Consent is Sexy, Part 3: Female President by Girl’s Day #FAIL

Girl's Day Female President(Source)

…whenever claims of female empowerment or sexual expression are made of girl groups, just a little investigation reveals the conspicuous absence of the voices of the girls themselves. Rather, you find that it’s the entertainment companies speaking for them…

(Korea Herald, July 2011)

I do apologize for quoting myself. But it’s not often that K-pop makes you laugh so hard:

After Girl’s Day held their comeback showcase with the uber-sexy Female President song and choreography, some expressed concerns about the group’s change in image becoming perhaps too sexual.

Their label said,

“They got so much love from ‘Expectation’ that it’s true we were at first burdened about this new song and choreography. Since we worked so hard, the members were confident in the new song, but they’re so happy because the reaction was better than expected. We’re so thankful for the interest.”

Regarding the sexy choreography and concept, the label said, “After the suspenders dance, now it’s the nine-tailed fox dance. It’s the point choreography of the new song, so they worked on it for a long time. They’re not burdened at all by the skin exposure. They’re just happy to have a new image. They’re working hard with the determination to look even sexier when promoting ‘Female President’. As the members are working hard and passionately, please watch over them fondly.”

 (Allkpop; original unsourced, but it appears to be a translation of this Newsen article)

Girl's Day SwimmingAmusement turned to consternation though, when I read the following, harrowing account of what really happened at one of their recent promotions (my emphases; source, right):

…Girl’s Day performed right under the sun and lighting equipment for eight straight songs. By the second song, Sojin practically fainted back stage and Minah could barely stand on her own…

After their stages, the journalists asked questions and one of them asked what they would promise their fans if they won #1. The host asked the girls to do their promise early and do it by jumping into the water ㅋㅋㅋㅋ Ridiculous. The girls obviously looked distressed and Minah kept looking at the staff section, looking like she was asking her CEO what they should do. The girls were drenched in sweat and it was obvious that they just wanted to finish up and go home early but the CEO and the host forced the girls to go ahead with the promise anyway…

….I guess the problem was that once they were done greeting their fans, the girls could not walk at all… They tried to get out of the pool but it was obvious they had no strength left in their bodies. Minah was practically crawling out of the water because her legs had no strength and Sojin had to be supported by her manager… Meanwhile fans and journalists were taking pictures of this, of course [but making them appear erotic and consensual]…

Tellingly, those scenes where they were coerced into jumping into the water have been edited out of videos of the event (out of those I’ve been able to find). But their tiredness is still evident afterwards. For example:

(Update: Billboard Korea disingenuously claims that the Girl’s Day members “surprised viewers at one point when they jumped into the pool… in their hot pink ensembles.”)

For more, read the full article at Netizen Buzz. Technically, their lack of consent to the swimming at that promotion is unrelated to the girl on girl action, the panties fashion, or the stripping in the MV to Female President, and I don’t bemoan anyone for enjoying any of that. But personally, it’s completely overshadowed by what happened above, which just speaks volumes about the coercive relationship between Girl’s Day and their management company, Dream Tea Entertainment. Add that all the skin in the MV is gratuitous anyway, then I have no qualms about also labeling that negative sexual objectification, as defined by the criteria outlined in the previous posts in the series.

The irony though? The lyrics to the chorus at least are relatively empowering.

As Amy at YAM Magazine puts it, the title may be a misnomer, but it’s still a song…

…to empower girls to not sit around waiting for guys to give the first step, but to go for it saying “you love him,” and to go and “kiss him first”…

Commenters to a review at McRoth’s Residence disagree, including Kyungmi, who is “angered” by how “bland” they are. While her opinions necessarily carry more weight than my own, and my knowledge of K-pop is hardly exhaustive, I’m still struggling to think of more examples of girl-groups’ songs promoting such boldness in taking relationships to the next level, compared to a plethora of ones that promote passivity instead. In particular, compare Female President’s:

Come on come on oh oh oh

Come on come on oh oh oh

You go first and say you love him

Now is the time, you can start first

We have a female president

Why so serious? What’s the problem?

If a girl kisses first, she gets arrested or what?

Come up to him and kiss him first

Now is the time, you can start first

Girl's Day Female President Feigned Lesbian KissTo those to Dal Shabet’s Be Ambitious (but better translated as “Look at my Legs“), also recently released, and also notorious for its “sexy concept”:

You always only hold my hand and let go,

Is that enough for you? You don’t even kiss me,

When are you gonna make a move?

We stay up all night just talking, even when you’re drunk, you just go home.

Are you really a guy? Or are you just shy?

And, later:

I really can’t wait anymore,

I can’t believe this situation,

I really can’t wait anymore,

I don’t wanna just wait anymore.

Dal Shabet Be Ambitious(Source, above; source below — unknown)

To which Asian Junkie aptly responds:

SO DON’T WAIT WTF

Get it yourself, goddammit. I’m not a fucking mindreader.

And about the lyrics in general:

So as I said, people are apparently touting this as a sexualized, female empowerment song or whatever. In the music video’s comments, there are those commenting about how this is about women gaining control of their sexuality and shit.

But to me, it’s the exact opposite. It’s either saying, “Men need to be more rapey and force themselves on us because we’re wearing slutty clothes” OR “It’s not socially acceptable for us to make the first move because that would be slutty, so here’s our whining about not being aggressive enough to demand dick, we’re still waiting on you.”

Girl's Day Female President Screenshot(Source)

Getting back to Female President, again I acknowledge the irony of empowering lyrics accompanying a song so negatively objectifying, and would be very happy to learn that there’s actually many more out there in K-pop that encourage women to be more assertive in their relationships (not just empowering in general though — I already know of many of those). Also, I fear that again it’s appropriate to quote myself, as I can never stress enough that…

…it’s not the place of this author—a slightly fat, bald, middle-aged man—to tell any young female singer or consumer what they should and shouldn’t consider empowering.

But to argue that the “saddest fact” about this song is that the lyricists Nam Gi-sang (남기상), Gang Jeon-myeong (강전명), and Daniel R. are men though?

That’s sexist.

(Update: Dana’s “‘Female President’ Has Nothing To Do With A Female President” at Seoulbeats is a must-read.)

Related Posts: