Sunday, April 26, 2009

Men and girls

Many times now, I've seen a pair of young women (not always the same young women) mindlessly dancing, to loud discoish music, on boxes in front of one or another store that's Grand Opening (quiet; I say that's proper usage) or having a sale. (See video below.) Obviously the idea is that they will attract attention, and thus business; however, I've never yet seen a pedestrian or automotive passenger pay the least notice. The women always seem bored or mechanical, or maybe just pretending that they're not there. If feels about one step up from stripping on the dignity ladder.

I think that they're probably all from the same company; they all have the same setup and the same type of outfit: bright, shiny miniskirt outfits in some primary color, complete with bell-bottom leggings that inexplicably remind me of Clydesdales' hooves, which look odd on the show-pony forms of the dancers.

Downtown comes alive in the evenings, and there are invariably young women standing in front of cosmetic stores, dressed in cutesy little outfits: skirts that range from "If you don't change into something more modest, you'll spend the day in detention" to "Hello, officer", leg sheathes like the ones the dancers wear or pseudo-leg warmers puddled around the ankles, handing out coupons or samples and rattling off sales come-ons into microphones turned up way too loud.

At E-Mart, there is always a stunning number of short-skirted, pseudo-cheerleader-outfitted women standing around, practically at every aisle intersection, waiting to pounce on any customer who hesitates for a moment in front of a display.

I commented once to Heeduk about the loveliness of the flight attendants on my trip over, and he said that flight attendant is a very high-status job for Korean women, with a great deal of competition among the prettiest girls to get the position.

All of this is to say that the status of women in Korean society is about the same as it was in the US in... 1955? Some say it's because of the Confucian influence that's permeated Korean society for thousands of years, some that it's strengthened by the fact that every Korean man owes two years of hard military service (which allegedly creates a firm brotherhood) and no Korean woman owes any service at all. Either way, it's sad, though I admit I still look at the women's legs. In a purely cross-cultural analytical way, of course.

The more sinister side of this is that there is such a strong pro-male bias that it is illegal for parents to learn their babies' sex before birth. Why? Although abortion is against the law, it's extremely common, and couples have aborted so many female fetuses that there is a serious sex imbalance in society; there are many more young men looking for partners than young women who are available, and that can't be good for the young men's morale... and tens of thousands of dissatisfied citizens with testosterone overload is never a good thing for a society.

Korea is still a 21st-century society grappling with 19th-century thinking. Twenty-somethings can be divided into two groups; there are men, and there are girls.

No comments: