, from Tapgol Park in Seoul. Again, see here, here, and here for the organizers’ Facebook event page, Facebook group, and blog respectively, here for an English translation of the “Slut Walk Korea Declaration 2012″, and finally here for R0boseyo’s excellent write-up of last year’s event.
Sorry that I can’t join you Seoulites this year, and please let us all know how it goes!^^
See here, here, and here for the organizers’ Facebook event page, Facebook group, and blog respectively. Alas, there isn’t any information available in English, but R0boseyo’s excellent write-up of last year’s event gives you a good idea of what to expect.
A much more serious topic than it may sound, this article from Ilda Women’s Journal will definitely give you a renewed appreciation for the goals of the Slutwalk (잡년행진) movement.
Once it does though, unfortunately you’ll probably find yourself pretty frustrated with it too. For the author only really gives platitudes about the need for change, rather than provide any details about who those boys were, what they said exactly, and the sex-education program her and her colleagues were involved in.
But still, she’s right to be concerned about the messages children are receiving about sexuality when any elementary school boys both approve of and chastise attractive women for wearing revealing clothes. Let alone disallow “ugly” ones from wearing them:
Why on earth are they saying and asking these things? This has happened to me twice recently. Once, from teenage boys at a high school, and the other from boys at an elementary school. Most of the questions I get are normal ones about their development, changes to their body, sexual relationships, pregnancy and childbirth and so on, but I especially remembered these. Why are boys saying that girls in their classes shouldn’t wear hot pants?
James – Because of the mention of female classmates, I’m assuming the boys were in mixed-schools then? But So Yeong-mi doesn’t mention how the girls reacted to such questions, an omission which hopefully means she taught the boys and girls separately.
뜬금없는 질문이 궁금해 스무고개 하듯 계속해서 질문을 주고받으며 질문한 의도를 파악하려 애썼다. 질문자는 한 명이었지만 반 아이들 모두가 동의하고 있었고 별로 웃기지도 않은 질문에 아이들은 자지러졌기 때문이다. 질문을 받은 내가 자신들 생각대로 웃어넘기지 않고 진지하게 계속 물으니, 나중엔 아이들도 제법 진지하게 맞받아쳤다. 그리하여 나온 결론은 같은 반 여자아이들은 핫팬츠를 입으면 안 된다는 것!
I was very curious why these questions came out of the blue, so I sort of played 20 Questions with the students to find out. Only 1 student [in each case?] asked, but all the other students thought it was hilarious, and they expected me to laugh along with them. I wanted to get to the bottom of that, and so later when they gave me feedback it emerged that they felt that girls in their classes shouldn’t wear hot pants.
모자와 핫팬츠는 다르다? What’s the Difference Between Hot Pants and Hats?
“오크가 그런 걸 입는 게 말이나 돼요?” “Would Orcs Wear Hot Pants?”
판타지 소설이나 롤플레잉 게임에 주로 등장하는 괴물, ‘오크’족. 쭉쭉빵빵 몸매도 좋고 능력도 좋은 미녀캐릭터들에 비해 볼품이 없어 쉽게 무시당하고 힘만 센 캐릭터. 아이들의 설명에 의하면 이랬다. TV에서 연예인들이 입는 것과는 다르다는 것. 그건 당연히 ‘봐줄 만하다’는 것이다. 핫팬츠뿐만 아니라 미니스커트에도 역시 강한 불만을 표했는데, 이번에는 또 다른 이유를 제기했다.
As the students explained, in fantasy novels and role-playing games the monster that appears the most frequently is the orc. Unlike beautiful female characters, with great abilities and voluptuous bodies (and usually useless armor – James), orcs are essentially faceless characters that can easily be disregarded. What entertainers wear on TV is different though, and, of course, it’s worth watching.
But it’s not just hot pants that the boys had problems with girls wearing, but also miniskirts. They gave a second reason for that.
“옷이 그러면 그렇고 그런 거 아니에요? 위험할 수도 있잖아요.”
“Doesn’t wearing clothes like that say something about you? And it’s dangerous too!”
아이들은 여성인 내게 “선생님도 그런 옷을 입냐”며 “도대체 왜”냐고 야단이었다. 한 학생이 모자를 쓰고 있기에 “너는 왜 모자를 쓰고 있냐” 물으니 “그냥 좋아서”라고 가볍게 얘기했다. 그럼 “핫팬츠나 미니스커트를 선택해서 착용하는 것은 무엇이 다르냐” 물으니 “그건 당연히 다르다”고 소리친다. 적절한 대답이 없을 때 아이들은 대개 화를 낸다.
The students asked me, a woman, “Do you wear clothes like that?”, and, in a critical tone, “Why on Earth do women wear those?”. So, to one student who was wearing a hat I asked “Why are you wearing that hat?”, to which he casually replied “Because I like it”. So then I asked “How is that different to choosing hot pants or a miniskirt”, and got the retort that “Of course it’s different!”, the student becoming angry that he didn’t really have a proper answer.
그날 종일은 아이들과 좀 더 많은 시간을 들여 ‘개인의 취향’에 대한 이야기를 나누었다. 서로의 취향을 존중하고 이해해야 하는 이유를 찾아보며 남/녀를 탈피한 다양한 관계 속에서 역할활동까지 해봤다. 그러나 그 날의 아이들에게는 이미 모자와 핫팬츠의 ‘선택’이 다르지 않다는 것을 이해시키는 것이 어려워 보였다. 너무나 견고한 그들만의 ‘패션철학’이 놀라울 따름이었다.
I spent all day with the students, and shared a story about personal tastes with them. Then we did roleplaying, breaking away from normal man/woman and girl/boy ones, in order to better understand and respect each other’s personal tastes. It was difficult to make them understand that wearing hot pants was a choice, no different to wearing a hat, and I was very surprised in how unwavering some of their attitudes to fashion were.
우연히 비슷한 시기에 만난 이 집단 아이들만의 문제였을까. 교육이 끝난 후 평가시간에 이 에피소드를 털어놓으니 유난히 남자아이들 교육을 진행할 때 그런 질문이 많이 나온다는 실무자들의 의견이 있었다. 예쁜 사람이 입으면 괜찮고, 아니면 안 괜찮고, 짧은 옷을 입으면 위험하고 야한 어떤 것이라는 10대 초반의 아이들의 논리. 고등학생 이상의 청소년 들을 만났을 때만 해도 성인과 비슷하게 생각해나가는 시기여서 그런가 생각했는데, 초등학생들에게서까지 강한 불만으로 표출되어 나오니 그냥 웃어넘길 일이 아니라는 생각이 들었다.
I wondered if this way of thinking was just confined to the groups of students I taught, so afterwards I asked other sex-ed teachers involved in the program, and they confirmed that they get similar questions and opinions from especially male students. The logic of boys in their early teens was that if pretty girls wear hot pants and so on it’s okay, but if they’re not pretty then it’s not, and that [in either case] such clothes are both too revealing and dangerous.
Now, if I’d asked high school students and so on, who think like adults, then I wouldn’t have been surprised, but once I learned that even elementary school students are saying such things then I realized that this was no laughing matter.
고 민지점은 성인들이 갖고 있는 편견이나 고정관념들이 고스란히 아이들에게도 답습된다는 것이다. 또한 그 연령이 대폭 낮아졌다는 사실도 놀랄만한 일이다. 그 어린 학생들마저도 ‘여성’의 몸을 검열하고 있다는 사실에 주목하지 않을 수가 없는 것이다.
Children are picking up adults’ prejudices and biases, although it is surprising that they’re doing so at such a young age. And we can’t help but notice that even these children too think the female body is something to inspected and evaluated.
우리가 어떤 일을 할 수 있을까 What can do we do about this?
노출이 많은 옷을 입은 여성과 그렇지 않은 여성을 간단하게 이분화 시키고, 거기에 아름다움이라는 가치를 연결시킨 잣대로 평가하는 것은 아이들도 어른들과 크게 다르지 않았다. 다만 아이들의 용어로 표현하고 있을 뿐이었다. 이를 우스갯거리로 사용하는 아이들을 보고 있자니 솔직히 조금 화가 나기도 했다. 그리고 그와 동시에 우리 스스로 반성해야 될 때가 아닌가 생각해보게 됐다.
Children splitting women into simply those who wear very revealing clothes and those that don’t, and judging their value only in terms of their appearance, is little different from what adults do. But although the children just used these terms jokingly, to be honest I still got a little angry with them.
Yet at the same time, we really need to examine ourselves too.
대중매체에 대한 비판을 하려던 차에 최근 10대 청소년 연예인들을 상대로 60%가 신체 노출이나 과도한 성적 행위 장면을 강요했다는 기사들을 보게 되었다. 한 언론과의 인터뷰에서 가수 이은미는 음악성 보다 외적인 면에 더 관심을 갖는 사회 분위기를 우려하며, 성적인 면이 강조된 걸그룹의 노래, 의상, 춤에 환호하는 이 사회를 ‘몰상식의 극’이라고 표현했다. “초등학교를 졸업한지 몇 년 되지 않은 아이들을 벗겨놓고 대 놓고 섹시하다고 박수를 치거나, 꿀벅지, 꿀복근 같은 용어들을 사용하는 대중문화를 보면 소름이 끼친다.”는 것.
I was about to blame the mass media, as recently I’ve read reports which say that 60% of female teenage entertainers have claimed to have sometimes been forced to wear revealing clothes and/or do sexual dances and so on. And in an interview of the singer Lee Eun-mi(James – Not one of those teenage entertainers; she was born in 1968), she said she was worried about a society that considered external appearance more important than musical quality for singers, where girl groups’ sexual dances, songs, and outfits where cheered…she used the term “thoughtless/careless”. She said “I freak out at the thought that just a few years after they graduate from elementary school, young male and female entertainers are being praised for taking off their clothes and being talked about in terms of their ‘honey thighs‘ or six-packs.
쏟 아지는 대중매체의 벗기기 논란은 새삼 어제오늘 일도 아니건만, 아무 손쓰지 않고 있었음에 반성하게 된다. 상품화되고 대상화되고 있는 여성들의 문제를 공공연히 문제 삼지 않았던 것이 일상생활에까지 주변 사람을 대상화하고 외모로써 평가하는 지금의 일을 만든 게 아닌가 하는 생각에서다.
But these trends in the media didn’t just appear overnight – they were allowed to flourish by the public’s inattention and lack of concern. This way, we have come to consider the commercialization and objectification of women as a normal part of our daily lives.
아 이들의 생각을 넓게 펼쳐주진 못할망정 오로지 외모로써 사람을 평가하는 우리 사회에서 우리가 어떤 일을 할 수 있을지 함께 고민해봤으면 좋겠다. 우리가 그동안 무심코 내뱉었던 말들이 아이들에게 어떤 영향을 미치게 될지 생각해보면서 말이다. 문제가 수면으로 드러난 지금이야말로 왜곡된 미와 과장된 외모 중심의 평가들로부터 벗어나 아이들에게 더 많은 관심을 가져야 할 때다. 아이들뿐만 아니라 사실은 우리 모두를 위해서 말이다.
It’s difficult to broaden children’s minds, but we do have to make an effort to stop judging each other on our appearances. We have to consider what has been the effect on our children of this focus, this excessive emphasis on appearance. Not just for them, but for society as a whole (end).
My post title aside, I don’t mean to generalize about all Korean boys, and given the author’s vagueness then what she says about them really needs to be taken with a grain of salt. So, to get a better overall picture, I’d really appreciate anything any teachers can tell me about what their own young students have ever said about such things (alas, it’s been a while since I’ve taught children or teenagers myself).
And to end on a positive note, was anyone else reminded of the above semi-response to such sentiments? Now I have a renewed sense of appreciation for that too!^^ (See here for a discussion of the song’s lyrics and meaning)