Thinking more today about the post I made quickly this morning answering a question (or rather concern?) about a Western woman apparently causing a ruckus in her work place by having breasts, and a few other things, plus looking over The Grand Narrative's latest post, I wanted to revisit the topic in a little more detail. Because it's something that's been bothering me. And if it's bothering me, and considering the question that was left for me to respond to, it's more than likely been an issue for at least a few of you as well.
The Grand Narrative left a link to this article in response to the earlier post, which was basically exactly what I was thinking when I saw that question come up in my inbox. It obviously happens all over the world, including in our home environments, where a woman is easily classified as being any degree of "slutty" based solely on the way that her body naturally looks. It's highlighted, however, by the fact that Western women can often have more curvaceous or naturally busty bodies than what is considered the norm in Korea, which is only exacerbated by the Korean media's ease and comfort with highlighting these differences, while simultaneously depicting Western women as largely promiscuous. Which is not even a word I like, to begin with.
Tom Spanbauer is a largely unknown, hugely brilliant writer who runs a workshop based on a concept called "dangerous writing". He is responsible for Fight Club, and basically anything worthwhile Chuck Palahniuk ever wrote. Dangerous writing is defined as the following:
The emphasis is on writing "dangerously" -- that is, writing what personally scares or embarrasses the author in order to explore and artistically express those fears honestly.
I had the privilege of hearing Spanbauer speak in person about his theory, which came out of his experience of having his religious father find his journals when he was in high school, which were full of accounts of his own homosexuality, and being kicked out of his home and alienated from his family as a result. That has little to nothing to do with what I'm about to write, but it just annoys me that more people know who Palahniuk is than Spanbauer, so I wanted to put that out there.
Anyway. This is all to say that, although I am an intensely private person by nature, in order to properly illustrate a point I'm trying to make, sometimes I have to publicly admit something that I don't really want to. Now, I'm about to do it again.
I recently joined a dating site. Now, please immediately erase that fact from your memory, because, although it's common enough in today's society, and largely popular and widely accepted in Korea especially, I personally find it a bit humiliating. Mostly because I don't like to admit that I even want to date. I won't justify it beyond that.
The point is, it's mostly just been really annoying and disappointing. And it hasn't even been a week. I know there are sleaze buckets all over the world, but there's something that seems particularly empowering to the male about a dating site which encourages him to approach a foreign woman in a completely unacceptable manner, and under ridiculous pretenses. I've already had a Pillsbury Doughboy of a man ask me within the first five lines of correspondence if I have a "nice body" (the fact that he is a bit rotund would be unworthy of mention, in my opinion, were it not for his uninhibited concern about my condition), and then tell me that I was jumping to conclusions when I immediately informed him that I didn't find that question to be within the confines of good manners, and therefore didn't think we would make a good match. He was apparently just being "friendly". Another man who contacted me filled in his profile with the information that he had both joined the site in order to find a sex partner, and that he would not want a child of mixed ethnicity, and then informed me that I was a "crazy girl" for telling him, for those specific reasons, that he wasn't what I was looking for, either.
Charming, no? The only upside I can see to internet dating thus far is that all the stupid shit that will undoubtedly eventually issue forth from men's mouths is right there out in the open from the beginning, so I don't have to decide between being "polite" and continuing to sit through a dinner with a man I find repulsive, or being a "bitch" and immediately putting on my coat and walking out. Three cheers for that, I suppose.
This has been combined, this week, with one of my new students deciding that it's acceptable to tell me that I am a beautiful girl and repeatedly attempt to kiss me. To the point where I had to physically restrain him. There is not a doubt in my mind that this little shit would never fucking dare to try such a thing with a Korean teacher.
And then, the cherry on the fucking shit sundae: a coworker has informed me that I have a very nice S line. Where I come from, that qualifies as sexual harassment in the workplace. And my co-teachers quietly confided, back in the office, that as far as they are concerned, it does for them as well. Now. This last one didn't happen just because I am foreign. The incident, in fact, led to a private discussion amongst female teachers in our office about similar instances they had all undergone or witnessed. But. Because I am foreign, my body naturally looks a certain way that is not as common in Korea as it is back in the States. The same as the body of the woman who wrote in about what's happening in her workplace. And that, apparently, is open season for comment.
I guess I'm just having a hard time adjusting to a few different things. I've always been a bit sensitive about being female, which comes from a long, horrendous history of enforced gender roles within the culture I came up in, and, specifically, my father. It also has to do with the fact that the person I was closest to growing up was my little brother, which led to an early instinct to need to be viewed as "one of the guys", aka on equal ground. I can't even begin to describe the base level of frustration that came with being inside of a body that people constantly told me meant certain things about me, which I couldn't feel as being natural to me at all. It wasn't even about feminism in the intellectual sense -- it was about the very raw emotion of being told over and over again that something about yourself you know isn't true, is true. And that you don't have the right to argue.
And then, when I got out of that environment, I moved away to art school in New York, where gender roles where a whole beautiful mess of fucked up anyway, and you could basically be whatever you chose to be, and most people accepted it without batting an eyelash. Which was a luxury which just couldn't last.
But the other part of it is that my body has actually changed. I've lost weight. I've gone from a wardrobe largely consisting of second-hand t shirts and torn jeans to pencil skirts and heels. For my job. Because what my grandmother used to tell me over and over again actually came true, and one day I got a job where I had to start dressing "like a grown up". And people's reactions to me have changed. It's not as easy now to be "one of the guys". And, on top of that, I've also become a foreign female with a D cup and S line in Korean society.
It's a whole, whole lot to process and deal with at one time. Which is why that question struck a particular chord with me this morning. Because all I've been thinking all week is how I don't understand why other people can't just leave me the fuck alone about my body, which looks the way that it looks not because I chose for it to look that way, or because I made it look that way, or because I want it to look that way, but because it just looks that way.
What's my point? I don't know. I suppose, just that I'm tired. And way too many stupid things have happened this week and I'm glad tomorrow is Friday. And I guess I'll wake up on Saturday and decide whether or not I should go out this weekend wearing a potato sack. Men, I love you. I really do. I really, really do. But you should say an extra prayer of thanksgiving to the Universe tonight for not having to worry about all of the shit that you think we're overly sensitive about, because we ordinarily don't have the time to explain it to you. I know you've got your own problems. But before you hit the bars to pick up this weekend, or, god forbid, log in to your account on that dating website, think twice about the things that are going to come out of your mouth and what all else that woman may have had to already put up with this week. Be her break from all of that, and she'll be way more likely to give you a second date. I promise.