Friday, May 25, 2012

K-girls, K-boys... both in the wrong?

(Update 2: August 2013: This post is a mess. There is a correction/update/clarification here.)

[Update] I'm No Picasso has written a very good response to this post. You should read it. I'm going to write my reply, which will be shorter, in the comments.

Music: this is a long post, with lots of words, so hit play and start reading:
Goin' Against Your Mind, by Built To Spill, who I'm loving these days: I may write a post about them. After finals.

I'm No Picasso has a really important post out, and I'm quite disappointed that there's been so little commentary on it so far. Has it been discussed on Tumblr and I missed it? No. There hasn't. I even asked INP and she said there's been nary a tumbleweed in reply.


Four years ago, the K-blogs were overwhelmingly male, as were the online forums. Topics like
"Yo Korean bichez are da shit poor western fat hoes aint gettin any play at da HBC bro!"
were... well... that's an exaggeration (mostly). But the fact is, there was enough casual sexism and stereotyping, and enough knee-jerk response, that I'm utterly unsurprised when I hear from my female online friends that they usually just don't read comments, or avoid certain blogs or discussion forums.

Fair enough.

With the arrival of I'm No Picasso and a handful of other blogs written by expat women in Korea, there was a welcome change, where first of all, Korean women were no longer just K-girls, and western women started discuss things themselves, rather than just having things said about them, or maybe explained to them.

That was a really good development.

Now, INP is concerned that things have gone too far the other way.

Used to be, the menz were writing about K-girls - a term that is often quite reductionist and disrespectful, reducing a whole culture and heritage into the dateability (or let's be honest, the fuckability) of one subgroup of their females. Now, I love that people can be misogynist dickheads, ignorant racists, screeching axe-grinders or pompous asshats on the internet as much as the next guy -- it makes it easier to spot people I'd like or dislike to hang out with, when they're letting all their asshattery color up the interwebs. But as fun as those flavors can be, it's a little tiresome when it's the only flavor available. And as gender balance goes, only one flavor was getting major representation. As much as dickweed icecream might hit the spot for certain folks in a certain mood, one hopes there are more flavors available at the ice cream bar.

Then there was another flavor, and that was cool.

But now that other flavor is using the term K-boys, talking in the opposite gender direction, but with similarly dismissive or reductive attitudes, and that's disappointing to INP because the shoe so very recently was exactly on the other foot, and hopefully this new community can do better than the community against which its first formation was partially a reaction (not all: it's not all about men, you know... but partly).

You should go read her piece.

Mostly, I'm OK with there being gendered spaces on the internet -- as long as they're clear that's what they are (that is, not pretending they're representative of something other than their gendered space). And one of the hardest things about conversations on the internet is that there are very, very many cases where people head into conversations following different rules of engagement, and therefore have distressing or frustrating conversations where everyone's talking past each other. I've seen some very very smart and interesting people who, if they met each other, I think would like each other a lot, get into some nasty back-and-forths online, because they entered the conversation expecting dissimilar terms of engagement to be followed.

As I mentioned above: I'm OK with men being idiots online about women, and about Korean women, because if people flash their ignorance around that way, I know to avoid them before I even waste time meeting them. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so if women want to be idiots online about men, and Korean men, by the same token, have fun! Same for white people, people of color, racists, politically correct sensitivitybots, randy raunchsters and the rest. I think that ignorant, sexist,  racist, and just stupid people will generally eventually attract the readers and commenters they deserve, or none at all, which is OK too.

There are a few times when writing on the internet disappoints me, and maybe these are some of the things that are bothering I'm No Picasso as well...

When writers don't develop as they go, that disappoints me:

I'd hope that anyone who's writing about Korea and trying to contribute meaningfully, who notices most of their writing is getting overwhelmingly negative feedback, or "Yea your rite bro thatz totally how it iz them bichez just don unberstand you hurff durff" or ignored entirely, would take that fact as a suggestion to try a different approach: not everybody needs to do this (not everybody has the same reason for writing), but when I write, I think about the ten most thoughtful commenters who regularly visit here, and basically write for them, and that helps me feel good about how I write, and who I'm writing for.

Sometimes there's no escape on Tumblr

Part of the problem here might be the nature of Tumblr, where female bloggers have cleared up a significant discussion space - on my blog sidebar (where I check to see what my favorite writers are up to) I can be really choosy, but on Tumblr, when somebody I like responds to somebody I DON'T like, the thoughts of the person I don't like appear on my page as well-- to put things crassly, Tumblr simply makes it harder to avoid the dipshits. On blogger and wordpress, if I delete the sidebar link, I can stay clear of dipshits. On Tumblr, I not only have to unfollow the dipshit, I ALSO have to unfollow everyone who interacts with the dipshit, before I can be sure my Tumblring is dipshit-free. And there are some dipshits out there. I'm not naming names. I'm sure you've got your own list, and maybe I'm on it. That's OK, because the internet's a wonderfully big place. But the great thing about the internet being so big is that you don't have to abide dipshits unless you want to... Tumblr, a little bit less so.

(On the other hand, on the good side, the brilliant thing about tumblr is that sometimes the random stuff your friends find is illuminating, brilliant, and totally new -- something I would never have found if I didn't have tumblr friends who search for inspiration in different places than I do).

It's good that the internet takes all kinds, even dipshits, but...

It's not healthy to start blocking, deleting, or censoring other commenters. I'd never advocate that. I think that it's healthier for everybody to put their thoughts online, in the appropriate venues, and for thinking people to sort through and choose the things they read and the things they ignore. Society is richer and discussions are more robust if EVERYBODY feels safe posting comments. Even dipshits.

But for that to happen, there have to be enough spaces out there that people who are offended by republican dipshits have places to go without finding them, and that people who are offended by democrat dipshits have places to go without finding them. Ditto for every other category of disagreeable dipshit. Hopefully, I can find a place where I won't come across "Lol im gunna go out and bone three hawt K-girls this weekend" comments. And people who post comments like that should have a place where they won't get lectured for posting that way. It's not the internet's job, or my job, to make them not be dipshits, and if they ever stop being dipshits, it'll probably be because of people they know in person, or things they actually experience, and not because of strangers on the internet, frankly. But the internet should be able to help them be dipshits only around other dipshits of their particular dipshit stripe.

And there should be a place where people can rant, "man, the sexist dipshittery of Forum X is totally unacceptable" and find agreement, without dipshits answering "You just say that because you're a fat bitter white chick who can't get laid in Korea" or conversely, "You just say that because you're a tubby burger-flipping loser-back-home with b.o. and back hair who couldn't even get a sympathy fuck from geek-bangers"-- because the dipshits commenting at Forum X don't visit that other forum, and if they did, they'd learn that kind of dipshittery is unwelcome there. Or they already got banned there four months ago.

As it stands, are there enough venues that everybody can find the kinds of discussions they're looking for, and not have to be subjected to stuff they don't, while still having a handle on the meaningful, important conversations happening? Almost, but not quite, it seems.

Imagine a friday night when there are a few parties going on at different venues. I'd like to think that there's a frat party going on somewhere -- where people can rant and be noisy and get stuff off their chests. That's healthy. I'd like to think there are a couple of coffee shops, where dudes, ladies, long-termers, and non-teachers can each say their part and feel understood, too.

And I hope the community's big and robust enough that I never have to feel like I'd like to go to an open mike, but the only thing available is a frat party. I don't want somebody to spill beer on my moleskin notebook during a keg stand, nor to be pulled into a congo line when I'm looking for a live cool jazz combo. Perhaps that's what's happening to I'm No Picasso, perhaps not. I know I've felt that way numerous times -- like the guy at a party wanting to talk about books while some group is drunkenly singing "SWEET CAROLINE!  WAH WAH WAH!" nearby.

Yeah Yeah Yeah. Zero. Shiny.

Most of all... self-awareness

my favorite forums and communities are the ones that pause from time to time and talk, or think, about what they're doing, and where they're going, as a community. Who stop and ask, "Hey. Are we just turning into another iteration of [forum we left, in order to join this one]?" They are a community, these groups of people who talk to each other often on the internet. Not necessarily the way ye olde homesteade was: internet communities are pretty loose and amorphous (that was one of the mistakes I made in my earlier writings about expat community: not accounting for that nebulousness), but they are communities, and communities that don't stop and think about who they are and where they're headed might zig or zag into unexpected and unfortunate places, or start losing members who are no longer finding what they're looking for there.

And if a community is losing members because they've made a choice to be this way instead of that way, and that's a calculated cost, well that's a choice the community has made as a collective. But if a community suddenly looks around and goes "hey. where the f*** did those five really interesting contributors go?" maybe a little self-reflection, and the development of a little self-awareness, IS in order, even if the end result is "well, we're going to keep going as we were.. but at least now we've talked about it." (A perfectly legitimate conclusion, and sometimes the only possible conclusion, but one that honors community members who ask these kinds of questions: better than ignoring them.)

Comments are open, here and at I'm No Picasso.

Because part of this topic is about forming communities on the internet, and freedom of expression, I'll be fielding comments like that.

Because part of this topic is about the way females are talking to females on the internet, I feel like that's mostly a conversation females need to have with females, so comments to that effect from males are generally unwelcome, unless you regularly add your voice to the female-dominated discourses... and if you do, I'll probably recognize your id name. Comments from known male commenters who DON'T fit that criteria, especially ones with a tone of accusation or righteousness in their comment, will be edited, disemvoweled, or deleted. If you'd like to explain why things are this way, because you're a logical man and these emotional women need to understand how it is, go ahead. Elsewhere.

It's up to the female spaces to keep their own spaces tidy, and enough women have been told to f*** off when calling male-dominated forums out on their sexist tone, that we don't need that going the other way.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get Excited about This: Korean Movies on Youtube

The Korean Film Archive has done us a serious, serious solid:

In the same way Gold Korea Vinyl is bringing us classic Korean music from the vinyl archives,  (a project for which I am very grateful, along with their work as SuperColorSuper), now we have an amazing resource available for free on Youtube.

Ever wondered about Korean film before Oldboy? The Korean FIlm Archive has just put SEVENTY - that's right, SEVENTY classic Korean films on Youtube for free, with English subtitles to boot.

Modern Korean Cinema has a title list.

Here's the page so far.

They also have sets for some of Korea's most important filmmakers and eras.

To read reviews on many of these films, and hear more about the history of Korean cinema, and perhaps guess which films might be next on the list, is another awesome resource worth a visit, and Paul Ajosshi has some suggestions for other places to track down classic Korean cinema.

So... enjoy those films, and I'll see you back here in a month.

Oh yeah... and in case you think the list is too south-centric, here's part one of Pulgasari, North Korea's giant monster-in-a-rubber-suit epic.

and subsequent parts are linked.

And if that's not enough North Korean film for you, here's's "Five Craziest Children's Cartoons From North Korea (that they could find online)"

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Google Glasses parody...

So we're still taking responses on the survey - if you are a Korean overseas adoptee, a multiracial Korean, a second or third (or whatever) generation Korea, or a Korean who lived overseas for a long time, and have come back to Korea, please do fill it out!

Korea Bang is a new blog I found, which I like quite a bit - they do translation of stuff that's popular on the Korean internets, and most interestingly, they translate netizen comments as well. Give it a look.

From them, I saw this Google Glasses ad, 

and then its Korean parody -- taking some digs at ActiveX and popup ads.

(Other countries have come up with other google glasses parodies as well)
This one is very funny... but has potty mouth.

It reminded me of this parody from Scotland about problems with SIRI's voice recognition. Potty mouth.

There's been a bunch of posting on Tumblr lately that's gotten quite harsh... and I'll talk at some point about arguing, racebaiting, and privilege on the internet... but I'll certainly wait until things have cooled down a bit first.

Monday, May 07, 2012

So why has posting been so sparse, Roboseyo? A SURVEY!

Hi, readers.

This is the first of a handful of surveys I’ll be running for research papers this semester.

If you’ve been wondering why my blog has been light on posting lately, this is part of it.

We’re studying Korean identity and multiculturalism, and looking for responses from people who have Korean ethnic background (a little or a lot), who have lived overseas, who were born overseas, who were adopted overseas… and who then had the experience of returning to Korea.

If that includes you, please do the survey! If it doesn’t, share it, and hang on: there’ll be more coming.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Papers midterms hate.

Posting's been... nonexistent lately...

I'm sorry readers. I have a midterm on friday and a presentation later today and so on and so forth...

but here are some links you should read, some culled from the radio feature I've been doing on TBS Radio:

Adventures in the 4077th, on tutoring North Koreans... and links where you can get involved!

Stupid Ugly Foreigner, on personal space (why I never go to lotte department store on a weekend).

I really liked this story about Tablo. Tablo seems cool. I'd buy him a beer and chat, if he had the free time. (if I had the free time)

If I Had a Minute To Spare has a well-written piece about the simple pleasures that help him enjoy his life.

Michelle Lee became a sympathetic character for being eliminated on K-pop Star, and JYP's comment was kinda cool. I'm currently researching multiculturalism (or lack thereof) in Korea for a couple of my research papers - I'll fill you in more on that soon... there are surveys!

But I'm not thrilled with Hong Suk-cheon wanting to buy Michelle Lee lunch out of some sympathy impulse...if his reason is because she's multiracial-Korean. Here's what I said on air, more or less:

If we recognize her for her talent, that’s great, but if we single her out for special attention, or treat her as a helpless victim because she’s multiracial, that sets a pattern of patronizing treatment toward multiracial kids that I don’t like, because I don’t want MY multiracial child to be patronized or treated as some kind of weirdo who needs special attention or sympathy. I want him to be treated as a normal part of a healthy Korean society.

Ms. Lee To Be's must-read "What About The Fathers?" is response to a Joongang Ilbo editorial that, rightly, suggests workplaces should be more family friendly. However, JI misses the point by saying these things should be done for mothers who work, (or SO mothers can work AND raise the babies) when part of the reason Korean women don't seem to want to have kids, is because moms still feel like ALL responsibility for child-rearing will land in their lap if they have a kid. Let's get the fathers involved too, folks!

Going back a little...

And, the most academic, philosophical discussion on K-pop you'll ever read... followed by a mix-tape that actually does a pretty good job of summing up what's great, what's important, and what's coming up, in K-pop.

A response in kind (but not as good) that boils down to - Kpop is fascist because it's popular, and it doesn't do it for me, and I resent you for giving reasons I might like it, or should give it a chance... a bunch of critiques that could be applied equally to any pop, from someone who clearly doesn't know much about K-pop, if s/he doesn't know where to strike. It's not hard to find, if you know where to look.  (my comment on this blog outlines most of how I feel on the topic)

The reply, from the original article's author. Which disappointingly, sounds like s/he's apologizing for loving K-pop, at points. There's no need to be apologetic for liking something that's been designed to give pleasure. My relationships with chocolate, beer, boobs and really fresh ddeok are love-love: there's no need to add guilt or shame.

K-pop is corporate... it's for-profit, sometimes cynically so... it's also really, really, really good at what it does, and the sheer skill with which it's accomplished, whether you like it or not, is admirable. But don't hate Justin Bieber because he's not Radiohead: Biebs isn't trying to BE radiohead, and it's disingenuous to think there's only one kind of good music. Don't hate Sistar for not being Shin Joong-hyun or Kim Kwang-seok. Hate Sistar if/because they're not good at what they're trying to do, which is make catchy, marketable kpop. And if catchy, marketable pop isn't for you, don't consume it.  Me? I like a little squee pop from time to time, when I get droned-out on art rock.

Meanwhile, I found this great theoretical article titled "The Political Economy of Hate" which you may have seen linked if you follow me on Twitter... it's a great article and I'm thinking of making it the basis for a series here, as well as a research paper. It asks the question "Why do politicians and other groups stir up hate of other groups? What's the benefit, and how do they choose groups to scapegoat?" And then formulates an answer.

Some of the points are very, very relevant - hell, observable, in South Korea's multiculturalism debates. Others take interesting sideways spins. But I'll save that for another post.

And if you want to hear from me more often, follow me on twitter (see sidebar) -- I'm more active there, because it takes twelve seconds instead of an hour to write a post on Twitter, so that's easier to justify when I have lots of homework or research to do.