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[OP-ED] ‘Engrish’ Was Never Funny

By Mod Myshayla About a month ago, I was getting my hair done by a woman with a distinct accent. I didn’t know anything about her and I kept to myself like I generally do with people I come across. After a while, she asked, “Are you always this quiet? Or is it because of my accent?”While we talked, sometimes she had to repeat herself because I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Turned out, she moved to America from Iran seven years ago. I reassured her that it wasn’t her accent that made me quiet, I was just like that with everyone. Other people at the salon backed me up.A situation like this isn’t rare. Similar things happen online all the time too. A message that ends with “sorry for the bad English”.I feel for people that learn English as a second language. Not only is it extremely difficult to learn but too many native speakers have developed an arrogant attitude to their own language, thinking it’s the best and anyone who doesn’t speak it correctly needs to apologize or get out of the country, even though English isn’t dictated the official language of the United States, the world, or the Internet, for that matter, it’s speakers seem to think so.This belief is taken to a whole other level in kpop because the idols don’t even live in an English speaking country yet are forced to appeal to our standards still and not once slip up, or they’re made fun of until their self-esteem takes a blow. (Ex: Himchan and “loof”.)Making fun of an idols’ English needs to stop for a number of reasons. First off, it’s incredibly brave to put yourself out there and speak a language you’re not entirely familiar with. I have a hard time with public speaking already, I can’t imagine how it’d feel to speak a language I was learning in front of hundreds of people or to be recorded speaking, having that video available for anyone to see for the rest of my life, and then being ridiculed for it.Making fun of how someone speaks is a sure way to ensure they never feel comfortable talking to you again. You may feel the need to correct their pronunciation or grammar, but try to be patient and not condescending about it. Languages vary, English words don’t derive from the roots that Korean words do. Some vowels are used more or less, some letters simply don’t exist, not all alphabets are the same.Another important thing to remember is, English is a colonizer language. This language has invaded countries by force. Some people of color were literally stripped from their language and had to learn English in order to survive. To treat it like the golden language is very ignorant and echoes the colonizers from the past.Even the fact that some black Americans know English is because hundreds of years ago, when our ancestors were taken from Africa, they ended up learning. These Africans couldn’t even speak to each other because Africa has more than one language. They birthed children that would learn from the white people around them.As if the skin whitening, plastic surgery, colored contacts, etc. idols go through and use isn’t enough, now they must speak perfect English as well. At this point, I could argue, it’s turning into assimilation. Of course, a lot of Korean idols have and always will have a strong connection to their culture but with the western influence, all these trends added together are beginning to feel like whitewashing. Even some names are being taken away and traded for predominantly white American/European names to be used as stage names or nicknames. There’s a reason for that too.It’s very insensitive to first, make fun of someone trying to speak their best and then disregard how English has always been pushed onto People of Color. English is so respected, despite not being known by the great majority of the world, it’s granted this entitlement.This briefly brings subtitles into the discussion. A lot of times I see fans crying about how there aren’t English subtitles for this and that. Yes, sometimes it sucks not knowing what idols are saying in videos but think about all the non-English speakers that watch English videos and feel that same way. English speakers, as a whole, no matter what race, seem to think everyone must drop what they’re doing and make sure they’re satisfied. Kpop is becoming international, but it’s still primarily made for Koreans, so of course people aren’t running around to make sure you, the English speaker, can get your precious videos translated. If whatever you’re trying to watch isn’t subtitled, I’m sure it will be by the end of the week.I’ve literally seen comments, on YouTube, disliked until they were considered spam and the reason they were disliked was because they were in Korean. I’ve seen people reply to these comments “if you’re going to be critical, write in English. I can’t understand that.”How is it that they had no problem with listening to a song in Korean but they suddenly had a problem with a Korean kpop fan’s Korean comment? How is it that they think English is so vastly more important, they’ll disregard all other languages and actually demand everyone writes in English for them.You can’t claim to be open minded for liking kpop and at the same time attack Korean fans and Korean idols who are trying to be just as open minded and learn English. If being nice is too much to ask, then just leave. No one wants you here. No one that speaks English and no one that doesn’t.

[OP-ED] “Beautiful” Skin

By Mod Myshayla

Like many people of color, growing up I had an insecurity about my skin. I thought it was a weird shade. Being mixed, I wasn’t quite white but I wasn’t dark enough for others to clearly see I was black (and no, not Mexican or Native American or whatever else people decided I must be). I can’t remember a single time, a single time, where someone called my skin tone beautiful just to tell me, just because they believed it.

There weren’t representations of people with my skin tone on TV or in books, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing my skin tone was considered attractive or even deserved respect like fairer skin toned people received. I was surrounded by white characters and there wasn’t anything I could do. I didn’t think it was wrong having only white dolls because that’s all my mom found or liking shows with only white characters because that’s all there was.

You grow up and this stuff becomes normalized. You don’t expect people to call you beautiful because it never happened in fiction, so why would it happen in real life? Because of this, the “Kai’s Skin-tone is Beautiful” movement definitely has interest me.

But there’s a lot of things about this movement that need to be discussed…

First of all, the statement itself. “Your skin is beautiful.” can turn creepy, real fast. Imagine having dozens of people come up to you, one at a time, and saying that. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made someone uncomfortable. In general, I hate when people try to comfort others by calling them beautiful. What is beauty? Usually, you consider what is pleasing to the eye as beautiful. So by saying Kai’s skin is beautiful, wouldn’t that statement be focusing on yourself and not him? ‘Well, I find you attractive and your skin tone attractive so you are.’

Why should he care that you, personally, find his skin tone attractive? At the end of the day, we don’t need to convince him that he’s attractive, we need to go deeper. We need to tell him we acknowledge his struggles, we need to tell him we aren’t okay with the colorist jokes and that we support him, and most of all, we need to tell him his skin tone is not a weakness.

I do understand the sentiment, of telling a person of color their skin is beautiful though, because a lot of us were never told that and a lot of us went through self-hate because of it but I just feel the statement isn’t strong enough to show what we mean. And I think idols already get enough comments about their looks to begin with.

I prefer “your skin tone is not a weakness” because weakness fulfills more than “beautiful”. Since weakness implies a bad thing, something that holds him back, something to be ashamed of, to tell him his skin tone is not a weakness would be to uplift the colorist things people have said to him. Because face it, even the colorist folks know Kai is beautiful. They aren’t saying he’s not. That’s why he’s been given the sexy role in EXO. Interviewers have told him, colleagues have told him, that he is very handsome. I don’t think he needs reassurance over his looks. I think he needs support by people saying they won’t tolerate the treatment he gets because of his looks

Another reason, I want to scurry away from the “beautiful” statement is because the statement immediately becomes different depending on who says it.

“Your skin tone is beautiful” coming from a darker black person can be mistaken for “your skin tone is beautiful (because it’s lighter than mine).“

“Your skin tone is beautiful” coming from a lighter person can be mistaken for some weird exotic fetish shit, like he’s a new species of bird. It could also been seen as validation of sorts. He doesn’t need validation from fairer skinned people, that he’s beautiful, because they already control beauty standards, I think by fairer skin toned people saying this statement- they’d just reinforce that what they think is beautiful is more important than what people with darker skin tones think is beautiful.

“Your skin tone is not a weakness” however, can be said by anyone and be taken the same way, the right way, and it’ll emphasize that beauty is not what matters in a person. It’ll clearly say, we are here for you and we would be here for you, even if you weren’t “beautiful”, and we are here for anyone with your skin tone.

[OP-ED] Who Do We Blame?

By Mod Myshayla

Obsession. Kpop fans have an absolute obsession with placing blame elsewhere for everything. Kpop can do no wrong and anytime it does something that seems a little wrong, it’s Patrick Star mode immediately. “We should just take all this blame and push it somewhere else!”

Bare with me because this isn’t very constructive writing and I don’t have many answers but this is something I’ve been thinking about.

Now, female sexualization in kpop, which has been an ongoing topic all year and for the most part, everyone has a problem with it. “Why are they dancing like that? Get her some clothes. Ew, looks like they learned this from America. Why do they want their kids looking at this like kids look at it in America?”

I try to ignore the former sentences because I’ve heard all that bs before and as much I hope to wake up and not hear people’s opinions over who needs to wear clothes and who looks slutty and yadda yadda, the end of those conversations doesn’t feel near. But the latter sentences, particularly, intrigued me because I don’t think mainstream music in America holds influence over kids as much as people wish to believe and have to believe in order to place their blame on it.

A five year old can listen to music and not understand the lyrics. Maybe they know what “bitch” means but only that it’s a bad word they can’t say. They don’t understand it’s weight, it’s history. They don’t understand the stripper or sex references in songs until they’ve paired images with those words and actions.

It’s how we all learn to talk and it’s how we learn what is. Carefully writing down the word “cat” beneath a cat picture.

But mainstream American music has lost it’s image, for the most part. Most music video channels belong to cable networks and aren’t accidentally stumbled upon. Most five year olds don’t turn on the tv and go to a music channel. When they see music videos, it’ll probably be in commercials for a split few seconds or on a channel someone older than them turned it to. The relevance of music videos has gone way down in America. Most of our pop stars are so big, they could survive without making music videos.

So this idea that children learn about sex through music or music videos seems odd to me when they probably learned about sex through TV shows they glanced at or maybe even magazines laid about.

Backing this blame is the idea of preserving children and their innocence. I, agree, children have been growing up too fast and it’d be nice if there was some way to slow this down but I think it’s interesting how a five year old knowing about sex seems to be the end of innocence but not a five year old experiencing racism or a five year old being abused or a five year old surrounded by tobacco and liquor. (Racism, smoking, and drinking can be found in kpop easily.)

And how no one talks about the end of innocence when boy groups are being sexy (yeah, we’re going there again) but when Hyuna wears shorts or something, it’s time for everyone to close their eyes and preserve the innocence of children.

I feel so sorry for Hyuna. I don’t know anything about that girl but she is subjected to criticism every day of her life right now.

I see comments about how it’s not her choice to wear what she wears and she doesn’t like it but the company makes her do it and then I see comments that say she always has a choice and she chooses to dress provocatively so let’s judge her because of it, (*cue witch burning ceremony*).

Not to mention, what’s sexual is subjective. I didn’t find Hyuna that sexy in the promotion picture. I just saw a girl in a bra like thing with some shorts. I’ve seen more skin from people wearing bikinis. I guess the fact that her breasts were pushed together was sexy, but to me they were just breasts. Just pieces of flesh. That plays in with how people perceive breasts and asses as inherently sexy, even when someone isn’t attempting to be sexy.

And hey, if it was her choice and if all idols are given choices for their promotions, then where is the outrage for Hyunseung who was in the promotion picture as well? Didn’t he have a choice in being in the picture with a “scantily” dressed woman? Didn’t he control what pose he was to sit in? If she had all this magical control then I guess he did too. So if she’s a gross slut then I guess he’s a man that loves gross sluts, right?

Blame. Sex. Innocence. Just things to think about.

[OP-ED] Race, Kpop, and Indifference

By Mod Erica

Kpop is an escape for me. My initial induction into this crazy world of beautiful people, rabid fans, and catchy music was to escape the mental exhaustion life was causing me. Little did I know over time Kpop itself was going to add itself to the list of things I was in fact trying to escape.

At first it was little things around the forums such as slightly racist fans making jokes about black/ and or other darker skinned minorities. Next, came the onslaught of little incidents involving idols themselves. And then came all of the other complaints from my fellow black kpop fans. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to leave the kpop fandom for good or to stick it out for the really cool, non crazy, non racist friends I had made and music. Clearly, as I am writing this piece I decided on the latter.

However, I feel as if I have somewhat insulated myself against feeling emotion towards racially charged incidents in kpop. I find myself trying to understand the idols point of view rather than just jumping all over them and getting upset. For example, I see a lot of people getting angry over the light/dark comments idols make, or them referencing that their skin is like chocolate.  Some fans come off as offended or insulted that they would even refer to their skin as such because they are not black.

I take a different approach. For me if an idol says they are dark or their skin is like chocolate, they are talking within a bubble (Korean) context. While, they of course should be cognizant that there are international fans watching, their primary audience is indeed Korean and as such they will make comments that apply to Koreans. I have friends who are Persian, who aren’t that much lighter than me and they complain about getting too tan all the time. But when I complain about the same thing they say I’m crazy because my skin tone is gorgeous when I’m a little more bronzed. When I confront them on saying that they don’t want to tan, they give an answer very similar to why white skin is valued in Korean society.  However, my skintone is not held to those same standards and therefore can be seen as beautiful. Trying to wade through such logic can be difficult or confusing but somehow it makes sense to me. We live in a world where everything is much more gray than some of us are willing to admit. Things are not just black and white or right and wrong. Life is full of complicated notions.

[EDIT: After re reading the previous paragraph I want to express that I do not condone colorism. I think it tears a lot of poc communities apart and should be dealt with, just not within this article.]

Sure there some incidents where I wholeheartedly think that an idol is in the wrong, (i.e Kikwang’s blackface) or they make me feel uncomfortable, (i.e CL’s chola get up in  the GZB MV), but at the end of the day these idols are just as young as I am or younger. I wouldn’t consider myself an oppalogist, but I try to examine the situation from all sides before making a judgment. If I were to get upset over every little incident I’m pretty sure I’d be gone from kpop.  

Hence, the reluctant indifference. Unless, a kpop idol explicitly says or does something explicitly racist, I do not find myself getting upset. And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad black kpop fan for not getting angry when everyone else is. Being a black kpop fan can be so exhausting sometimes. Should I get upset? Should I pretend I’m upset when I’m not? Is it bad I understand (or empathize with) where they are coming from? I think I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the music (and hot boys & girls).

In reply to: [OP-ED] The War on “Cute”

I myself do not mind cute…its when its “cutesy” that I have an issue. Women (or men) in their late teens and 20s forced to act like grade school children.

That’s pretty disgusting, because a lot of it is then turned around and sexualized. You should not be doing anything close to Aegyo if you are over 16 and such. Even that is too old in my book, but I get that Asia is a little different.

These childish things should be left to children. Like that Gyomi(sp) song…are you serious?