If you are a resident of our lovely world called K-Pop, I’m sure that you’ve definitely seen it. Be it SNSD, KARA or 4Minute. If there is one, crude thing that is consistent amongst all of them, we could pull out the hot pants. What are they? According to Urban Dictionary, they’re “… shorts that could not possibly be shorter…” and I wouldn’t put it any other way.
We’ve all been through the scandals, take for example, SISTAR‘s incident with the too-short dresses and other past netizen outrages over the same topic: something’s too short. In the case of SISTAR, it was their mini-dresses, and with SNSD earlier last year, it was their hot pants. The general perspective of them though, would be that they’re quite harmless. It’s just another form of apparel and a lot of female idols have been wearing them, be it for a performance or a photoshoot. Sexual connotations attached though, are a concern on a lower level and more often than not, are passed off as ‘concept’.
When we look a little further though, it’s not completely harmless. It’s not hard to underestimate the presence idols have. Variety shows, MC-ing, acting, and endorsements are all aspects that could easily be tied to idol culture — all of which are quite accessible in the average Korean’s lifestyle. Like it or not, the names and faces are pushed out there, and with this exposure comes a lot of people who unconsciously or not emulate these very same idols. Be it learning their dances or trying to look like them, through buying the clothes and accessories they endorse or investing in skin products, a lot of people latch onto what is hip and cool. Hip and cool being what a lot of idols are selling at the moment. What isn’t clear-cut though, is that the idols are selling a certain appearance. Whether or not they want to, they are. What’s more, they’re succeeding, especially with many female consumers, be they teenagers or adults, seeking to achieve that perfect look. Pale skin, double-lidded eyes, the infamous S-line (or even the X-line, which is impossible outside photoshop).
Even if it’s not the direct influence of popular culture, people will naturally dress the way they wish. And if somebody wants to wear hot pants, what’s wrong with that? It’s not a crime to want to look good, be it for yourself, or somebody else. Everybody has an ideal of what they want to look like, a certain appearance that they would deem acceptable to present to the rest of the world when they step out of their home. If that means looking like a certain idol, then so be it. If it means wearing hot pants and you do so willingly, there shouldn’t be any problem.
But what if something has been overlooked? What if there’s really more than meets the eye?
In an article in Ilda Women’s Journal, some insight into young Korean boys’ perspectives on women dressing in such attire (be it hot pants or miniskirts) has been provided. (A translation exists on The Grand Narrative and I really do recommend giving that a read.) Reading that article raised some warning signs in my head. It’s not incredibly difficult for children to pick up such ideas, especially if they are in contact with the offending media or the people carrying such perspectives.
Well then, you ask, what’s the problem?
If you didn’t read the article, I shall now point out a couple of things. Mainly, the boys that the writer of the article worked with — involved in a sex education program aimed at teenagers — stated that “If young women didn’t wear hot pants, that would be good.” as well as “Doesn’t wearing clothes like that say something about you? And it’s dangerous too!” along with some other similar statements. To be frank, if I got that kind of comment for walking out on the street in hot pants or in a miniskirt, I’d be a little taken aback, simply because nobody deserves to be treated in such a manner. The choice one makes to wear that item of clothing — no matter how much leg it reveals — does not permit any form of harassment. Of course, the statements that have been voiced may also be, partially, a result of hormones acting up. Taking that into consideration, the fact that teenage boys would be saying such things would make more sense, simply because they may be uncomfortable with the fact that there is a distinct difference between men and women on a purely biological level. Once suggestive forms of apparel (such as the aforementioned hot pants) are factored in, the response is far from accepting.
Simply put though, whatever a person chooses to wear, be they female or male, should not mean that they deserve that treatment, or that they had it coming. Nobody deserves to be sexually abused and choice of clothing makes no difference.
In the article, many Korean boys, both teenagers and younger, were judging women by the types of clothing they chose to wear. Furthermore, the original writer also stated that the boys in question had the idea that if the woman wearing that piece of exposing clothing had been pretty, then it would be okay. However, if she wasn’t pretty, then no way should she be wearing hot pants. Not only is it simply unacceptable, it would be dangerous. We’ve got to remember that the people saying such things are indeed kids, but still, that’s no excuse for such a thought to even exist. After all, where do they get these ideas from?
This isn’t exactly an appeal for women’s rights. What this is though, is an attempt to point out something about the beauty ideals in popular culture and their far-reaching consequences. Honey thighs. S-line. V-line. As innocent as the terms may seem at first glance, they actually play a large role in cementing the entire unspoken assumption that women ( in public circles or not) can be judged like they are objects on display. Where women can be separated into two categories; in the case of idols, perhaps they would be seen as commercially profitable or not, otherwise women might be seen as either pretty or ugly.
Even if any of those terms were used to praise the women in question — take for example, Secret who received praise for their honey thighs — they play up an almost unhealthy care for appearances. Many female idols have been going to extremes in order to maintain the desired physique — not only to feel self-satisfied, but also to cement their ‘marketability’.
In fact, the S-line has become something of a necessity within many girl groups and it’s no wonder that we’d end up catching wind of intensive diets. Take for example, A Pink, who revealed their meal plan to Sports Seoul during their ‘I Don’t Know’ promotions and news of KARA not consuming anything prior to any performance with revealing outfits. The girls of Rania, too, have spoken out regarding their “diet from hell” where they consume nothing but proteins.
We can’t assume that this is an issue that is only present within celebrity circles. Maybe not everybody is going through with the intense diets many female idols are under, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain stress on appearance. Many young women have taken to using face rollers, which are supposed to aid in acquiring a V-line. Cosmetic surgery is the notorious and fairly popular method of obtaining the commonly sought-after double eye lids, while eyelid tape and glue are temporary alternatives. The reason behind such a strong focus on appearance will vary, but more often than not it isn’t a shallow drive to stay with what’s in fashion-wise (a segment on Arirang TV that is, surprisingly, a fair introduction on the topic exists and despite being released in 2010, still has relevance).
There’s a reason why Korea is considered a nation that is rather appearance-conscious and as much as it’s okay to look at G.NA and be impressed by her body (curves, legs and all), it may be wise to take a step back and think about the big picture — the story surrounding the S-line, the fear of love handles and of course, the hot pants.