Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hyuna the Stripper and Ajosshi Fans

Eat Your Kimchi ripped Hyuna's video, Troublemaker Troublemaker, to pieces, for Hyuna's one-dimensional sexiness.

Tumblrite Briana, at Noonaneomuhomo, took issue with Simon and Martina's review.
Simon and Martina responded with an explanation of what they were trying to say about Hyuna.

I'm No Picasso added a response to it, with an interesting post about the way women in Kpop videos these days are taking on the Male Gaze directly - with Hyuna as a prime example of that - rather than pretending it isn't there.

It's been an interesting conversation, but I'd like to tie it in with one other thing:

James on The Grand Narrative has been writing about "Ajosshi Fandom" or "Uncle Fans." Read up here.

Basically, here's the rundown:
K-pop girl bands started targeting males in their 30s and 40s. All well and good... those guys have money to burn! The problem is, especially when the performers in these girl groups are underage, it gets kind of uncomfortable for older men to be leering at videos of underage girls in short skirts shaking their asses, now, doesn't it?

To get around this, the discourse of the "ajosshi fan" was invented. Ajosshi fans, or uncle fans, claim their feeling toward the girls' is like a friendly uncle’s feelings toward his niece - a little paternal, a little protective, but most of all, innocent and de-sexualized. This is a convenient justification, because by claiming to be an “uncle fan” a guy can pretend he hasn’t noticed that these band members are chosen and the videos are designed for sex appeal. By throwing up his hands and shouting "Uncle" he gets to ogle underage girls, but the "Uncle fan" explanation lets him off the hook without feeling like a creep. Kind of like the creepy uncle who tries to look down his niece's shirt while going on about how she's growing up. I'm sure my female readers could comment on how NOT benign such affection is... even though sometimes it probably is meant in all innocence.

To be fair: not every “uncle fan” is a creep, but if we acknowledge that sexual interest IS part of the K-pop girl group package, we can start discussing things like guidelines for the appropriate use of underage girls in k-pop groups. And we can recognize that the "uncle fan" explanation may be true for some men who claim to have "paternal feelings"... but the number of men who truly have only "uncle-ish" feelings is probably fewer than the number of men who claim that's why they're avid followers of K-pop girl groups.

And let's just call bullshit on that anyway... because if I saw any of my nieces dressed in the kinds of uniforms k-pop girls wear, dancing that way, and saw thousands of men my age staring at the videos, I wouldn't be proud and paternal. I wouldn't want to give her a squeeze around the shoulders, a chuck on the chin, and say "nice job, niece." I'd be shocked and upset and want to stand in front of the TV to block it, not to watch it again, if it were my niece. If we could ask every "Uncle fan" who watches these videos, "How'd you feel if it was your daughter up there, dressed like that," I think we'd find the "Uncle fan" fiction doesn't hold water. (Hell, I bet we could just ask them how many of the words to the songs they know to find out which ones don't give a damn about the girls, and just like looking.)

If we aren’t honest enough to admit that K-pop is selling sex, then I think it’s dishonest to act like there’s nothing sexual about dressing a young girl up in the uniforms they wear in K-pop videos.

Skirts that show panties - this costume led to... either the costume or the song, or the video being banned. Can't be bothered to check. Girls' day: "Twinkle Twinkle" and buddy, if you're watching this video for the music... you're lying. (discussed here and here)

But whether Hyuna is successful at projecting the kind of sexuality she wants to project or not (which is the point of Eat Your Kimchi's beef), here's what videos like hers do:

When the girls are, as INP says, looking directly at the camera, acting like adults instead of little girls, they're confronting the male gaze that ogles them in their videos. If the girls are using aegyo, I'm an uncle watching a video that's telling a cute story about girls acting like children and being cute... that happens to be sexy (oh, but that's not why I'm watching it: I'm watching it because I like those cute childish faces and that funny fairy tale storyline that involves licking oversized prop lollipops bwahaha).

Videos like this give me that "out"

But with Hyuna, I'm watching a sexy video that's a sexy video because it's a sexy video that happens to be a sexy video, and there's no pretending about it. I'm not attracted to the childish costumes, and I can't pretend that's why I watch, because there AREN'T childish costumes and baby-faces. They pull the rug on the "Uncle fans" and say, "You're going to watch the video because it's sexy, and we're not giving you any short-cut or justification. Because we're f$&#ing sexy, and that's that."

Brown Eyed Girls is making videos like this. (mentioned by Eat Your Kimchi in their Troublemaker review)

You can't pretend that's anything other than a sexy video.

So now, let's actually talk about sexiness in Kpop videos, instead of inventing fictions, justifications, and fishy discourses that excuse ourselves from having to admit what the video, and these kpop bands' sculpted images, are really about.

Talking about it is good.


Melissa said...

It seems like the 'Korean system' is the opposite of the Japanese system, in which idol groups seem to openly acknowledge older male fans and seduce them, in a way. Maybe because they know lonely, older, unmarried men are the main contributors to their product income. I saw Japan's top girl group (actually, their training members- AKB48) do one of their daily concerts when I was in Tokyo and the audience was all 30+ men drooling over the young (some as young as 15) girls dancing onstage in unbelievably short skirts and doing very suggestive dance moves. In a crowd of about 200 people, there was only one other woman in the audience. Nearly all of the men would just stare with glazed eyes at the stage, inaudibly mouthing the words to the songs and some would desperately reach out to the stage even though it wasn't within their each. It was... really strange. I felt like I needed to take a shower after. Also, in Japan, a lot of the popular female singers publish sexy photo books (my friend has some, and they are mostly under-20 women wearing lacy or see-through lingerie hugging teddy bears and posing on beds, looking like little girls.) The kind of shops that sell these books (the same ones that sell tons of porno DVDs) are frequented almost exclusively by older male businessmen. Not to assume that Korea and Japan should be compared because they're both East Asian countries, but you immediately made me think of what I saw in Japan or have heard from people who live there, and how it is pretty different from Korea, particularly that it is easy and totally socially acceptable for 'ajussi' fans in Japan to sexualize young girl groups, and perhaps even encouraged by the girls' agencies who know they can make a lot of money by exploiting their sexiness.

roboseyo is too lazy to log in said...

I think everybody in Korea knows that's what's happening... but they've invented the concept of "ajosshi fans" in order not to have to admit it.

(appropriately: the verification word here is 'dicived')


Charles Montgomery said...

So... is the issue the deception involved?

I'm not a fan of most K-pop, but when I do see it I'm unabashedly looking at the cute girls, despite the fact that I'm apparently older than even the K-pop Ajosshi fans.

Hyun-a and Lee Hyori are primarily, at least to me, just good-looking.. In a way, no different from Brittney Spears, who played the same deception game, at least at the outset of her career.

I do agree with Simon and Martina, however, that Hyun-a can't dance much beyond moves you might see on a brass pole.^^

LOL.. that was just random thoughts stuck together.

Roboseyo said...

I'd say that denial is a more accurate word than deception.

Anonymous said...

EYK didn't explain anything, they just tried to excuse away their shaming of the stripper profession, slut shaming, use of the word 'ghetto', and it was just awful.

- Selom

Eugene said...

It's just a way to save face. I really don't see how it is any better if dudes Hyuna's age are looking at the video as opposed to older male fans. If they were only in it for the sex, then they would be watching porno. And when old dudes are watching porno they don't watch similarly aged women (usually). I say calm down and let 'em go. If they need to tell themselves that they are uncle fans to sleep better at night, then have at it.

Roboseyo said...

excuse away = a way of saying explain which shows that I didn't buy their explanation

you're free not to like/buy it. I know Simon and Martina, and I don't think they were looking to start trouble... but I don't know you.

@Eugene I somewhat disagree. Why can't people admit things for what they are?

Eugene said...

Well I am glad that we are disagreeing on this as opposed to other things. I'm just saying, it's a first step to acknowledging that sex is a real thing that happens here rather than trying to cover things up to pretend that it doesn't. Sure they should just come out and say the reason they are watching this kind of stuff, but yeah, society isn't quite ready to accept that a sexually provocative dance is meant to entice male viewers. But what would bring it further in the direction of pure honesty isn't to hide it. Let the excuses be there for now, because they will lead to pure honesty later...

Roboseyo said...

If you frame it as a step towards actual, frank discussion about the fact people have sexuality and maybe we should talk about it, then I'm cool with your point, Eugene -- I think it's a (perhaps too broad) generalization to say many Koreans I know (especially Korean Koreans) don't like to talk about sex, and prefer avoiding topics that would require acknowledging various aspects of human sexuality, and the variety of choices people can make about their own sexuality -- for example:

Koreans' reluctance to talk about abortion

the woeful lack of sex education in Korea's school system

the image of ajumma as unsexed

embarrassment about, or denial of, the prostitution industry (or the silly claim that prostitution didn't exist here until Japan/USA came to Korea)

stigmatization of single mothers

under-reporting of, or womens' difficulty in making legal headway in cases of, sexual assault

even embarrassment about, or denial of the function of love motels -- I once had a student tell me with a straight face that the only reason love motels existed was so married couples could get jiggy without bothering the rest of the family --

in the context of these things, which I've (anecdotally, to be sure) observed, the invention of YET ANOTHER discourse designed to deny/avoid frank discussion of YET ANOTHER aspect of sexuality rubbed me the wrong way.

But if the "uncle fan" thing is a step on the way to actually talking about sex without immediately resorting to bromides and useless platitudes and rigid gender role assignments... I'm for anything that gets us beyond those bromides.

Eugene said...

Just watched the video and the only problem I saw was the arson and murder. Everything that they complained about was extremely mild. And formthe record she is an awesome dancer, trained by jyp himself. I dont like the glorification of violence in the video at the end, but the rest of it wasnt at all over the line. I dont get what the problem is..

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people but when they are being bigoted I will call them on it. Their video was problematic, they got called out on it and all they did was say, "You don't knowww us!! That's not what we meant, you're just making things up".

News flash is, a lot of oppressive behaviour is taught and woven into society and it's our own job to recognise and fix it. When someone actually takes their time to bring it up to you if you're too used to the norm - which is usually problematic - you go research it. They got called on the problematic behaviour in their video and they basically said, "We do not care for things outside of our consciousness, this is what society told me is correct" and let and LIKED their fans' bigoted and just rude replies air out on tumblr.

You never know a person 100% and when they behave in ways which are not right, saying you know them doesn't change what they did. Their reactionary post speaks bounds and fleshes out some ignorance, e.g. their reaction to 'ghetto', it's time to learn some history on ghettos.

I'm sure they're lovely people but many oppressive people are lovely people; that's why when discourse is written and discussed about these things, we mention how they are systematic and institionalised.

- Selom

Roboseyo said...

Selom, I agree a lot of oppressive attitudes and prejudices towards women are built into a lot of societies (I don't know which society you mean when you say 'our'). But if you say we need to talk about the systematic oppression, then I'm going to ask you to be systematic about your objection.

Because I see institutionalized oppression in a lot of places, but not in EYK, and I think you're reading that into their review of Trouble Maker.

Watch their review of Sixth Sense by Brown Eyed Girls - their words: "Sexiness done right" -- a video they point to during their review of Trouble Maker. http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/kpop-browneyedgirls-sixthsense/ and listen to what they say about sexuality and power there...
"your attitude and your confidence are infinitely more sexy than what you can do with your body alone." (2:30) What's EYK's GENERAL attitude about what makes a Kpop video sexy, and if that general attitude, as expressed in a number of videos, doesn't jibe with the attitude expressed in this one video, why is that? Could it be the reader, and not the text?

In your last comment, you say "they basically said" which is a phrase people often use for interpreting people's words, and sometimes, for twisting them in order to set up the straw man they'd like to argue against.

Because EYK are a very popular Youtube channel, it's a well-known video, which means we can start discussions about stuff like that with a starting point people know, and that's why I've engaged, despite what I see as a straw man argument, because I DO see slut shaming (though not in EYK) when discussing Kpop videos and such, and I'd like to see honest discussions of how sexuality is used in Kpop.

But if you want to convince me, let's get beyond "They basically said," because a game of "basically said" leads to everybody misrepresenting each other, and talking past each other. Nobody learns anything, and nobody ever changes their mind from that kind of a conversation.

I'd like to respectfully challenge you to use their ACTUAL words to show that they're slut shaming, etc.. With links, specific quotes, and the video times where they said them (for example: "at 2:45 of the video they say..."), and then explain to us why that "basically" means what you say it means.

I saw the video, and I saw a critique of Hyuna's video not for trying to be sexy (I'd have a problem with that), but for not being very good at the type of sexiness she's trying to project, perhaps for choosing to project a type of sexiness that doesn't suit either her, or the song... clearly you saw something different, and I'd love it if you explained to me, with specific references to the original source (those are my roots as an English Lit. major coming out), how they have done what you accuse them of doing. If you responded with clinical fact instead of emotional language and accusations supported only with "they basically said," you might get a better response from EYK than a brush-off.

Anonymous said...

I love posts like this : ) Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Yoboseyo Roboseyo, the person's blog which you linked gave TWO posts of quoted (or guided references) and explained arguments. Expressing oppressive views can be subconscious but when you get called on it, and you refuse to open your eyes regardless of what you feel you are, what is the harm in listening, stepping back and researching what you're told? website: derailingfordummies

Like I said before, I'm sure they're lovely people to you and their friends/family but you know what, I know a lot of lovely people who say bigoted things, whether they are conditioned to think it's o.k. or not.

noonaneomuhomo dot tumblr dot com /post/14279297908/so-i-am-posting-my-response-to-the-whole-eat-your

I felt her posts highlighted everything. So why is it that when they even admitted themselves to the "stripper" bet, there needs to be timed quotes? The remarks they said can just be quoted.

"“A friend of ours (who is also a YouTuber) argued that no one cares about the tags and that putting them in is a waste of time. We bet him $20 that people do notice the tags and that they’re actually a big deal…What we didn’t expect was that the one tag would cause more controversy than the 10 minute video. And that’s the reason for the tag.“

This isn’t even a defense. No addressing how sex work-shamey, judgemental, and sexist the tag “Hyuna The Stripper” is, not even to argue against it-In fact, S&M don’t address that point at all. Their defense is merely that they placed a bet and I made them money (In Your Face!11!1). You heard it here first, folks. Bigotry is alright so long as you’re making a profit of it or you do it as an experiment. Considering this is Eat Your Kimchi we’re talking about, we shouldn’t be too surprised by that conclusion." - derailingfordummies dot com

For too long have women and women of colour been policed about how they should behave and how they should be sexy or "modest". Many people can agree that the way Hyunah is dancing and gesturing looks unnatural but we cannot certify that this behaviour is "just what the company wants", she's a living, breathing person who made the choices to join this industry and to agree to these terms of her career.

Dictating what is supposed "classy" sexy, "she should dance with JS, rather than ON JS - like a stripper", implying she's not displaying her confident sexiness (as if that has set rules before one achieves it) in the MV (5:30), comparing her dance moves to BoA as if one is the "right way" whilst Hyunah's is not, 8:11 of Hyunah's dance move description and comparing her to a "cat in heat" - just youtube that. When you attach negativity to the word you're using, people only continue to perceive it with negativity. Throughout the video past 5 mins and in the tag, the stripper profession is kicked about by their words, quite possibly not their intentions, but still done.

Anonymous said...

In regards to 'ghetto', they responded with, “Growing up, if something was broken or cheap, it was called ghetto, by people of all races, not just white people. Like ‘that car is so ghetto’, as in, the adjective ghetto, not the noun.” If that is not an example of their growing up in an institutionally racist society, being conditioned to think what they are saying is o.k, and then enforcing it, I don't know what is. website: derailingfordummies

Well, it was already summed up here,

"I judge people who think that “ghetto” is an adjective that is independent of classist or racist connotations. Where do you think the word “ghetto” comes from? It comes from an Italian word referencing a place where Jews were forced to live. Throughout the course of history, the word “ghetto” has come to refer to places where underprivileged (and often minority) groups have lived in numbers for lack of options in a majority-dominated culture. The Jewish ghettos of WWII, for instance, or the way that “the ghetto” nowadays almost without fail refers to a place that is primarily composed of a non-white demographic. The word doesn’t exist in a void; even if it’s evolved so that it doesn’t immediately call to mind the oppression of underprivileged minority groups, that doesn’t mean that people are wrong for connecting it to its origins." - metafictionally dot tumblr reply

I can't even go to S&M's youtube without wanting to resubscribe to them because of their older/lesser/non-problematic videos. I'm not their friend and I don't know them but I was following their videos for 3 years and you grow attachment even if it's on loser internet user levels. They got called out on problem areas of the video and it was described as a "massive tirade", when really, they just needed to stop stripper-shaming, shaming her attire, and defending their use of 'ghetto' - which so happened to be displayed in the video "Shit White girls say to Black Girls", where the "White girl", refers to everything she thinks looks "cheap" as 'ghetto', we're not making these things up, articles and discussions have all brought up this issue.

They said that the role she plays in no way represents what the actress/actor is in real life - yeah exactly; unfortunately, this apparently gave them a free pass to rip that persona up in inappropriate ways, such as Simon's 'tongue-in-cheek' insinuations that her gun can't fit anywhere except up her vagina cause her dress/cleavage is "too tight", not "impractical" which sends different connotations. http://madartlab.com/2011/12/14/fantasy-armor-and-lady-bits/ look at this article written about the ridiculous armoury of women warriors. He managed to bash the ridiculous and impractical status quo of female armoury without needing to shame anyone who wore it in the process. "That there, that is a boob plate. I made that one. The woman in the photo asked for it to be like that. [...] honestly, that’s a design flaw. However, it looks good and makes her feel sexy and badass at the same time. That’s important too." - his is an in depth and serious tone (spare jokes) but just because you're not being serious in a sense does not loosen the check's into the language and ideas you're promoting.

Anonymous said...

The way I see them say she's rubbing and "gyrating too much" is the way I see people always trying to command to Rihanna that she's not allowed to touch her body so much, she's not allowed to look like she "wants sex all the time". In the end of the day, yes Kpop industry is a successful idol popping machine, but to assume every single idol is just some drone who has no say for themselves jumps into extremes and is a generalisation. "She doesn't know what she's doing" type of attitude which links into yours, INP and GN's post about actively seeking ahjussi fans, & the control of gaze ect.

What if Hyunah enjoys wearing those clothes when she wants to feel sexy or makes such gestures, what happens then? What about the many women who watch Hyunah's videos and feel confident, encouraged and sexy dancing the various choreographies? Who does she owe to anyone anyway to feel confident or liberated, she can just be doing it for herself. Criticising her label for "making" her do these things and then shaming those behaviours is still detrimental. Yeh, many people weren't convinced about her sexy but if the repetitive moves of her dance steps in her songs are the problem, then address that rather than kicking the dance moves to the ground by comparing them to acting like, "a cheap and sleazy stripper", as if being a stripper is even something to be ashamed about.

In regards to Bubble Pop Simon says, "Then Bubble Pop, a totally awesome song that sounded like it'd be fun and cute, turned into a nasty boob squeezing, butt-to-crotch rub show. And now this. Having someone dance and act like a cheap and sleazy stripper is easy to find" - Those cheap and sleazy strippers who enjoy their job, whom may be feeding mouths at home apart from their own and many whom are just making a living. How this can be excused is beyond me. These type of "dos" and "don'ts" for women is something we grow up with. What about "do what you feel comfortable doing with your body" instead of branding it "nasty", a word they love to numb by saying it in some sort of accent or reference, don't know why they say it that way.

I was once having a notion that I could dictate what is "classy" sexy and what is "trashy" sexy as in example to Narsha's Mama Mia, I thought she was somehow "degrading herself" or some awful rubbish like that. I learnt a lot about my perceptions since then, took a step back, read, listened and levelled up.

In the end, I take this quote:

“The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.”
― bell hooks, this can easily be replaced with Canadian, British, Australian, French, men... we all are socialised into this type of society and it's our own job to slap ourselves out into the reality of our actions and words. Other people can only serve as an ignition, you have to go on yourself.

- Selom

3gyupsal said...

Oh, come on, everybody has been piling it all on Hyun-ah, myself included to some extent. I happen to like her work ethic. She used to be in the Wondergirls, but had to quit. Since then she joined four minutes and has had a few single songs. She also did a collaboration with some rapper kid, I can't remember if it was the same kid as the trouble maker kid, but they did a song together.

I think people should give her a little more of a chance. Both Madonna and Brittany Spears weren't the best singers or dancers but they both used their sexuality to sell albums. Hyun-ah is nearly G rated when you compare her videos to any Madonna video from the album "Bed Time Stories."

Besides, when you actually listen to the songs "Bubble Pop," and "Trouble Maker," they aren't really that bad. "Bubble Pop," has a kind of Toni Basil quality to it, and the whistle beat in "Trouble Maker," is kind of cool.

Hyun-ah is a good looking girl who can kind of sing and dance, but she also has some grit in her, she wouldn't be doing so many extra projects if she didn't. She is kind of the opposite of I.U.

I.U. tries to stoke this "good girl/cock block," persona. She is talented and she can sing well, but her songs are these cutesy little numbers about nagging her oppa. She also doesn't make that much music despite being able to do so. (Kind of like Lee Seung Gi.) Yet Korean men go wild for her much more than they do Hyun-ah.

Both Hyun-ah and I.U. are products by entertainment companies. Both fulfill some kind of sexual fantasy, one a kind of Venus in leather, the other someone who you want to bring home to mom. Of the two I prefer Hyun-ah. I.U. supposedly started her career as a girl with a guitar singing folk songs. Now she is a big eyed idiot with her face plastered all over Home plus. Hyun-ah on the other hand is a true popstar. Her solo projects have varied greatly in style. "Change," had a good dance beat. She raps in the song "Just Follow," "Bubble Pop," is a "Hey Mickey," throw back, and "Trouble Maker," is what it is. This girl might "work it," but she also works hard, and nobody seems to take that into account.

Anonymous said...

That "Briana" at Noonaneomuhomo reminded me of why K-pop is so disgusting.

Roboseyo said...

Selom: I'm sorry, but my baby's in the hospital right now; I'll reply to your comments when I have breathing room (because baby has breathing room)

Anonymous said...

That's fine, I hope your child gets better and isn't too uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

This is stupid, don't you knowbritney and the PCD are hyuna's favourite artists? soo what if she follows intheir footsteps to make huge cash quick and fast while taking the things that made them great e.g. sexiness even vulgar?

Hyunseongs favourite artists are Chris brown and MJ purely on their talent. Kikwang copies Chris Browns 'take you down' vulgar movements and sees the girl fans loving it. So who says these guys don't see what you see? Probably Hyuna has seen vulgar actions by Britney e.g. 'Breath on me' live and sees talent. Frankly both Hyuna and Britney have low talents but they sure get the fans rolling in as they grow older so get over it, girl is already 19.

Roboseyo said...

Well, the Koreans killed Trouble Maker DEAD.

If you want to see my expose of that dance, visit here: