Project: What some men think

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is one of the last minute discoveries that I have found. I was doing my last round of hunting for something useful on the internet, mainly the bloggers who were posting something about marriage and women’s position in the society. This blog post was written by a male writer. I was unable to find out much about the writer, but the content itself was so obvious without the writer’s background. This is what some people think about Korean women marrying:

“First, if you are twenty seven, acknowledge that this is the last year you ‘can be sold compared to your objective worth’ and hurry up and hold on to a nice guy. … Let’s say you are twenty eight. Accept that all the premiums of being young have expired. Collect yourself, and realize that sex is the only thing that you can sell. Kind this in mind, and don’t act so promiscuous, but don’t act too reserved either. Go for the ones that have a well-rounded personality and a stable job. If they are not spendthrifts or lunatics, you should be happy. Choose the one with the most money. … Twenty-nine and thirty are when you should be shit-scared. If you have a boyfriend now, just go with him unless he is too big a bitch. A Benz won’t be coming for you when you break up with him. After that, trust your mother. Now you won’t get the love-at-first-sight and no matter how open you become to your choices, all you are going to get are middle-aged men with fat necks and big stomachs. If you meet someone with an acceptable personality and enough money to rent a house, you hit the jackpot, so be thankful. If your mother doesn’t go to church, at least you should go. Don’t even try to find someone at work. Go to church.”

What I found more surprising than the post itself was that none of the comments criticized or stood up against such insult, and there were female commenters! Considering that it is a personal blog and most people who visit it are close acquaintances of the writer, it is understandable, but I still found it hard to grasp the male chauvinism. No, I do not think that this is what men generally think. I do think that a lot of men have grown to accept women in some parts of the society or at least not feel repulsive. However, I have also realized that there are men who cannot help but say hurtful things. Not limited to this blog post but it playing a crucial role, the research I have done made me realize how little women’s effort in trying to improve their status have actually worked in people’s minds. A lot of visible differences have been present. A big part would be the rising presence of women in the working environment and their social success. However, changes cannot happen as easily in people’s heart as it can be with laws and technical changes in the institution.

Review: Shoham, “Flow Experiences and Image Making”

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Shoham’s “Flow Experiences and Image Making” is a slightly different style of ethnographic project compared to what we have read before; it is a virtual ethnography. Moreover, it applies ethnography in a different field other than anthropology.

Shoham looks at the virtual world, precisely the chat-room interactions, in three aspects. First, he discusses the chat-room environment as communities. Second, he explores chatting as flow experiences, and next, he examines chatting as an image making or managing process.

I think the most important characteristic of chat-rooms and virtual communities in general is its role in image management. Consumers and members of this community are able to create and manage an identity in the virtual world that they are unable to obtain in reality. I think the general notion of this formation of a new self comes from the idea of virtual world as a relatively harmless environment. With little restriction, a community member can establish an ideal character for him without much difficulty as it is to terminate it.

In the video clip we watched in class, one of the “game addicts” says that a crucial fascination of the gaming world was “not having to interact with people directly”. Gamers form a society within the game network. This society, although many criticize for being antisocial, is more social than is thought to be. The members enjoy this social life. Not having to directly interact with people give them the flexibility to become who they want to be instead of who they have to be. Although there were parts in the video that I found hard to fully grasp, I think the basic reason for the obsession of dwellers of the virtual world is obvious.

Project: Deadline for Marriage

June 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

In the process of researching and narrowing my topic down, I have altered my focus for the project. I have begun with the relationship between age and lookism, beauty being the main theme, but have progressed to age influenced by gender in Korean culture. By reading some books published by Korean female authors regarding women’s lives and doing a number of interviews with friends and popular bloggers, it was evident that the effect of the male-based authorities was crucial to the typically life style for Korean women. Korean women are pressured to have an early marriage, and this is heavily influenced by the patriarchal society.

To a Korean woman, marriage is not necessarily a choice; it is closer to being a necessity. It is the missing piece in the puzzle shackling an unmarried in her unappeasable life. Korean women generally tend to try to follow the ‘typical’ life plan. They graduate from college when they are around twenty three or four. Some marry early and head on an early start, but others find a job. They continue on their career for approximately three years and before it gets too late, they marry, have children, and concentrate on the family. The last step happens when they are around twenty seven or earlier and afterwards, they no longer carry on their professional life. If they do not find the “right person” by then, they start to fret and feel the need to depend on arranged meetings with prospective marriage partners. The expectation to follow this plan is routine but inescapable.

I mainly did my research on Korean women in their later twenties and early thirties because this is when they get most anxious, facing the dilemma between emotional stability versus financial and social achievements. Women in their late twenties or later wanting to pursue their professional life are often neglected. Employers, first of all, want younger employees, an especially unfair but evident case in a lot of companies. Late twenties is slightly too old when competing with freshly-out-of-college job hunters. The old job-seekers are not welcome for another reason. Employers often tend to make an assumption that women, especially women in this age range, do not consider the job permanent in the sense that men do. Female employees will soon get married and will consequently quit the jobs. They make two unfair but socially present assumptions: one, women in their late twenties or older are desperate to get married and will try to go for the quick grab and two, resignation is an anticipated aftermath of marriage. Koreans still have not escaped from the cultural notion that men have to be the breadwinners of the household.

The influence is not necessary always created by men. From the interviews I have done, there seems to be invisible pressure on women by friends and family members as well. At a certain age, mothers seemed to encourage marriage and attempted to introduce potential marriage partners. Friends who have married created a sense of peer pressure.

My next step for the project is to gather some more information and experience from my previous interviewees, possibly interview a man’s perspective of the situation, and organize the copious amount of knowledge I have learned through my previous research!

Review: Setha Low, “Re-creating the Past,” from Behind the Gates

June 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Re-creating the Past” examines the influence of childhood and people’s experiences in the preference and behavior for the decisions regarding their homes. The chapter focuses on the security that people feel in a gated community. The interviews that were done demonstrate how despite different backgrounds people come from, they all refer back to their childhood when they prioritize what is important to them in choosing a place they feel comfortable to live in. Moreover, they “recreate” this environment for their comfort and their children’s safety as well.

An interesting point in the chapter was the meaning of security. In ordinary life, people understand “security” as an interchangeable term as “safety”. However, Setha Low presents numerous interviews about how that is not quite true. People relate security with other emotional and psychological factors as well. For instance, not only privacy is an important factor in security but meeting neighbors and having interactions with them is also a notable factor. In a similar sense, gated communities provide both. The “gated-ness” brings people restriction and therefore, provides privacy but it also gives them a sense of having more open space. As an interviewee says, she thinks that she has more open space to provide for her children and the sense of security because the housing complex is gated.

I think that the main psychological benefits of gated-ness come from people’s desire to have boundaries. The relationship between gates and the formation of community seems to be quite distinct. People desire to have a certain boundary and that is what gives them a sense of belonging. As they choose to become part of a living complex where there seems to be visual restrictions for admittance into the community, it gives the sense of intimacy. In response to the decision of living in such environment and the responsibility that follows, community members may be rewarded with a sense of ownership of part of the community. In comparison, a non-gated land does not seem to draw a distinct line between what is theirs as opposed to what is owned by the public and is available to everyone. Furthermore, this would mentally relax the parents to leave their children outside with less physical protection.

Project: Korean Women in their Thirties

June 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

In Korea, becoming thirty is the turning point of a woman’s life. By the time women reach their late twenties, they face a dilemma. They face a conflict between their private life, a key factor being marriage, and their social achievement, such as their career goals.

Marriage can serve a source for emotional stability. However, the general public’s opinion on Korean women’s marriage seems to push women towards marital obligations and responsibilities at a much earlier age than many women’s desire as well as in many different nations. As I have mentioned earlier on my previous post, twenty-three is considered the highlighting age for marriage. The expectations are for women to graduate from college, get married, for a family, and live happily ever after. Too much education is not good for women; excessive education is associated with arrogance for women while in the case for men, it is the sign for cultural superiority. This indicates how public opinions rely heavily on the male-based authoritative society. As a portrayal of such phenomenon, women who reach their late twenties are the prime customers for marriage or coupling industries, a similar concept as the American dating industry except for the fact that it is much heavily geared towards marriage compared to the dating industry. This drastically contrasts with the main customers for the American dating industries, who are generally within or over their forties. In terms of the acceptance of ideas, Korean public act as if they have accepted “Gold Misses”, a culturally created term for successful and independent women who are unmarried. However, the irony is how the media portrays Gold Miss actresses as financially stable but still filled with the desire to marry.

Work and professional life is an indication for financial and social stability. However, the rule does not always apply to Korean women. Age often becomes a barrier when it comes to employing women in Korea despite their education, extraordinary skills, and background. Companies generally want have male employees and if they were to hire a woman, being young was an unofficial prerequisite. The job opportunities and availabilities for the women are very limited. The main reason why companies do not employ relatively older women, including women who are in their late twenties, is the notion that if the company employs a woman, the female employee will quit after she marries. The employers described this as women “enjoying” their work as if it was an amusing experience in life rather than a pursuit in life. Employers think that women are generally not as devoted to their career as men would be. An employer exclaimed, “Why employ them when you know that they are going to quit so quickly?” People assume that, in the case for a woman, it is obvious that they would get married and stay home once they become a certain age. This assumption rules the women out in the professional world.

However, according to the research and interviews I have done, women generally tend to consider themselves beautiful, attractive, and confident when they reach their thirties. Their twenties, including the glorious twenty-three, is a time for youth and energy but also for immaturity and carelessness. Women generally thought that they were content with their lives once they had a clear idea of what they wanted and also had mental stability. Does this mean Korean women do not get a chance to explore their lives to the full and are forced into marriage beforehand?

Review: Manalansan, “Global Divas”

June 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

In the book Global Divas, Manalansan explores gay culture in New York with respect to the presence of racial differences. “New York City gay life had mushroomed into a plethora of groups and events that catered to almost every possible political, cultural, economic, physical, and social need” (65). The prominent, mainstream gay culture is mainly created by the white gays, so-called “clones”.  In order for them to reject the stereotypes, they chose to dress and act in the opposite extreme of what is expected, wearing and acting drastically masculine. They were the mainstream community and the creators of what was in style. The clones socially isolate themselves through these notable behavioral differences and create a community of their own. On the other hand, the Hawkeswood, African American gay living in Harlem, does exactly the opposite of the clones. They dress and act like non-queer people and blend into their racial communities by valuing religion and family. They are much more aware of their racial identities.

An interesting point that I came across in class was how “for gay men, being gay is above everything else”. Moreover, gay people’s interest itself was an interesting factor in the study. Gay culture seems to be much more focused on a specific theme; for some, it seemed as though gay culture was primarily focused on sexual activities. However, for others, fashion seems to be their priority.

Another interesting detail about gay culture was the formation of new family represented by “gay houses”. In the video “Paris is Burning”, an interview is done with younger teenagers who were out in the night. One of them was abandoned by his parents and another one was living by his mother. The gay community brought them new families and a sense of belonging, which is understandably an important yet not very easily accessible component of life.

Project: Korean women and age

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week, I focused on narrowing down my main topic, “lookism”. As I was searching through the many different categories that concerned lookism, I decided to focus on age. Fashion, plastic surgery, and gender are subjects that are often dealt with when it comes to lookism; however, age is not explicitly thought of as a factor and a result of our look-prioritizing society. However, the craving for the young and beautiful has nowadays become an obvious.

As I was searching online, I realized that culture varied greatly from country to country, and the legislation laws differed from state to state. With some prior knowledge that Korea is also a look-centered society, I settled on Korea.

I was roaming through numerous blogs on fashion, beauty, and life written and posted by Korean women and came across a diary entry. It is as follows:

“Korean women of age 24. Overly well-educated, 24-year-old women, not quite welcome in the market, often have the same set of concerns. … The Korean society nowadays does not tell a 24-year-old woman that she is young but neither do they tell her that she is now old enough and therefore, should go easy on life. Some would tell her to become the model of the new generation of women with the good education and skills while others would tell her to get married to a ‘nice’ man before she goes ‘stale’. In objection to this, they may say jump into the world so that your talent and tuition are not wasted! But for graduated students in their twenties, seeking for employment, the reality that they face leaves them with little opportunity. The joy as a woman of becoming a mother and a wife and the achievement that the educated wants to accomplish anxiously and painfully clash for a 24-year-old Korean woman. As time goes on, it seems as if it is impossible to have both. My beloved friend tells me that life is dull” (www.cyworld.com/berebere21, Kimchi diary, translated).

This diary entry struck me, and I came to realize that I dwelled in the newly created version of women’s liberty. Women were always thriving to acquire equalities between men and women, but I did not think we were so far away from actually achieving it. Korean women are not accepted by the companies, the men, and the society. Korean women become overly sensitive when they come close to the age of thirty. 30 is the ominous and fearful number that ties women down in Korean culture. The majority of the customers in marriage consulting companies are women in their thirties. Some blog posts that I have read rage about how a woman in her late twenties worry about marriage and are half-forced to rush and find a husband when her male co-workers in their early thirties do not seem to show a sign of distress. The average age for women’s marriage has increased throughout history, but the age range that the general people recall as the good time or appropriate timing to marry has lingered in the mid-twenties. When did age become a sin?