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Unfolding “Female Empowerment” in KPOP

 

Girl’s Day is a four-member South Korean girl group that debuted in 2010 under Dream Tea Entertainment (girlsdaydaily.com, 2013). On June 24th 2013, they released a repacked album “Female President,” and they won their first number one rank in a music broadcast program since their debut with a title song with the same name (allKpop, 2013). The song also did very well domestically in South Korea as it peaked at number 6 on the Gaon Weekly album chart, a system that tabulates song and album popularity on a weekly basis in South Korea (Gaon Chart, 2013).

Like the title of the song, “Female President” speaks very strongly of female empowerment, questioning why a female has to be the passive one in expressing their romantic interest to an opposite sex. With a catchy beat, it tells the audience, presumably girls, to “come up to him and kiss him first” and that “now is the time, [they] can start first” (kromanized.com, 2013). The song alone has a great message, and with a catchy beat, it can very well empower females in the South Korean society. However, the music video tells a whole different story.

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The video starts with shadows of the members’ bodies onto a screen, dancing in a provocative manner, and the scene quickly cuts to the members dancing to the choreography of the song in identical outfits. The outfits have minimum clothing with the members’ midriffs showing, where it is been “portrayed in advertising and elsewhere as the primary source of women’s capital” (Gill, 2009).

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The exposing fashion continues as the scene cuts to the members singing dancing on a different setting of the stage. The lyrics go on and question the listeners: “our country has a female president, why are you so serious? What’s the problem? If a girl kisses first, does she get arrested or what?” while the members dance daringly in short dresses and outfits. While the lyrics empower and embrace female sexuality, the music video puts female in a objectified way where they are viewed as male pleasure, exposing themselves and posing with fancy vehicles, for male pleasure.

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(YouTube, 2013).

A part of their choreography is with the members facing the camera and the audience with their backs and shaking their butts to the beat. The camera work cuts back and forth between the dancing and silhouettes of the members dancing. While the lyrics repeat itself, the message that the video sends changed: it now eliminates the members’ individuality, personality as nothing but their bodies. They are filmed and viewed as females who have their bodies as their best asset, and they are now using them to gain maximum attention. The audience is now viewing the performers’ butts shaking and bodies curving in aggressive ways with a male gaze, where the performers become nothing but visual pleasure to the audience.

By sexualizing the music video, Girl’s Day failed at attempting to empower their female fans but rather, they send another message that the only way to “empower” female is to by conforming into female objectification. They are telling their fans that by showing off their bodies with provocative fashion and movements, they can achieve “female empowerment” where they have the attention of the males. This is a dangerous message to send because freely expressing sexuality is not an empowerment for females anymore, “where once sexualized representations of women in the media presented them as the passive, mute objects of an assumed male gaze, today women are presented as active, desiring sexual objects who choose to present themselves in a seemingly objectified manner because it suits their liberated interest to do so” (Gill, 2009). In other words, despite the lyrics, “Female President” still serves as an evidence for female objectification in KPop.

With over 6 million fan club members world wide, Korean music awareness and influence have been increasing in the past decade (Koreaherald.com, 2012). They have the ability to influence the entertainment sphere not only in South Korea but potentially the world. Sexualizing a female empowerment message for chart performances is a marketing technique, not a socially responsible decision. Therefore, Girl’s Day and their agency have a big social responsibility of what messages they are sending out.

 xoxo,

Princess Bry

Bibliography

 

allKpop (2013). Girl’s Day win their first ever music show on canceled July 7 ‘Inkigayo.’ Retrieved from: http://www.allkpop.com/article/2013/07/girls-day-win-their-first-ever-music-show-on-canceled-july-7-inkigayo

Gaon Chart (2013). Retrieved from: http://gaonchart.co.kr/

Gill, R. (2009). Supersexualized Me! Avertising and the ‘Midriffs.’ In F. Attwood (Ed.), Mainstreaming sex: The sexualization of Western culture (pp. 93-99) . New York: I. B. Taurus

girlsdaydaily.com (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.girlsdaydaily.com/

Kromanized.com (2013). Girl’s Day – Female President. Retrieved from: http://kromanized.com/2013/06/23/girls-day-female-president-%EC%97%AC%EC%9E%90-%EB%8C%80%ED%86%B5%EB%A0%B9/

Koreahearld.com (2013). Riding the ‘Korean Wave.’ Retrieved from:  http://nwww.koreaherald.com/common_prog/newsprint.php?ud=20120924000627&dt=2

YouTube (2013). GIRL’S DAY – FEMALE PRESIDENT(여자대통령) M/V. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF3MC8PWgJE

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The Real #GrindrFail

Grindr started out as a geosocial networking app specific for gay, bisexual, and bi-curious men, but it has become so much more in the LGBTQ community since its release back in 2009. Grindr uses the GPS system embedded in smartphones to connect with other Grindr users based on your location. After 4 years, Grindr has become the most popular all-male location-based social network with 4 million users in 192 different countries around the world. The app is still growing with about 10,000 new users downloading the app every day (Grindr, 2013).

Some Grindr users, however, have taken this social app to a different level. While some users still genuinely look for friendships or even true loves on the app, most users use it as a “hook-up” app, where you can find someone you’re attracted to or is attracted to you without having to even leave your apartment. All you need to do is go on the app and start chatting. If you find someone like-minded, you can go for a drink or go straight to the bedroom. With this kind of fast food-like hookup lifestyle, it comes as no surprise that some users’ biography becomes a little forward in terms of criteria for chatting with them in order to get straight to the point in terms of what they are looking for, and this is where the internalized hatred within the LGBTQ community comes in.

The following are a few examples:

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(Photo credit: http://stopracismandhomophobiaongrindr.wordpress.com/tag/grindr/)

The first picture’s bio reads: “Masculine guys only NO Fairies thanks. Would be nice to meet a decent guy 4 a change.Lol.Where has all the romance gone?” In The Limitations of the Discourse of Norms – Gay Visibility and Degrees of Transgression, Jay Clarkson discusses the internal discrimination within the gay community by introducing ActingStraight.com, a website created by “straight-acting” gay men who “seek to normalize a particular set of gender performances as acceptably gay, and the expense of other performances perceived as more transgressive” (Clarkson, 2008). They believe that gays need to act straight-like in order to be more accepted and more welcomed while flamboyant gays become a stereotype of the gay community that ultimately hurts the progression of homosexuality acceptance in the society.

They are wrong in many ways. One, this messaging implicitly suggests that they also believe the acceptance of their own gender identity is more important than the overall acceptance of the entire LGBTQ community. They are willing to sacrifice other LGBTQ members’ social acceptance for their own, forcing them to act a certain way because ultimately, they benefit from this homosexuality normalization. Secondly, more media representation and visibility of masculine gay and bisexual men will not positively correlate to “straight-acting” LGBTQ members’ social power. Almost-naked young white women would run the Western culture if media visibility translates directly and positively into social empowerment (Phelan, 1993, p.10).

        The second profile’s headline reads, “not too into the gays.” Again, being on a gay and bi social network app, this user still feels the need to separate himself from the rest of the users because he is “not too into the gays,” putting the rest of the gay community below him. This shows how the hegemonic ideology, where the society generally teaches and celebrates heterosexuality, is still taught and celebrated within the LGBTQ community. If you are straight acting, that is good because you follow the heterosexual hegemonic ideology. If you are flamboyant, that is bad because you challenge the society’s teachings and acceptance. What this Grindr user fails to realize is that his actions feed to homophobia both from the society and within the LGBTQ community. By condemning a certain group within the LGBTQ community, this user actually becomes a contribution for the lack of homosexuality acceptance.

The third profile says, “if you need to have weird wrist movements or talk with a chicks voice keep on prancing fairy.” The weird wrist movement refers to a specific feature of some flamboyant boys. Again, this profile is an example of how “selective homophobia is alive and well within gay communities. It suggests that some gay men feat the gender performances they see as flaming, not only because they do not like them, but also because they fear what those performances may mean to straight people” (Clarkson, 2008). This describes how influential the hegemonic ideology is on the society, that even within the LGBTQ community, there is still a hierarchy where if you’re as close to being heterosexual as possible, you still have a higher social status. This also means that flamboyant gays still “remain among the most marginalized members of society,” where even within a lower social-acceptance class, they are still viewed as undesirable or as non-hegemonic ideal.

        What started out as a friendship kindling and love finding social app ends up feeding back into internalized homophobia within the gay and bisexual men community, Grindr serves more than an app but a social norm to the community. Therefore, Grindr has the responsibility to influence the LGBTQ community, acknowledging that some of its users may be contributing to homophobia in ways they do not even know.

Bibliography

Clarkson, J. (2008). The limitations of the discourse of norms: Gay visibility and degrees of transgression. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 32(4), 368-382. Published by Sage Publications, Inc.

Gindr (n.d.). Retrieved from http://grindr.com/

Phelan, P. (1993). Unmarked: The politics of performance. London: R