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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.

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?

[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] The War on “Cute”

By Mod Myshayla

You have every right to not like a group, but I can’t help but feel calling a girl group “cute” and using this one descriptive word as a way to dismiss them entirely is a real popular, cop-out that makes it so people don’t have to clearly evaluate why they don’t like a girl group.

“I just don’t like girl groups a lot, they’re so overly cute. I like boy groups more.”

I wonder if most of the people that say this have ever given most girl groups a chance, multiple chances. I try to give all groups multiple chances because I know different group eras produce different sounds so even though I may not like recent music releases a group’s had, I may like something they’ve done in the past or vice versa.

And it must be tiring for the women in these groups to know they work so hard just to be dismissed so easily because they may have worn skirts a few times or done an aegyo face. That other females, people that should understand them the most, refuse to even acknowledge them because of this. That 9/10 times they’ll be tossed to the side for a boy group that’s been around for half as long and is filled with more visuals than members with contributing musical talents.

Also, I see plenty of people fawn over boys in their cute eras or just generally when boys are being cute. A new picture of a male idol will show up and people will comment “aw so cute~ he’s so cute!” But I thought cute was gross? I thought it was bad? Hmm, maybe you just meant the feminine, pastel colors and bows and whatnot that obviously should determine whether or not a group is any good.

I think it’s about time we look past costumes and start seeing “cute” girl groups for what they are, individual girls who have always been and will always be more than just “cute”, hardworking women with dreams and aspirations and hobbies, women that may or may not like the color pink but even if they do, shouldn’t be demonized for it. Most of all women that enjoy singing and dancing for themselves and for their fans.

Girl groups all start somewhere and they all end somewhere and to smear their progression and existence by erasing their work with a word like “cute” is more than a bit harsh. We should work with these groups, not fight against them or tear them down or straight up abandon them for all the boy groups.

After all, most groups don’t have control over their concepts. They can’t help that they have to do what they’re told and be how they’re told to be. Especially when girls are seen inherently as cute or sexy, to begin with. It’s considered a girl’s job to be cute by society. Whereas guys have always been considered human first, with actual personalities and characteristics. Girls seem to just be characteristics to other people, not humans.

Male kpop idols have cute moments all the time and are still given attention and support but if a girl has just a few cute moments, she seems to be immediately categorized as annoying or aggravating, she’s no longer given any consideration.

You can’t tell everything about a group through videos and pictures, alone. You should look up members and lyrics, know that the song you thought was too cute or overly pop is a meaningful story about pain and relatable circumstances about growing up. You should participate in getting to know the female idols just as much as you know the male ones before you say you don’t like them at all.

And it’s much easier to promote girl groups as cute because most kpop is aimed at younger people and a lot of girls in their teens want to be cute, they want to own cute things and experience cute things and have cute relationships. In Korea, a lot of that is hyped up. That’s why there’s all the matching couple stuff and people get excited about simple skinship. You may find it dumb but to others, it’s a big deal.

These girl groups don’t have much of a choice because most of them go from cute concept to sexy concept. A lot of the female idols are first of all, picked because of their looks and then given only roles that show off their looks. And when a girl group does have a somewhat “tough” looking image, people still don’t seem to be completely satisfied.

When Global Icon debuted, for example, people started insulting them right away, saying they weren’t truly tomboys because they wore makeup or that their debut song just sucked in general (after they only listened to it once). People love coming up with excuses not to like girl groups, it’s like a contest to see who can like which girl group the least without knowing anything about them.

It reminds me of girls in school that would say “ugh girls cause so much drama, that’s why I like boys better. That’s why I like being friends with boys more.” There’s a lot of subtle misogyny in kpop that isn’t cute at all.

Overall, I think it’s ironic that people will complain about girl groups as if these same groups don’t know that a lot of people don’t like them. They know. They know every move they make is given three times as much criticism, in some cases they’ve straight forwardly come out and said being in a boy group would be better. No one is under more pressure than them, to full fill everyone’s wish while all these wishes contradict each other.

And there are girl groups that aren’t as “cute” as the stereotypical image of cute kpop girl groups is considered, you just have to work to find them. They do exist and when you find them, you have to support them so they can stick around and thrive and so companies know that girl groups can succeed without being “just cute”.

Please, stop being lazy with the criticisms though. Come clean, say you don’t like girl groups because they have girls in them. Don’t toss the word “cute” out and think that’s enough for a group to deserve hate or think that’s enough for boy groups to deserve more attention.

[OP-ED] Rapper Status

By Mod Myshayla

There are some things you come across that are so stupid, you can’t shake them off your mind. For me, it’s a comment I saw, maybe a month ago, regarding BTS’ pre-debut cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)”. The comment was basically “this is better than the original” and I was so confused, I couldn’t even laugh.

It wasn’t really a cover though, BTS had written their own track and used Lamar’s beat. Their song is about struggles in school- “I pretended not to notice school was a battleground. Perhaps this was my own battle in the square ring called school.” Lamar’s song is about alcohol abuse- “If I take another one down, I’ma drown in some poison abusin’ my limit.”

These songs aren’t lyrically comparable and yet someone had the nerve to say BTS’ was better. Under their quoted comment, was ‘they’re probably just saying that because their oppas sang it’ and I couldn’t agree more. It’s not uncommon for kpop listeners to claim kpop is better simply because it’s in Korean. This fueled a lot of thoughts for me, first of all, race thoughts, idol thoughts, and general thoughts about talent and what it takes for an idol to impress their fans.

“Better than the original” is pretty much always used when a non-black person performs a song originally preformed by a black person. Any quick look around YouTube searching for acoustic guitar covers by white boys will show you that but it’s presence in kpop is particularly amusing because about ¾ of idols that “rap” can’t rap at all.

I like BTS. I think they’re super talented, genuine, and I always support singers and rappers, particularly in kpop where it feels like a lot of idols lack soul in their work, that actually get involved in production and write their own songs, make their own choreography, etc. so this isn’t a slam against them but rather against some of their fans or any fans that seem to think the bare minimum it takes to rap is worth praising. Especially, when even idols know they suck and were only instructed to rap for a role by their managers that most likely don’t take rap seriously because if they did, they wouldn’t treat it like a current trend ready to be thrown on and taken off at any moment.

Pick up your standards. It’s insulting to see rap turned into a commodity or something easy to do when it was birthed for social reasons and consequently turned the go-to music scapegoat in the last twenty years, wrongfully blamed for gun and drug violence when both gun and drug violence in the black community are literally connected to racism in America and other parts of the world. All of this history, this importance is being turned into a mockery. I have no problem with Korean idols rapping but for heaven’s sake, at least try to be good at it.

This is why I tend to ignore the ‘oh’s and ‘ah’s idols seem to cause when they rap a single line or maybe part of “Dilemma” by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland (ehem Tao). I like “Dilemma”, it’s a throwback jam for sure and I like Tao and I do think he deserves some props for semi-rapping a bit in English because English can be hard as fuck but it’s “Dilemma” like… now that’s something that made me laugh.

Not to say all idols are terrible but I don’t have any favorites yet (except I know I at least love Zelo’s voice). So I’ve turned to khiphop for my rapping needs except it’s not that easy because now we face a different kind of cultural appropriation and the hardest part is, even when I sense something might offend me, I don’t even know because finding English translations for khiphop songs is pretty much my biggest Internet related challenge.

For instance, I’ve been listening to Demento for a bit. I like his style and one of my favorite songs by him is “Hood Gon Love Me”. What is he rapping about? What about the ‘hood’? I don’t know, it’s embarrassing that I don’t know but I like this song when for all I know, I could actually hate it.

Another thing is, a lot of underground Korean rappers do the same thing as BTS did, they’ll “borrow” beats from other artists and a lot of times those beats aren’t credited by online journals and blogs, then the fans that read those journals and blogs go around thinking that these beats were created by these rappers when they weren’t. For example, Choi Sam’s “맛보기” uses Angel Haze’s beat from “Werkin Girl” and I’ve seen it not credited a few times in her tumblr tag.

Underground rappers also appropriate black culture in other ways, through clothes and slang and it’s not that I’m okay with it but sometimes I give them, what I consider, a “show me what you got” pass rather than a “yes, I’ll let you appropriate whatever you want” pass because I do enjoy a lot of Korean rap/hiphop/r&b songs and I look forward to finding more and most of these artists seem to actually respect the black rappers that came before them. That’s a big thing that’s missing in the kpop industry, no one respects rap, no one looks into the history, no one credits their influences.

But whether it’s kpop or khiphop, always remember that rap is a musical talent like any other and you wouldn’t applaud a dancer if they could only two-step, you wouldn’t applaud a singer if they could only hit one note, so don’t applaud a rapper because well, that’s just their role in the group (when they’ve done nothing to truly earn it). Remember that before your oppas were even born, black people were in the game making a million originals, so keep that “better than the original” to yourself unless you’ve actually paid attention to the original to begin with.

Life in Korea Series, Part 1: Is Black Beautiful?

by westerngirleasternboy

We’ve all seen the heated dialogue and fierce debate about whether or not Korean boys think that black girls are beautiful.

There seem to be two camps: One camp knows that yes, some Korean boys do think that black girls are beautiful (duh!). The other camp seems to be a little more skeptical and doubtful about this seemingly apparent fact. This might be because the latter camp is considering alternative issues, such as what comes after attraction: a casual hook-up or a serious relationship?

So, IS black beautiful in Korea?

You might already know the answer to this question– we’re all people and we’re all attracted to other people based on our own personal preferences, but before you think that I’m just beating a dead horse by writing about this topic, let me tell you something…

Recently, I was asked by a black girl who had gone to Korea and is about to go again,

“Have you ever felt as if you were pushed aside by a Korean boy for a white girl?”

My answer,

“Hell no!”

My ex (and only) boyfriend is Korean. He was in America for six months before we met; and, when I finally went to Korea when I was single, I didn’t have any trouble dating– be it a casual hook-up or a serious relationship.

Look, Korean boys are just as diverse as black girls: I know Korean boys who have a preference for black girls, I know Korean boys who have a preference for Hispanic girls, I know Korean boys who have a preference for white girls, I know Korean boys who have a preference for Korean girls, and I know Korean boys who just don’t HAVE a preference at all– just like I know black girls who have and don’t have preferences, too.

(When you realize that YOU have YOUR preferences, then you might understand and even appreciate why Korean boys also have their own preferences.)

No matter who you are, no matter where you go– someone, somewhere will think you’re beautiful and worth being with– unless you’re just a bitch.

Now, time for Quick and Ridiculous Q & A!

“But, I’m not light like Beyonce?!”

You don’t have to be.

“But, I wear my natural hair?!”

So did a black girl that I met in Korea, and she got SO much attention– for her tall height, natural hair, and amazing curves.

“But, I’m not skinny?!”

Korean guys actually complain that Korean girls are too thin. I think you don’t want to be on the opposite end of this spectrum either, but I will not speak for every Korean boy on this planet right now– just a general consensus from the ones I’ve met.

P.S.: Whether you meet them here at home or abroad, your biggest concern with Korean boys is NOT your looks– its the language and cultural barrier. Being able to speak Korean will help a Korean boy feel more comfortable talking to you, developing and expressing his feelings towards you, and asking you out on a date.

Speaking Korean also shows that you care enough to learn his language and that you know a little bit about his culture, too.

But, where the hell are you going to meet a Korean boy? Stay tuned for next week’s post to find out!^^

<3

On the subject of Rap Monsters who "talk Black"

Sigh.

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t speak on this. I’m sure many of you know of BTS and are probably fans, I for one know that so far I am as well. I like their song, I love their choreo, and I basically like their style. I was worried, though, when I learned that they were a hip hop based group. From my experience, those sorta groups almost always slip up with the topic of race because they are often the kind of people who sum Black culture under one “gangsta” rap umbrella. Still, I gave them a chance.

Then this happened.

http://bts-trans.tumblr.com/post/53852311692/eng-130625-sstp-bts-individual-skills-cut

And it wasn’t the first time. RapMon (I’m just gonna call him that because I can) said earlier than this that he was good at “ghetto english”. Sigh. Only a week or so after their debut and the leader had to eff up. Whether he apologized or not, he said the shit twice and probably still has that same mindset.

I can’t say I’m surprised though. As I said before, hip hop based groups within the kpop bubble are basically terrible at actually understanding Black culture and poc in general and this is mostly because of exoticizing based on what they see of us in the media coupled with them not knowing what real complex poc are like.

Still, RapMon has basically put himself on my side-eye forever list at this point. I mean, he was just so proud of his new found skill. As if collecting so called accents from different cultures was a trait to be vied for.

My main issue with this entire idea, however, wasn’t actually RapMon at all. He’s a dumbass but I knew that already. My problem is with the Black fans who let him say this stuff and gave it a pass. I’m struggling with this because I really don’t want to basically force my opinions on people because I disagree with them. I don’t. But as poc, we are constantly in battles to fight racism, discrimination, exoticism, and overall ignorance of our culture, whatever that may be. So logically, other poc should completely understand this? …Right?

Wrong.

I’m used to the oppa didn’t mean it’s but I didn’t even see that this time. What I saw instead was worse. I saw people who straight up said it was totally ok. These were ‘oppa was completely right’s and this was a scary thing to see. People basically told him it was totally fine to assume that all Black people talk one way and that he was totally right in making fun of that. It was offensive and insulting, but apparently not to many of the poc I saw who reacted. Their excuses were along the lines of “well I make fun of ghetto accents all the time” and “he didn’t talk about fried chicken and watermelon so whatever”.

Um.

Ok. When a Black person makes fun of a black dialect, I can live with it because it is assumed that that person actually knows and understands the people they are making fun of. This isn’t always the case though, and in those cases I get angry all the same. But most of the time, it’s ok when Black people make these jokes because we understand our people. We know that we aren’t laughing at black people but laughing with black people. I don’t think that Korean people who don’t know anything about us save for stereotypical images in rap videos aren’t too far from making these jokes and looking down on us based on them. And wow. So if I shot you in the leg, would it be ok because it wasn’t as bad as killing you? Just because something isn’t the absolute worse thing doesn’t make it totally fine.

There’s a reason that literally all of my Asian friends have parents who are very suspicious of Black people unless they are the “good” Black people. The reason comes down to racism. So by casually thinking that what RapMon said was totally fine and “not a big deal” you literally permit racist ideas.

It’s one thing when you haven’t been the victim of the effects of racism or just blunt discrimination itself, but when you are literally a poc and you have lived under this your whole life most likely in some way, shape, or form I have to be concerned that you would just permit this sort of thing.

How can we expect any race to take us seriously when our own won’t even defend itself?

Are We Asking For Too Much?

A lot of complaints I’ve seen against Black K-pop fans revolve the idea that we’re “too whiny”. I’ve seen a good amount of people say or imply that we’re ruining the fandom experience by getting offended at every little thing. And when we ask our idols to do better when it comes to things like cultural appropriation, colorism, and portraying negative Black stereotypes, we’re told that we’re asking for too much. According to some, we shouldn’t bother speaking out against problematic aspects of K-pop because “they weren’t intentional/they don’t know any better”, “that’s just how it is in Korea”, and my least favorite excuse: K-pop/Korea does not owe us black fans anything (yes, I have actually seen this written by K-pop bloggers).

The first argument, “they weren’t intentional/they don’t know any better” is probably the most popular. I mean, we’re all familiar with the phrase “Oppa didn’t mean it!” The thing is, no matter what the intent is behind actions such as blackface, colorist jokes, “black people imitations”, etc. the result is that it is hurtful. A lot of times, these action revolve around the idea that a certain skin tone/way of talking/way of dressing is “funny”, and putting an entire culture of people as the butt of so many of these “jokes” stings. And when someone does something that hurts us, even if it was unintentional, we have every right to say “Oww, that hurts”.

The second argument, “that’s just how it is in Korea”, is weak because it makes the assumption that culture can be used to excuse any and every behavior under the sun. While culture can explain why things are the way they are, it does not necessarily make these things acceptable. Yeah, colorism has a long history in East Asia, but it doesn’t change the fact that elevating one person at the expense of another based on skin tone is gross. Plus, our idols are fully functioning adults who can think for themselves, and if that thinking involves putting a certain group of people down, then that’s a pretty legitimate thing to worry about.

And the last argument- ,”K-pop/Korea does not owe black K-pop fans anything”-  is downright ridiculous. With that logic, then K-pop shouldn’t cater to any Western fans since most of the money is coming from East/Southeast Asia, and yet the industry bends over backwards to fly in white extras for their music videos and display white fans at concerts. In addition, the fact that the international fandom is the one telling us this is a bit hypocritical considering I-fans often display this idea that K-pop owes them something because of their presence – be it tour dates, better recognition, or stuff like this (which spread like wildfire on Tumblr/Twitter). And finally, K-pop has borrowed so heavily from black culture via its images and music that the least it could do in return is give us the respect we deserve. I mean really, how hard is it to view us as actual fellow human beings versus just people whose lifestyles only exist for your entertainment and your need to play dress-up?  

So no, we’re not asking too much for our idols to stop treating us like costumes, dissing (even jokingly) other people’s skin tones, or making fun of the way some of us talk. We’re not asking too much when we complain about the lack of Black representation in K-pop music videos when we see plenty of white people being given a golden ticket. All of this is just a logical reaction to us getting stomped on repeatedly by an industry that seems to put us at the bottom of the barrel no matter how much we support them. And in the end, we’re even doing our idols a favor because problematic actions will only hurt their attempts at expanding abroad, and even the tiniest of our voices can cause a change. Just the other day Jay Park posted a video on Vine that featured a rape joke, and then apologized when fans told him how inappropriate it was. If we can get the same type of attention drawn towards racial issues in K-pop (like when TigerJK wrote an op-ed for allkpop concerning MBC Quiz Show’s Blackface), maybe other idols can learn the way Jay did. But we won’t be able to do it if the rest of the international fandom is so intent on shutting us down. And if you’re willing to ignore or actively silence the voices of people who are being insulted and hurt just for the sake of making yourself feel more comfortable about your idols, then you should probably reevaluate who you are as a fan and as a human being.

 

- Guest writer, Sari

Doc Review: Yunho's Road for Hope

By Mod Myshayla

I don’t think any of us should have a say on whether or not Yunho’s feelings were genuine, since we’re not him and wouldn’t know how he felt, so this isn’t an article about his feelings or him in particular but a discussion on the creation of the documentary he happened to be in.

I couldn’t watch all of Road For Hope, which is what the doc was called, because English subtitles were hard to find since it was first aired just this week but I did watch what I could find on YouTube and that was about 30 minutes of footage.

I’m going to review what I saw from this documentary and add some commentary that I can connect to this documentary and that is all I’m going to talk about. I’m not touching any other topics so if anyone has a response to this article that has nothing to do with the topics I specifically wrote about, just know I never mentioned those things so don’t come at me for things I didn’t mention.

So Yunho narrated through out the video which I thought was a nice choice because it let me focus on Ghana more than him since he wasn’t in the camera shot the entire time and with these kinds of docs it’s very easy for the volunteers to be more apparent than the people they were volunteering to help which is a problem because obviously, if you’re a volunteer and you’re being so generous to help out a country in poverty- the story shouldn’t be about you but the people you are helping and to have the story be about you is directly saying that you’re the point of the whole doc and if you’re the point then poverty isn’t the point and people aren’t the point- it’s all about how grand you are for being a volunteer.

And Yunho did volunteer to go to Ghana so I give him props for that, however, I didn’t see him actually doing anything? For the most part, he walked around and there were shots of him and scenery and people. He visited a little girl with skin cancer at a hospital and he played soccer with some children. Those were in the 5-10 minute clips I watched. Maybe he actually physically helped in different clips I wasn’t able to see but from what I saw, I wouldn’t necessarily call that “volunteer” work since he didn’t do anything?

One thing, that really bugs me about these kinds of docs is that children are always questioned like “how do you eat? what work do you do? where are your parents?” and usually the answers are “we work all day, we do hard work, our parents aren’t around” but no one ever asks them why their country is the way it is. No one asked the children or the adults, for that matter, why do you think Ghana is in this state? How long has it been like this? What needs to happen for it to change? And all these are the most important questions that can be asked because these are the questions where if you find the answers to them, you can find the real solutions that need to be done in order for Ghana to reach it’s full potential because if they say, “you know, we’re like this because people are taking our resources and those people are from ___” then the doc can focus on finding those particular people and asking them why they’re doing what they’re doing and usually turns out, those sucking resources from Africa are ironically the same people that try to “help” Africa. Yes, Western world I’m looking at you.

Intermission thought: It’s very funny how it took just x amount of time to invade Africa, enslave people, suck up resources, install the apartheid, but no one is willing to use the same x amount of time to reverse all the damage that was done to countries- the damage they’re still paying for though they were the victims.

And bringing in the Western world also brings up the White Savior Complex which I think is relevant even though Yunho is obviously not white. I think for the most part any non-African can accidentally become a “white savior” yes, even black people that aren’t from Africa. (And the links I’ve provided are just a quick rundown of what I mean by WS, obviously this doc is not on par with what the Save Darfur movement or Kony 2012 movement was.)

Sometimes falling into this savior role is not what you’ve intended to happen but the image can easily be placed by the audience which is what I saw in comment sections having to do with this doc. Obviously, since Yunho was the narrator and generally people that watched it were fans of him- they were going to comment on him and most of the comments were like oh he’s so amazing, he’s the best, etc. which pulls the conversation away from what can we do to help Ghana and these children and turns into a sorta of “good guy Yunho” celebration and the doc wasn’t suppose to be about him.

I think people get easily swayed with compassion, to see Yunho tear up and to reward him for it and regard him as this sort of hero for showing compassion doesn’t make much sense to me? I just think it’s a waste of time to praise someone for feeling when I’m sure we’d all feel the same if we were put in his situation.

And while he may have had a pure heart during the project, that purity is not enough sometimes if the director is searching for an angle that makes him the main topic and if the audience ignores the true message and decides it’s all about Yunho and his endurance because that shows that most of the people watching were not thinking of how they themselves could help Ghana in a long lasting way because they were too involved with Yunho’s tears. Although, I did read some of his fansites/fanclubs did donate a lot to Ghana so I give them some credit.

Intermission thought: Questions I wish I had the answers to- Was all the garbage shown in Ghana, from Ghana, or countries surrounding Ghana? There were broken motorcycles and cellphones but if x amount of people were surviving on $1 a day, where did those things come from? And if they came from other countries, why? And if they came from other continents why? Since some of the diseases had to do with the trash and pollution. Finding out where that stuff came from would help in solving why it went to Ghana specifically and if it could go elsewhere.

Did the people filming this doc get permission to record the Ghanaians?

This is important because to bring up an example, when filming docs on obesity, producers will pan over people they find on the street without their knowledge which means they’re using them to create a point and to use someone without their permission like that is disrespectful. I get that you may not want to ask a large crowd if you can film them for your doc but when it comes to children, I hope they asked the guardians before they began filming at least. Because Yunho was a stranger to these people and the staff were strangers also and I know we’d all feel uncomfortable if strangers suddenly started filming us without permission.

I didn’t appreciate how it seemed like the whole thing became about Yunho’s feelings and about how heartbroken he was and how he asked like “what can I do?” because once again, pulling to himself when anything he was going through as an onlooker wouldn’t’ve compared to what the Ghanaians were going through as they lived these lives.

He often made comments about how they were inspirational which I can understand why, I can understand how seeing lives tougher than yours can make you appreciate your own life more. You just have to be careful because you’ll stop seeing people as people but as inspirational stories and that reminds me of how disabled people are treated.

Why do the gold mines exist? Where does the gold go? If gold is worth so much then why are the people digging for gold getting so little? Where are these answers in the doc?

They could show Yunho giving t-shirts, signed pictures, and a soccer ball away (for whatever reason since I’m sure none of that’s gonna help solve the poverty) but they couldn’t spend time asking these questions?

Why is it always how poor Ghana is but never why is Ghana poor? These docs need to stop relying on statements and spend actual time investigating.

Honestly, since these docs are so common what I’d like to see is a doc that goes back to children interviewed in Africa a decade ago and see where they’re at and ask them what it was like to be filmed and how the film makers treated them and if any of their problems got solved because we keep filming African children year after year and everything is still the same. We need to start talking to the adults and it’s amazing to think the children filmed a decade ago might have had children being filmed now.

Lastly, another thing that bugs me about these docs and organizations is when the children are being told to say something or do something for the sake of a video clip and you know they didn’t come up with it and it’s very uncomfortable to see them turned into quick props.

I’m sorry, but this boy does not look that comfortable as Yunho smiles widely for a picture that is probably being taken on the other side.

Another instance of children not understanding what is happening only “look over here while we get a good picture of Yunho volunteering”. Bless the side eye young Mr. Left Center is giving.

And another, “tender picture of Yunho with young boy who is not aware he’s being photographed and probably didn’t give permission but who cares.”

That’s really all I wanted to voice. I just think because of how Africa is portrayed, as a whole, to every other continent, there will always be people ready to take advantage of it in their own way and once again, this isn’t an attack on Yunho, I’m indifferent to him entirely in every way, but rather a discussion because it seems like no matter what, the only time African people or black people are represented in big numbers is when it has to do with “helping Africa”.

You will not see us in big numbers in magazines, movies, or tv shows unless it is in a doc about how poor or hungry Africa is. And that isn’t even an opinion. It’s just a fact and I’m tired of it.

[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] The Year of The Woman

By Mod Myshayla

According to Chinese astrology, 2013 is the year of the snake. But according to me, 2013 is the year of the woman.

This year was the start of an explosion with girl groups coming back left and right, showcasing off a brand new sexy image.

Short shorts, skirts, dresses, small shirts, the gradual camera shot of body lines, wet hair, telling eyes, and more thighs than any single KFC has on hand. But the great praise for this new image also comes with criticism from fans, anti-fans, and a few pressed men who seem to think hands slightly grazing legs should be enough to slap a high rating on an MV or just ban it altogether.

All these people need to either get with it or get over it because at the end of the day, most of the girls in these ‘girl groups’ are actually women- young women, grown women, who shouldn’t be treated like sinners just because when they turn, you can (gasp) see the curve of their (gasp) butt. The difference between an aegyo wink and a more suggestive one isn’t even that big- but guess which one’s deserving of slander.

I’ve only just reached my eighth month of being a kpop fan so I can’t properly discuss which era from which groups I like best but I’m certain, in general, this is the best era for all girl groups as a whole.

Girl’s Day’s “Expectation”, Nine Muses’ “Wild”, Chocolat’s “Black Tinkerbell”, SISTAR’s “Give It To Me”, 4minute’s “Is It Poppin’?”, After School’s “First Love”, Dalshabet’s “Be Ambitious”, Brown Eyed Girls’ “Kill Bill”, SNSD starting us off big with “I Got A Boy”, etc.

All the songs are on point, all the videos are on point, all the girls are on point, and I actually think they look comfortable and happy, for the most part. It feels like the videos are made for the girls/women in their fanbases, for once, (because the aegyo did nothing for me or any of the girls/women I know that like kpop- it always felt like it was there for the boys/men.)

We could talk about double standards in kpop all day long but the ones setting those double standards wouldn’t listen so it’s almost pointless. It’s no secret that women showing a bit of skin can easily turn into a witch burning ceremony while boys/men being shirtless and literally thrusting into their own hands is never seen as scandalous or inappropriate.

Because of this double standard, I kindly ask girls and women to support these groups- I’m not saying you have to like them, their music, or their videos, I’m just saying it’s unbelievable how much hate and name calling these women receive for doing nothing but simply looking like women and expressing their desires, for themselves and no one else, and since too many people are spending too much time discussing the length of shorts, someone needs to be there to tell them who the fuck cares?

Honestly, who cares? Who cares if they look like they’re having sex or if they’re having sex or if they’re suggesting they know what sex is (which, they probably do?) Why should they be punished for being sexy or feeling sexy? If you really hate women like this so much, there’s always 80-something Kidz Bop cds ready to be ordered off of Amazon at any given moment.

Who cares? Why does it matter and who do you think you are ranting about how a grown woman, you don’t know, showing off her shoulders or whatever is it your mad about, is the worst thing to have ever happened in the history of music?

Flip your calendar back to January 2012, if you feel so inclined, and let the rest of us jam in peace.

[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).

To the (other) Anon on shaming the body size of Korean women! (I would never)

On my article:

Notice, I didn’t say Korean women are too thin. That is just an opinion some Korean boys I met have had, and I wanted to share it! I in no way intended to attack Korean women or offend any bkf readers.

In English, skinny and thin have almost the same meaning, so you might not get what Korean boys mean when they say they don’t like “thin” or “마른” girls.

In Korean:

Skinny: 날씬하다

Thin, gaunt, or emaciated: 마르다

Anyway, I think it would be a little naive for me to write an article about beauty in Korea and NOT address size.

Why? Well, let me tell you.

In Korea, I walked into a jeans store and could barely find my size. I wear size 26– that makes me a size TWO in America. Most of the sizes were 23 and 24– that’s size 000, 00, and 0.

I just wanted to address this topic for girls who might be concerned about their size. If you felt offended, sorry, but try to read more carefully!

I wasn’t attacking Korean girls, I was just expressing the opinion of some Korean boys.

I think Koreans girls are just as beautiful as we are!^^

- westerngirleasternboy

<3

Uhmmm... Chocolate girls?

I finally looked at the lyrics (in Korean): “까만 피부,” or “dark skin.”

It’s exactly what Hyuna says in her song, Ice Cream, when she describes herself

Here’s a direct translation of Junsu’s song: 

“That dark skin is really perfect, she’s sweet like chocolate." 

The rest of the lyrics are a little weird. He keeps talking about how she smells sweet and is driving him crazy and making him "ticklish” or excited.

LOL

So, maybe we’re all jumping to conclusions here, but jump away. Its a song, and it can have more than one meaning, so lets all remember that!^^

Just be respectful of everyone’s opinions, because only Junsu knows the facts.

-westerngirleasternboy

<3