10.05.2010

I'm no Picasso: I'm also no Dating Blogger.

I got a little nasty about this while I was home on my other blog. I was home. I was dealing with a lot of serious issues at home. And I wasn't taking things as well as I usually do. Korea was, a little bit, the furthest thing from my mind. What happened? I got some emails. I always get these emails. Every few weeks or so, a few of them will drop into my inbox. I'm normally a little 'urgh' about them, but I understand that people's intentions are not bad, and I don't usually overreact to them.

I may have been a little bit out of order with making the post in question, although I did resist putting it up here, and stuck it in my 'personal' blog instead, because I understood at the time that it was a 'personal' reaction. I would like to take the chance, before continuing on, to apologize to anyone who I may have unintentionally offended. I don't want anyone to ever feel like they can't email me about literally the most mundane of subjects, because they're afraid I might bite their heads off. I've had a lot of foreigners help me in a lot of ways since coming to the ROK, and I want to make it clear that, although I'm absolute shit at getting around to responses at times, I don't in any way resent being contacted.

That having been said, I would like to explain what part of my issue was a bit more clearly. And less bitchily, if at all possible. I'll get to what the other part of the issue was when I get into what I see as some issues with fetishization in a future post.

The number one subject that leads anyone to this blog through googling is anything related to dating. Why? Those stupid ass posts I made regarding Korean dating culture. They've been linked to death, on all kinds of different websites, a number of which seem to cater to foreign girls who have a thing for Korean men. It's understandable that someone coming to this blog from such a site would also be viewing me through a certain lens, and would then somehow feel compelled to email me about how _________ Korean men are. I get that. And I don't resent it.

I've also become quite chummy with a few of the original 'Kboy bloggers'. We often "reblog" each other on Tumblr, and I've personally met, so far, three of them. They are absolutely lovely people. All three are beautiful, insightful, funny women. Because of the reblogging that goes on, and the more recent mentions of us spending time together 'in real life', I think there's also been some confusion relating to the nature of what I do.

I understand all of this, and wanted to make that clear before I say what I'm about to say. Because I don't live in a vacuum, and I know where some of it is coming from.

That having been said. Do you remember the last time I blogged about a date? I do. It was the last time I went on a date -- in July. And it wasn't in this blog. It was in the other one. On purpose. Do you remember the last time I blogged about my sex life? No. You don't. Why? Because I don't blog about my sex life.

So. What the fuck, then? Why? I was talking about this with Hot Yellow Fellows and Dating in Korea at dinner on Saturday night, and they're just as baffled as I am. They know I'm not a dating blogger. They also know, in far more detail, how hilarious thinking of me as one at the moment is.

Here's the thing -- I'm not going to pretend to know everything about the blogging community in the ROK. I've only been here for two years, and didn't actually read any blogs regularly, other than those of my personal friends, until about a year ago. When I sit around with other foreigners and somehow the subject of blogging comes up, I'm the one who's usually sitting there going, "Wait... what? Who is that?" But it doesn't take an expert to notice how male-dominated the Kblogging world is.

Why is it male-dominated? I could muse on a million reasons, but I think it's mostly that the ESL world in the ROK is a bit male-dominated. At least it seems to be to me, as I've had trouble meeting any women foreigners at all. The foreign women I encounter in Korea tend to be more introverted, mostly keeping to themselves. And it seems that more men are taking the initiative to write in a less personal (ie more public) way about their experiences here. I don't know that for a fact -- there may be dozens of women bloggers out there who are writing fascinating things about their time here that relate to a lot of other people, and maybe I've just missed the boat. Or maybe they simply don't get linked as often, because men can/do relate more to other men. Either way, I think we can all agree that big names in Kblogging have almost always been male. For whatever reason.

And then the Kboy bloggers happened. And what they did was revolutionary in the moment when they did it. Western male readers will almost surely all disagree with me on this, and that's something I will get into in the next post. But the point is, suddenly there were female bloggers in Korea who were pulling in as much (if not more) attention than the male bloggers. And they were blogging about dating.

Now. It's not fair to say they were the first. Among female bloggers in Korea, when the subject turns to other women they looked up to when they first arrived, two names do come up again and again, those being Going Places and Amanda Takes Off. Now. Both are married to Korean men. And they blog about that, as they blog about all kinds of other various aspects of their lives. As many of the male bloggers also blog about their Korean wives/girlfriends. So why is it that nearly every time someone makes a reference to GP or ATO, it's quickly followed by a description about who they're married to? When I've never once heard that happen when someone mentions, say, Roboseyo or The Grand Narrative, who also have Korean spouses?

You know. I would love to be able to blame this all on men. I really would. I would love to say that men have been somehow 'keeping us down', repressing our voices, pushing us into boxes that allow us only to exist in relation to who we are dating, or fucking. But it's simply not true. There are fair enough arguments about the male-tilted aspect of blogging in Korea, which have been brought about by the male population, which I'll get into in a minute. But the truth is, I believe this has mostly been done by women. And it is almost always women who refer to me as a dating blogger, or who email me about Korean men.

Ladies, my question is, what are you doing? I know you're out there. I know you are insightful and intelligent and well-spoken. I know you have valid things to say about your experiences here in the ROK. Which is not to say that the dating bloggers aren't doing that -- they absolutely are. But that's only one aspect of our experience here. Don't tell me that it's the only way we're capable of expressing ourselves, or that it's the only source of interest we have in paying any attention to each other. Community is what you make of it, and so far, ours hasn't been very strong.

Not that it's easy. You'll all (the women, I mean) know exactly what I mean when I reference the boys' club aspect of life here as a female expat. Especially if you're in an outer-lying area, as I am. And I don't even need to point out how many times someone (a man) has linked to something in my blog, using male pronouns to describe the author. Back before I was fucking banned from Dave's, I was constantly being confused for a male poster. Unless I was posting in response to something derogatory someone had said about Korean women, Western women, or Korean men. Then I was just called a lesbian. Anytime I said anything they agreed with, I was greeted with a fresh batch of "he"s the next time I logged on.

Even in this very blog, when I try to say something about women, the comments area can quickly degenerate into an argument amongst men about men. And randomers will sometimes stop by to leave a comment "agreeing" with me about one thing or another, that can be disgustingly misogynistic. Or they can leave hate-filled comments that run much along the same lines. Talking over me, in my own fucking blog, as though they were born with a microphone shoved up their asses, which the whole world is obligated to be quiet and listen to.

And then there was the time someone anonymously asked me if I'd ever had sex with a Korean man. Which I found incredibly inappropriate. And I genuinely wonder if any of the male bloggers have ever had something like that asked of them. Because I have my suspicions that, for whatever reason, it was asked because I am a woman.

I'm not a dating blogger. There's nothing wrong with being a dating blogger, but there is something wrong with relegating any woman who speaks up to her position in relation to men. Especially when she hardly even mentions them, anymore. I've dated in Korea. I've made posts about Korean dating culture. But just because I'm a woman, and I discuss my ideas and impressions about these things, doesn't mean that that's all that I am. And it's not the only thing, ladies, that we can be.

The big name male bloggers have mostly, from my perspective, done an excellent job being respectful of their female counterparts. But the other men who wander about leaving comments can sometimes be fucking atrocious. Nearly every time someone links to something I've posted on Dave's, I want to turn off my comments forever, for all the riff-raff it can bring over.

Men, what I want to say to you is this: please try to remember that you are not the only ones here, even if you only ever spend time with other men. And you don't need to stumble in to female discussions and shout loudly about how your experience is not our experience, and you are obviously the center of the universe, and therefore right about everything. We know we're not the same as you. Newsflash: you are not the standard. And you don't need to interrupt every conversation to redirect our attention to you, you, you. I'm sorry that it's hard for you to endure someone's attention not being focused on the male experience anywhere on the internet, but that's why God invented the little red x -- if you're really suffering, just make use of it. Our conversations will continue on and you will be left peacefully in the bliss that is your own ignorance. It's going to be okay. Don't panic.

19 comments:

Sidney said...

in the face of already established names in the korean blogging world, it's pretty much intimidating to blog about anything except the superficial. for me, anyway. my own blog is pretty much just pictures of what i do. not that i'm trying to achieve notoriety; the fact that i'm still on livejournal should get that point across quickly! hah.

but of course you have a good point. the number of female bloggers in korea that are not about dating (that i follow) can be counted on one hand. so sad!

I'm no Picasso said...

Sidney! That's what I mean, though. I think too many women assume that they aren't up to the task. You've got a totally unique perspective compared to the rest of us, and you're remarkably well-balanced in your views, from what I've seen (and from my own perspective, of course).

But you're also really modest, which is part of what I like about everything you have to say. The amount of insight you have as a university student in Korea, who's immersed in a lot of ways that we don't get to be, right off the bat, is really remarkable though.

Roboseyo said...

God invented the little red X? I thought Al Gore did.

Regardless, great post, and thanks for writing it.

Burndog said...

I choose to ignore the big picture. I read you, Flint and WTF regularly...and loads of other stuff as I see it. I don't read the 'big name' blogs unless there's a specific issue that they address that interests me. I don't want to get involved in the sub-culture of being a 'foreign blogger.'

I started my blog because I was frustrated with places like Dave's. I felt like there was nowhere I could write honestly about the mundane and normal that happens day-to-day here. I felt like if I wasn't seeing double rainbows and kimchi festivals every day then I shouldn't be allowed to talk.

I was also a little bit tired of seeing blogs that took everything too seriously, too positively, too negatively or were just generally a way to show photos. I guess it's personal isn't it? I've never thought about where I fit in...what my blog means...who reads it...or any of that stuff. I guess it's the major benefit of being mostly un-read!

My main problem was with my girlfriend...who found that I was writing more about her than she wanted...which is why I deleted a few months worth of posts...and generally steer clear of relationship type stuff now. I guess...I'm saying...don't feel the need to respond to opinion. Just keep doing what you do...how you do it...and let everyone else sort out their own place.

I've ranted now...and drifted so far off topic that it's deplorable. I will say though that I wish that there was room for everyone...I really do. I wish people felt free to write about what they wanted, without people getting all politically correct, or offended. People date, people drink, people smoke, people shit, people fornicate...not all at the same time..but they do...if people write about that...SWEET! If people write about other shit...SWEET! What's with all of the fucking labels?

The above...is proof that I need to sleep more.

Natalie said...

I find that when reading blogs about life in Korea that not only men and women separate how they do so, but also people do that by race. I noticed many, not all mind you, bloggers who are white talk about and reference other white bloggers. When they receive questions about how other minorities (what the West considers minorities) live in Korea they have little to say. So, I find it interesting when I see numerous blogs from not just women but black women interesting. And guess what (this isn't directed to you, but for those white dudes who think Korean men are too racist or closed minded to date anyone else but Asian or white girls---black and brown girls date there too!).

Here are some blogs that I enjoy from people who currently lived in Korea and lived there for a significant amount of time or even returning to Korea....http://expatjane.blogspot.com/
Male, he's Korean and Black, perspective...http://metropolitician.blogs.com
She had taught in Korea before and now has returned.../http://joiasia.blogspot.com/
A photoghraper, woman, black, blah, blah...http://nearandfar.wordpress.com/
A married couple http://danntan.blogspot.com/

Natalie said...

I just thought about this again...
I get more irritated with men from the West being particularly patronizing because they had the opportunity to experience "diversity" of humanity to know that there isn't one way of being for no one in particular. They should have concluded that anyone can do just as much or even more than they can; it really depends on the person. Gender doesn't limit anything, race doesn't, your spiritual beliefs doesn't, your sexual orientation doesn't; you really have to get to know a person.

Sure there can be "trends" that certain groups might experience or participate in, but those are generalizations and a person is an individual capable of an infinite possibilities.

Your post reminded me of this one... http://expatjane.blogspot.com/2006/08/ugly-americans-young-white-men-korea.html

Diana E.S. said...

Great post. :) My blogging train hit a wall since moving back to the U.S. for a lot of reasons. I'd probably rather blog about my husband than my own life these days, since he's having a grand old time and I'm kind of a train wreck.

However this is an important post for the K-blogging community. Thanks for writing it.

Diana E.S. said...
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Diana E.S. said...
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Kel said...

LOL @ the title ^_^

Amanda said...

I want to start calling myself ATO. Like an airport code. Awesome.

Why do our husbands get mentioned right after we do? Because women are defined by whom they marry. Because there aren't as many Western women married to Korean men. (Which is ridiculous--there's a ton of us out there/here.) Because some people watch too many dramas and thus think marrying a Korean man is the cat's pajamas. (Which dramas are they watching, I want to know. Every K-drama I watch is depressing.)

I also hated the "have you slept with a Korean man" questions I'd get from people, which were usually followed up by "are the rumors about...you know...size, true?"

Go sleep with some Koreans and find out.

Great post.

PS Most searches to my blog are variations on "finding sex in Korea," "ajumma sex," "fish eat my toes" and "Korean mother in law problems." I don't even think I've posted about any of those things very often.

Anonymous said...

women tend to be better writers. at least in the kblog hemisphere.

Burndog said...

Amanda...ATO stands for the Australian Tax Office where I am from ㅠ.ㅠ

All...I too get sick of hearing middle class white men whine about how racist Koreans are and how tough their lives are here...harden the fuck up!

Chris in South Korea said...

I hope I'm not one of those bloggers that intimidates you (or anyone else, for that matter!). I do take blogging seriously - as seriously as I would were I a full-time writer. That is, in fact, one of my goals as a blogger; perhaps that might intimidate a casual blogger or one interested in writing to friends and family.

Blogging is far from a zero-sum game. People have the right to write about anything and everything they darn well please. They need no one's permission to do so, nor should they feel the need to stay in any topic.

Glad you got to meet up with Grace - I've been hoping to catch up with her as well :)

I'm no Picasso said...

Roboseyo -- I certainly thought of making that joke. Thanks for covering it for me.

Burndog -- I will say this: your blog is literally one of only maybe two that I will click on in the sidebar literally every time I see you've made a post. Maybe both our blogs are just shit, but your blog is easily THE Kblog I find it easiest to relate to. No endless photos of kimchi jjigae and temples, and no endless ranting about 'mongoloids'. Just an honest-to-goodness day-to-day description of the situations that we encounter.

Maybe other people don't have room for that -- I don't know. I feel like I'm committing some kind of crime by pushing the 'publish' button on my posts most days, for all the endless, repetitive blather I come out with about the little situations that happen at school and, occasionally, outside as well. But it's what I find interesting. And it's why I prefer your blog over the others. And I'm not kissing ass. That's the god's honest truth.

Natalie -- Words cannot begin to describe how right you are. 'Minorities' are the other category that are endlessly taking a beating on Dave's, having everyone else correct them about exactly what their experience here will be and have been. Can't get a fucking word in edgewise.

And vastly underrepresented in the blogging world, as far as big names go, as well. Thank you for taking the time to post the links -- I've been slowly making my way through them the last couple of days.

And I would love to see someone currently on the ground here in Korea cover this kind of topic from a person of color's perspective. If you know of any such posts, please let me know, because I will link the shit out of that. The post you've linked to is an excellent example of what it's like not just to deal with these issues in the cyberworld, but to encounter them over and over and over out there in the world. Sometimes you really want to grab the nearest bottle and crack someone over the head for starting in on the same old shit, which they actually have the nerve to think you're hearing for the very first time, or have never considered before.

I've encountered so many horrifying conversations about race since I've been here, and I don't know if it's a functional aspect of foreigners in Korea, or if it's because I came here straight from a painfully liberal community in NYC (although believe me, there were some really fucked up conversations I participated in even amongst that crowd). In NYC, people at least know that they're supposed to pretend not to think the way that they do.

I'm no Picasso said...

Diana -- Your blog is going to be really important to expats who are looking to go back and reassimilate. I hope you won't give it up. There aren't too many blogs around that cover what it's like to return after Korea, especially the issues that you may go through with a Korean spouse in tow. And your view is always well-balanced and easily trusted.

I know what it's like to try to blog during a hard time. The last thing you want to do is end up posting a load of rants all over the internet that are based in emotion. On a personal note, I really hope things come together for you soon, so that you can properly enjoy the new life you're starting. Transition is a shithole at times, but I really do hope it will all be worth it for you.

Kel -- I thought it was damn clever. Too much time around fifteen year old boys' sense of humor, I reckon.^^

Amanda -- I know full well why it's done. It's bothersome, to say the least. And words can't express how offensive those sex questions are. If I'm out with a group of girl friends, and the conversation takes a turn for that direction in general, I don't mind getting on the subject. But having it drunkenly slurred at me by a white guy I just met five minutes ago is not my idea of a good night out, or respectable (respectful) conversation. Kindly get the fuck out of my face.

Anonymous -- Links!

Chris -- Who said I was intimidated? I don't know how my blog went from being read by a dozen friends and family to somehow having any kind of an audience, and I have made a concerted effort since that happened to try to keep some kind of focus to things around here (hence the split with the new tumblr blog), but ultimately I just write what I want to write.

I know a lot of it is boring to most people. But some people like it. And I like those some people. So for the most part, I'll just continue on doing what I'm doing. No matter who's reading it. Because I've never had the kind of discipline it takes to do something I don't really like for an extended period of time. And what I mostly like is blogging stupid anecdotes about my students and how I bought instant naengmyeon on my walk home from work.

Grace is fucking excellent. It was nothing but a pleasure to meet her. As witty as you expect her to be from her blog, she somehow manages to even outdo it in person.

Amanda said...

I know full well why it's done. It's bothersome, to say the least.
::

Oh, I know you know why it's done. I was just sort of thinking out loud. Or on screen.

I'm no Picasso said...
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