Friday, August 21, 2009

If you don't like feminist rants, avoid this post.

There's something that's been burning away in my mind for ages now, and I think if I don't write about it I'll soon explode. There's been a lot of talk lately in the Korean expat blogosphere about the popular Korean TV show "Chatting with the Beauties". In this show, foreign women from all over the world converse in Korean with Korean men. They tend to talk about cultural differences between foreigners and Koreans and what it's like being a foreigner in Korea.

One episode in particular, where the girls were talking about their opinions of the way foreign men in Korea behave, has been blogged about by some male expats in Korea, who have complained about the unfairness of their accusations and the stereotypical views people have of foreign men living in Korea.

Some of the girls made comments referring to how men who aren't especially popular back home come to Korea and, suddenly being surrounded by beautiful Korean women, act like they're cock of the walk. Another few women discussed how tall foreign men, in Korea, were equivalent to gods in the eyes of Korean women.

Perhaps this is due to my feminist inclinations, and perhaps I'm just sad that the foreign expat blogoshpere in Korea in generally male dominated, but, while I don't necessarily feel that the women on this show need backing up, I do have a few things to say on the matter.

1. People have this view of foriegn men for a reason. It doesn't matter if you're the nicest guy in the world, or if you treat your Korean girlfriend like you would any girlfriend in your home country. The fact of the matter is, your predecessors (and a large portion of your peers) are the reason this stereotype exists, no matter how unfair you feel it is. I understand that the media has had a large hand in creating this stereotype. All I can say to this is, welcome to a woman's world. And buck up.

2. I know (not speculating- I know these people and hear them talk) so many guys who date Korean women like it's a sport. Guys think that Western women may simply be "jealous" that men from their own countries go for Korean women, but in general we simply feel bad for them. I have a great boyfriend. He's supportive and smart. I'm not jealous of a Korean woman who, usually unkowingly (either because of cultural differences or because they haven't- and won't- be dating for long), is dating a complete asshole. Again, this DOES NOT AT ALL MEAN that I think all Western men behave this way. I know plenty amazing guys who I've become close with- some of them have great Korean girlfriends or wives, some are single and some are dating other foreigners.

3. I think some men believe that they treat women equally, but just don't realize that they are still stereotyping women and generalizing them in the same way that they are complaining about being generalized themselves. It's very easy to say "I treat my girlfriend with respect" and "I treat my girlfriend much better than a Korean guy would", but even that doesn't change the fact that you're STILL grouping all Korean women (and all Western women, if you're listening to the likes of "Chatting with the Beauties") together.

4. In complete truth, I've experienced every stereotype that these women talked about on TV. They were asked for their opinion, and they gave it. Maybe my own answers wouldn't have been very different. Some of the blog posts I've read have been very hypocritical in the respect that they said very similar things about Western women when critiquing the episode. In truth, it all sounded chauvnistic to me.

5. Get over it, guys. It's no walk in the park being a foriegn woman in Korea, either. When you start getting asked if you're a Russian prostitute every time you get in a cab, or get dragged to a love motel by a Korean man you were chatting with at a club (because, to many Korean men, no really means yes), or you have dealt with rape or being assaulted (as several of my female friends were last year) then maybe I'll take your complaints seriously.

I know this is a touchy subject, but you brought it up first. Let's keep the criticisms tasteful, ok? My Mom reads this blog.

Love, Janine


Sofia said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with this whole phenomenon of white Western males dating foreign (specifically, Asian) women. I don't understand why it's being interpreted insultingly. Asian women are generally more submissive, less demanding, and more accommodating than your average Western woman. If they are ashamed of dating Asian women for this reason, they're in denial. Speaking of which, the same perception flies with white Western women apply abroad... Only in America are shows like Sex and the City, glorifying the slutdom of 40 something women, can be produced.

Janinel said...

I don't think it's the fact that dating Asian women is insulting, I think that people are simply upset at the portrayal of Western men in Asia and their supposed behaviour. I can see both sides of the argument, but I dislike how people complain about being stereotyped when they're doing the same thing.

Sofia said...

Sorry. I meant that I don't think the portrayal should be interpreted insultingly, since well, realistically speaking the phenomenon is pretty prevalent. Things are always typified in that way.

Janinel said...

Foreign men get a bad rep in Korea. This is an example of an apparently bogus story involving sexual abuse allegations. The dating thing is just icing on the cake.

Chris said...

I will soon be in Korea (early October) and I KNOW I will be stereotyped. As long as I do not act like the "stereotypical" Western male, then I will be all good.
EVERYONE is stereotyped EVERYWHERE. I am 6'2" with fair skin and blue eyes...I will be looked at differently (potentially in a bad way) but I don't care. Guys should just stop bitching...I get stereotyped here in the states, no biggie

And...I would assume expat men in...let me say Brazil, would try and date Brazilians...for one, they are the most abundant, they are different from what the guys are use to back home and just like in the states when women like a foreign do the women of other countries maybe?

Eugene said...

Have yet to meet an expat male who's dated upper class or even upper middle class Korean women. The demographics suggest that ESL related expat community in Korea is dominated by lower middle to middle class males from Canada and the U.S. I wonder if it points a class issue of some sort?

Janinel said...

Chris: Don't worry, I have so many friends who don't apply to this stereotype and they couldn't care less- they're having a great time in Korea and you will, too.

Eugene: That's interesting. I've never really tallied my friends by class so I'm not sure if it applies or not- I know that I definitely come from a lower class background, and I'm guessing if you need to be in Korea to make money that would be the case more often than not...

linda said...

When I was teaching in Korea I knew several perfectly nice and wonderful men who had ended up dating/marrying Korean women. I also knew boatload of guys who had a sense of entitlement about their serial dating of Korean women. If any guy denied that there is an attitude problem that goes along with that sense of entitlement behavior I would laugh in his face.

It was a fantasy come true for a bunch of guys and I found it so bizarre!

Janinel said...

Linda: I completely agree.

On a side note: I like your blog!

Brian said...

I see the line about the male domination of the blogosphere a lot, though I'm not sure it deserves to be played up too much. It's good to hear a lot of different perspectives, but certainly issues shouldn't be off limits to certain bloggers because they're men, or shouldn't be the exclusive domain of women. I don't think there's anything about the Korean blogosphere---insofar as there is one---that makes so many men blog, other than the numbers that seem to indicate more men here. And, truth be told, there just aren't any women in Korea blogging about news or social issues with any regularity. Doesn't mean blogs outside those lines aren't interesting or read-worthy, but it just makes them less of interest to the casual passerby.

I get that the stereotypes brought up on the show have kernels of truth to them. I've seen it myself, seen sleazy foreign guys dating and disrespecting Korean women. But while I don't like their attitude, you run into something else worth considering . . . these are two consenting adults, regardless of the power dynamics at play (and those get thrown out of whack in a country where the big bad white male is a visible, sometimes targetted minority). When you read some of the stuff by angry Korean guys criticizing interracial dating, they sound like they're sticking up for their women, as if Korean or Asian women can't make choices for themselves, or need protecting in the first place.

The criticism of these women of course turned nasty, and perhaps that was unfair. But, well, that's what happens, and by participating in such an ugly stereotype---a stereotype that has real consequences for male teachers, their neighbors, and their colleagues---they've naturally opened themselves up to criticism. To use another cliche, if they're going to dish it out, they'd better be prepared to take it, because like it or not we can think of loads of unpleasant stereotypes about foreign women in Asia as well. These, however, don't dictate legislation the same way the stereotype of the male sexual predator has.

Anyway, I'm rambling. No hard feelings, I hope, about my response to your comment on my page. I think we both could have chosen our words more carefully, and I appreciate that you've explained yourself a little more fully here.

Janinel said...

Hey Brian,

Certainly topics should never be off limits to male bloggers, but it helps to have more representation- obviously I can't be upset that there are more current event male bloggers than women- I don't really fall into that category myself- but I just wish there were more girls blogging about current events. Of course, no hard feelings.

Sexual predators, whores... we're all in the same boat.

Janinel said...

... of course, that doesn't change my opinion though. We'll just have to agree to disagree! Sorry, forgot to add that the first time around.

Anonymous said...

can you link me to any blogs/articles about this phenomena of koreans' perception of foreigners? thanks!