Korean Kulture: Women in Society

I am not ignorant enough to think that what one person says represents all of their culture’s thinking. However, I have to say that this one took me by surprise when it probably shouldn’t have.


For a monthly speaking test topic, I asked my students this:\

The World Cup and the Olympics are international sports competitions that are played only every 4 years. Do you think that other types of world competitions should be held? Which ones and how often? When you thought about this, did you consider all of the countries that could participate? Would it be fair? 


Most of the students brought up other sports like ‘Jump Roping’ or ‘Padminton’ (apparently this is a combo of ping pong and badminton?!). One boy said there shouldn’t be any more competitions because most countries can’t find one common way to compete, and ‘also, it is very expensive.’ 


What shocked me was when one of my more outspoken girl students said

“There should be a beauty competition held every 2 years.” She supported this by saying that the sports competitions are for men. Women are not strong enough to play in these sports. They should be focusing on beauty. Men do not have to work on being beautiful like women. It would be fair for all countries to participate in this competition because there are beautiful women from every country. 

—That last statement was the only one I could agree with. —

After she finished her speech, I asked her if she had ever heard of the Miss Universe contest. She hadn’t. So I explained it to her and she used her most common phrase: “Ohhh. Deally, teachah!?” (oh really, teacher?)

In American society, women have fought and struggled to be recognized in work places and sports competitions as an equal to our male counterparts. We are constantly being pulled by media about what is beautiful and what is not. We have come to accept that large is beautiful in its own right. We have come from appreciating stick figures to curves. But we still alter our images to achieve what our ‘inner’ beauty. Maybe it’s not as exaggerated as an airbrush or fake tan or ‘sparkling’ the eye.. but we use filters still to get the right lighting. That’s innocent enough. Yet somehow, we have come to figure out the secret to photoshopping real life. We angle the phone cameras down so nobody will notice our double chin. We do a side view to avoid getting heat about that pimple on our cheek. Suddenly our eyes are wide and innocent looking. There’s this full body pose that every girl is trying to perfect:

You stand slightly angled inward (to avoid having your muffin top showing), one knee (typically the one closest to the camera) is bent just enough that your heel is off the ground (to accentuate your leg and make your thigh and butt look slimmer), your outer hand lays on your waist (again to hide any unsightly flab), then your upper body is twisted to face the camera (to show off your slim waistline and padded bust), your head is also angled in or out (depending on where you stand) and the smile is wide with those unnaturally pearly whites gleaming against that bright pink shiny lipgloss. 

These angles and self conscious alterations are so simple and small that you may not realize you’re doing it. Or maybe you do but choose to pretend that this pose is completely natural. 

10 years ago, I graduated high school. We used disposable cameras for prom. We used 35mm cameras where the film would take anywhere from 1 hour – 48 hours to be developed. If you didn’t like the picture, you could choose not to keep it. But even those awkward angles and embarrassing faces we made were kept. Maybe they weren’t put in the album or scrapbook, but they were put into the envelope that you got your pictures in..and eventually put into a box. Cameras were meant to capture that natural beauty of people. What happened to those candid moments?

John Mayer’s “Comfortable” has a line that always hits me: “She poses for pictures that aren’t being taken.”

It’s true: I have found myself posing for pictures that aren’t being taken. But more than not, I find that I have to pose for the pictures being taken. I’m not happy with my body image at the moment, and I’m working on improving it.. but I don’t think people would be so obsessed with their image if they didn’t have to look at it so often. 


To come back to the original point, if you’ve never been to South Korea..they will put your selfie to shame. Girls walk around with hand mirrors and mirrors on their phones. They pose for those pictures that aren’t being taken. They strive to live up to the ‘cute’ look. 



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