[Opinion] Yes, Song Min-ho Wrote Sexist Lyrics for ‘No Thank You’

Winner’s Song Min-ho is back on the news with more controversy for his “misogynistic” lyrics.

Source: OSEN, EPIKHIGH Facebook; Song Min-ho (left), Epik High’s 9th album ‘We’ve Done Something Wonderful’ (right)

On Oct 23, Epik High released their 9th album, ‘We’ve Done Something Wonderful’. Winner’s Song Min-ho wrote lyrics to one of the tracks, ‘No Thank You’.

In ‘No Thank You’, part of the lyrics goes: “”Even using the word motherfucker is being called misogynistic [or hate], shit.” Listeners claimed that the line was misogynistic.

[Note: In the original Korean lyrics, 혐오=’hate’ was used, but 여성혐오=’misogyny’ is implied]

Epik High’s Tablo addressed the controversy involving Song Min Ho’s lyrics, saying there were “absolutely no misogynistic intentions.” According to the rapper, “’No Thank You’ aims to satirize the social tendency to thoughtlessly judge things based on personal standards.”

In essence, he argues that the lyrics are not misogynistic because their intended meaning is not about hating on women.

Unfortunately, the intended meaning does not matter when determining whether or not words or actions are misogynistic.

However, it is worth asking whether the word ‘misogyny’ can be applied to the lyrics in ‘No Thank You’. I would argue that based on the use of stereotypical images of women rather than expressions of hatred or violence towards them, Song Min-ho’s lyrics are sexist, not misogynistic. (Read about the difference between sexism and misogyny here.)

Analysis of the Word “Motherf*cker”

“Motherfucker” as a word is inherently sexist. It portrays and has roots in a patriarchal system where women are seen and treated differently—as passive, lower beings. The word itself implies that one who “fucks” someone’s mother is inhuman, and relies on the notion that women are sexual things/objects that are to “be fucked”.

The word threatens the mother’s (woman’s) sexual integrity and puts the man in a position of power. (Note that there is no male equivalent to the word, like “fatherfucker”.) The “motherfucker” is a male, and the agent.

Nowadays, the word is usually used as an intensifier (Kesha belting out “I’m a motherfucking woman”), a compliment (“I’m a bad motherfucker”), to describe a despicable person (“I’m going to kill that motherfucker”), and as a casual greeting (“Hey what’s up motherfucker”).

With today’s popular culture normalizing words like “motherfucker” and “bitch”, it is easy to ignore their sexist undertones. Furthermore, “motherfucker” is easily dismissed because it is commonly used by men to address other men, especially in hip-hop music.

However, using the word casually and because “everyone says it” does not make the word “non-sexist”. It does not change its sexist origins where women are the ones that “get fucked” and even have to pay the price for it.

Source: The Odyssey: 10 Ways To Be A Better Feminist

The logic that the word is “non-sexist” because men use it to address other men, not women, is also heavily flawed. Regardless of the identity of the user and receiver, the word relies on the image of a woman with no agency to give the user a sense of ‘toughness’ or masculinity. Through this, they are directly contributing to a centuries-old oppressed view of women.

Sexist language is the foundation for sexist and misogynistic behaviors.

Language matters.

Sexist Themes in ‘No Thank You’

You can act like you’re a big guy but you can’t digest
It’s not easy, the stage is about your rashness
Check it motherfuckers, my lyrics
Even using the word motherfucker is being called misogynistic, shit

But I’m not your boss, I’m not your teacher
So if you start critiquing someone, it bothers me
If you’re curious about my private life
You be my mother, punk- ok?

I only care about my life and death
Even if I get shit on, I don’t get embarrassed
“A CEO who doesn’t go to work”
“A rapper who doesn’t hustle”
But why are all the girls who bathe in my foam so pretty?

– Lyrics from ‘No Thank You’

‘No Thank You’ portrays a ‘tough guy’ trying to reclaim his identity by living for himself and “not giving a fuck” about others’ perceptions of him. However, Song Min-ho’s tough guy reclaims himself by reinforcing a system that supports stereotypical images of women.

The line, “Even using the word motherfucker is being called misogynistic [or hate], shit” implies that “motherfucker” is not misogynistic or hateful and that people should not take it so seriously.

However, Song cannot be the one to decide what the word is or isn’t because the word is not his; the word historically belongs to men who oppressed women and their sexuality. Therefore, “motherfucker” has and always will be a word that undermines women.

The part, “If you’re curious about my private life, you be my mother, punk-ok” implies that mothers, not fathers, are the ones who probe into their child’s private lives. (Why don’t songs ever portray fathers as having interest in their child’s life?)

The last line, “But why are all the girls who bathe in my foam so pretty” also portrays women as accessories, whose value comes from looking “pretty”. (Note that the word ‘girl’ is appears instead of ‘women’.)

“That’s Not What We Intended”: Intent vs. Impact

Source: Twitter

Although the song does not intend to demean women, it inevitably does, because it relies on sexist words and the submissive image of women to relay its message. In addition, the song does not use those words or images to make a greater, meaningful statement about sexism or misogyny.

Therefore, Tablo’s “that’s not what we intended” argument ends up falling short and sounding like an excuse; it comes off as saying “so deal with it” to women who continue to face fear and oppression in every part of society.

In that case, the listeners’ negative reactions to the lyrics start making a lot sense.

Of course, Song Min-ho is not the only one to promote limited portrayals of women. It is even questionable whether Song is aware of his own tendency to internalize sexist attitudes.

Should the public bash and label him as a sexist or misogynist? No.

But it is worth letting artists know and holding them accountable for their work, especially when they hold the power to influence many.

 

By Janet Kang

[Opinion] GOT7 Risks Becoming Obsolete Under JYP Entertainment

7 for 7 marks the seventh album from the internationally popular boy group, GOT7. This album, its name, concept, and member involvement,  illustrates and represent the members, their growth, and history.

However, the album and its promotion also highlights glaring and reoccurring issues with their agency that could lead GOT7 to become obsolete.

BAZAAR Magazine

A seventh album created with member participation, three years in the K-pop music scene, and backed by one of the biggest entertainment agencies in South Korea. Overall, GOT7 has all of the elements to paint picture a group that is hugely successful in South Korea. But looking at the reality of their performance paints a different picture.

GOT7 is the only boy group produced by one of the “Big Three” entertainment agencies (JYPE, SM, YG) that has not reached critical mass domestically in South Korea. This fact is further underlined by the group’s non-existence presence on South Korean music charts outside of their promotion periods for new albums. Following this further, they have yet to take the no.1 spot on South Korea’s most popular and used music streaming service MelOn.

These aspects  of GOT7’s performance history points to a much more maligned problem: their agency and their subsequent management. JYP Entertainment (JYPE) has critically mismanaged GOT7 in some key aspects including their identity building, public image, and most importantly their music.

Singing a Flat Note

GOT7 group photo for 7 for 7. Shot in Silver Lake, Los Angeles – JYP Entertainment

“You Are”, the title track for the 7 for 7 album is the beginning of a new era for GOT7. The title track contains a bright fresh image and sound that is reminiscent of the summer 2015 hit “Just Right”. Conversely, the song also manages to express the emotional maturity and nuance seen in sub-unit JJ Project’s Verse 2 album that came out in July.

Notably, JJ Project can be considered the core sub-unit of GOT7; current group leader JB and Jin-young debuted as JJ Project in 2012, two years before reorganizing as members of GOT7 in 2014.

This title track is widely liked by fans of the boy group. The album, conceptual growth, and developing musicianship continue to be praised by fans and a few critics alike. Indeed, the member’s abilities to write music, create their own choreography, and connect with fans has improved over the years in comparison to their debut in 2014.

With fans’ support, the song reached the no.1 spot on three different charts and retained the position for a few days after its release. However, as of the writing of this article “You Are” is no longer in the top 100 of any major Korean music chart. The reason for this ephemeral presence on music charts is simple: the song is not good enough. In comparison to top charting boy groups  EXO, BTS, BtoB, and WINNER the song quality, execution, replayability, and distinctiveness are all below par.

Like all of GOT7’s past songs, JYPE staff chose “You Are” to be the title track. Company selection of the title track is not irregular — they have experienced staff members that have musical knowledge, training, and access to market research that assists them in making their decision. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to insider information on the exact process for song selection. However, we can assume that title track is picked because it is believed to be one of the best songs on the album, has a distinctive sound that is connected to the group, and is believed to have the best chance to gain popularity once released.

Part of the blame goes to the production team, including the members. Quality checks coupled with market research would assist in determining current and future trends that can help form the direction and sound of an album. This phase should iron out any awkwardness in melody, lyrics, tempo, delivery and song structure. Yet, the first three singles from the group “Girls Girls Girls“, “A“, and “Stop Stop It“, lacked a bridge — a basic component of song structure. But this isn’t the biggest component. You can have a bad song and still top a chart. A much larger part goes to building the identity of GOT7 that established them in public’s mind.

GOT7 Who?
GOT7 for Star Magazine October 2017

The day after 7 for 7 was released GOT7 sat down for in interview with a news site. During this interview a question was directed towards the group. The interviewer mentions that although GOT7 is a very capable group, they don’t get a lot of attention in Korea and asks the group why this may be the case. In response to the question, JB explains that “For GOT7, there is nothing that says precisely and clearly ‘This is GOT7’.” In other words, GOT7 lacks a distinctive brand that the public can easily associate the group with.

This lacks of a clear sound and image can be clearly seen in past releases. For their debut in 2014 GOT7 were marketed as a hip-hop, performance heavy boy group by JYPE with the release of “Girls Girls Girls”. However, after that release the group released “A”, a bright pop song, then transitioned to a heavily auto-tuned R&B song with “Stop Stop It” by the end of the year. Moreover, in 2015 the group made a summer comeback with “Just Right”, that was characterize with a sweet, bright, and innocent concept. A month later GOT7 returned with “If I do”, a dark and masculine concept that borrowed sounds from earlier eras of rock and R&B. The following year GOT7 began their Flight Log album trilogy that covered songs that heavily mixed EDM, hip-hop, R&B sounds. Now, “You Are”, returns the group back to the pop genre.

GOT7’s versatility and ability to navigate these different concepts and styles should be acknowledge and applauded. Few groups vary there sound as much as GOT7 has. However, this versatility is a double-edged sword by prevent GOT7 from establishing and marketing a sound that can definitively associated with the group. This is whole an error made on the part of JYPE.

Furthermore, not only did the agency fail to create and produce songs that with a consistent sound or feel, but they also fail to promote GOT7 properly. For every comeback GOT7 will appear on 2-3 different radio talk shows, appear on “Idol Weekly”, “After School Club”, have a few photo shoots and interviews with prominent magazines. These are in addition to the expected performances on music shows and perhaps a few festivals. Beyond this GOT7 rarely appears on other shows and as a result fail to be seen by the public as much as their competitors.

As the pick of shows narrows due to ongoing strikes at MBC and KBS, including the cancellation of the popular “Infinity Challenge”, it is extremely important and should be easier, to be featured, guests. If GOT7 as a group or an individual members fails to expand into the larger entertainment field they risk ending up like label mates 2PM, Wonder Girls (disbanded), Miss A (on hiatus), 15& (on hiatus), 2AM (on hiatus) and more. There are or were otherwise extremely promising groups that lost popularity domestically or have not been active for years.

7 for 7 for 7
GOT7 in GQ Korea 2016

This comeback period marked the first time since 2015 that GOT7 failed to win an award from any of the major Korean music shows. The possibility of a win was marred by insufficient album stocks provided by JYPE to stores and the ever-present challenge of streaming and downloads.

Hopefully, the failure of this comeback will push the members to rethink their position at JYPE to either renegotiate their management and representation by the company or to leave it outright. With their contracts set to expire next year it will be the perfect time for something to happen.

Whatever the case may be, we can be sure that GOT7 will continue to make music and be great friends well into the future.

 

 

By O.C

[Opinion] Why the KBS & MBC Strike Won’t End Any Time Soon

Lately, shows like ‘Infinite Challenge’, ‘Happy Together’, ‘Radio Star’, ‘I Live Alone’ and ‘Masked Singer’ have been discontinued.

Why is that the case?

Source: Yonhap News; The National Union of Media Workers’ MBC Branch calling for the resignation for CEO Kim Jang-gyeom

On Sept 4, union members from Korea’s two major public broadcasting stations, Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) held a strike demanding the resignation of their respective CEOs Ko Dae-young and Kim Jang-gyeom. About 1,800 members from KBS and 2,000 from MBC participated after a majority of union members voted in favor of the strike.

Both Ko and Kim are accused of political meddling in media production—essentially using their influence to regulate and modify broadcasts in favor of the former Park Geun-hye administration.

The two are also accused of executing the alleged ‘culture and arts blacklist’ created under former President Lee Myung-bak, which contains selected names of entertainers, artists and journalists known for their outspokenness and progressive views. Those on the list were said to have been banned from broadcast appearances and media activities.

Currently, the workers are demanding more than just resignation. They are seeking justice for their mistreated co-workers, and the restoration of public trust in the media.

Source: JTBC News; ‘culture and arts blacklist’

“We’re slaves, not producers”

Source: OSEN; PD Kim Tae-ho from MBC’s ‘Infinite Challenge’

In Aug, the discovery of an ‘MBC blacklist’ led to increasing numbers of MBC reporters, producers and news anchors leaving their desks in protest. Similar to the ‘culture and arts blacklist’, the ‘MBC Blacklist’ categorized and evaluated journalists in terms of their loyalty to the company. Some were unfairly transferred to unrelated positions or fired as a result.

MBC’s Producer Kim Tae-ho from the popular show, ‘Infinite Challenge’, and forty-six other variety show producers signed a letter demanding the current CEO Kim to step down.

“No matter how talented someone is, they cannot appear on the show if the CEO disapproves. Our programs get taken down no matter how good the viewer ratings are. They’re telling us abandon our own ways of thinking and censor ourselves—to become slaves, not producers,” the letter said. “Our current state is so pathetic, it’s laughable.”

Despite ongoing investigations, the unions’ outcry was met with cold responses from the upper management of the two broadcasting companies.

KBS stated, “A strike would be illegal because it’s unrelated to working conditions.” MBC stated that a strike would bring broadcasting under the control of the government. It said that the company would “defend the independence of broadcasting against political forces and labor unions.”

Ko and Kim have yet to step down from their positions.

Why is this all happening now?

Source: No Cut News; KBS protesters call for the resignation of CEO Ko Dae-young

The investigation into former President Park Geun-hye’s corruption scandal led to the discovery of an alleged blacklist early this year. One version of Park’s blacklist was said to have listed over 9,000 people, including well-known ‘Oldboy’ director Park Chan-wook and ‘Snowpiercer’ actor Song Kang-ho.

Further investigations then led to suspicions of a ‘cultural and arts blacklist’ created by the Lee Myung-bak administration. In response, the National Intelligence Service of Korea (NIS) announced that they would expand their investigation of Park to include the Lee administration.

As the public grows increasingly aware of past corruptions, the need for reform grows painstakingly clear.

The Long Controversy Behind Government-Media Relations

Source: OSEN

Both KBS and MBC labor unions held a joint-strike back in 2012, which resulted in the then-CEOs stepping down from their positions. Soon after, new CEOs were appointed by the Lee administration.

The government operates broadcasting companies and has been throughout the late 1900s.

1960-70s

A few years after the Korean War, Park Chung-hee forcibly took office and extended his rule by declaring martial law. During that time, the press faced suppression and heavy censorship. Out of the 916 press companies that existed, only 81 survived President Park’s rule.

1980s

Korean civilians continued to suffer long years of military dictatorship. President Chun Doo-hwan’s regime dismissed protests for democracy and demanded loyalty from the citizens and the press. Daily broadcasts exalted Chun’s past and his accomplishments, and put on grand displays of his patriotism. After the Gwangju Massacre, a student-led protest that resulted in the bloody deaths of thousands of civilians, Chun continued to suppress the right to free speech. One way he did this was by forcibly merging smaller press companies with larger government-sponsored broadcasting companies.

MBC, which consisted of 21 local broadcasting companies, merged and gave 65 percent of its shares to KBS. At that time, KBS was government-sponsored and in essence, government-run (it still is). Therefore, MBC giving a percentage of its shares to KBS meant transferring control of the company to the government.

Source: No Cut V YouTube Channel

1980s-present

Currently, the government has the power to appoint CEOs of the two broadcasting companies. KBS CEO Ko was appointed by President Park Geun-hye while MBC CEO Kim was appointed by the Foundation for Broadcast Culture board members. The board of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture is appointed by the Korean Communications Commission, which consists of five members appointed by the President.

Current President Moon Jae-in assigned the new chairman of the Korean Communications Commission, Lee Hyo-sung, to “protect the independence and freedom” of the media by identifying those who collaborated with the former Lee and Park administrations and stripping them of their positions.

However, purging will mean little to nothing unless media laws change to prevent government interference in media production.

 

Present-day Government-Media Controversies

Source: CGTN; yellow ribbons pay tribute to the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster

The Park administration faced criticism for its poor response to a national tragedy during the Sewol Ferry disaster in 2014. At that time, MBC allegedly broadcasted that the students had all been rescued when reporters at the scene said that more than 200 people were trapped inside. Both KBS and MBC faced public criticism for their inaccurate reporting and lack of on-site coverage. The news instead praised the government’s aid in rescue efforts and underplayed the severity of the disaster.

The two broadcasting companies also allegedly conspired with the National Intelligence Service of Korea (NIS) under the Lee administration to put out biased information in favor of the government. The NIS interfered in news, drama and radio by controlling personnel decisions, eliminating programs, and modifying the wording on broadcasts.

Unfortunately, more incidents similar to the Sewol and NIS scandal may occur in the future. As long as the government holds power over press decisions, accuracy in the future reporting of these events will be jeopardized.

What now?

The media needs to maintain independence from the government in order to serve the public and protect workers from persecution. Media laws must change and broadcasting stations must be able to fill in executive positions independently.

However, media laws cannot change unless the old systems of media also change.

Kang Myung-koo, author of “Media Power and the Pedagogic Public Sphere in South Korea”, revealed an irony in Korean media. “Allegorically, journalists who are supposed to report soccer matches, have decided to participate in the game due to their dissatisfaction with the players,” he said.

Although the government must let go of ties to the press, the press is also responsible for upholding accuracy and presenting information in a way that promotes discussion. Instead of ‘defending the freedom of speech’ by pointing fingers and publicly shaming the president and their executives, a discussion needs to take place within companies. Perhaps a long-due discussion on the role of the press and objective reporting would be a good place to start. Readers must also be engaged in the discussion in what the press can do to better to serve the public.

If not, history will only repeat itself.

 

By Janet Kang

[Opinion] Mnet’s Asian Music Awards (MAMA) Does Not Represent Asia

The award show could be hosted on every continent and still fail. Simply put, the Mnet Asian Music Awards is not really for Asia and doesn’t represent it.

Mnet

This year Mnet is trying something different this year: it will hold Mnet’s Asian Music Awards (MAMA) in three different cities over the course of a week. The different venues, one in Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Japan will finally be a true celebration of Asia’s entertainment scene, a feat that MAMA aspired to.

The problem, however, is that this is not true. Mnet’s award event has never really been a show for Asia. It has failed to represent the diverse entertainment communities that it contains. Adding different host cities to the list won’t change this. So, Mnet either needs to make dire alterations or adjust its name to reflect reality.

Why? Because MAMA has never been an international show in any way other than location. The award show and entertainment companies behind it have consistently illustrated their lack of knowledge and respect of other Asian entertainment fields, and as such have never and will never be able to pull off a show that will live up to its claim as the “greatest music award show in Asia.

“MAMA has a disproportionate representation of Korean artists”

On the winner’s page (see video or link here) there are three categories that have subcategories for awards. The first listed on the page is the “Korean Category”. The other two categories are “Best Asian Artist” and the last one was “Professional Category”.

The “Best Asian Artist” has six listed winners and the last category awards those recognized for sound engineering, choreography, and more; this category has a total of eight winners. However, the issue with these two categories is that they are almost completely designated to acknowledge Asian artists that are not Korean.

To put this into perspective, the “Korean Category” has 23 different categories with subsequent winners. This totals more than the other two categories combined. Moreover, the “Best Asian Award” encompasses the “best artist”, one each, for China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Do different genre’s of music not exist elsewhere? Are there only soloist outside of Korea? Is only one gender allowed to create music for China, Japan, Singapore, etc.? Well, golly, if that’s the case the U.N. must be made aware!

This reaction may seem a bit dramatic, but the fact is that by not having fully developed award categories for other countries they are consequently minimizing their markets and trivializing their diversity and importance.

Furthermore, this lack of representation is again illustrated by the performances, awards announcers, and on-screen time. Take a look at Mnet’s official playlists for MAMA 2016 (herehere, and here) and count how many performances were made by non-Korean artists. Have you done it? If you didn’t,  the count is, amazingly, a grand total of 0.

In summary, the award show has a disproportionate representation of Korean artists that does not align with its claim and name.

What Mnet Needs to Do

So, what exactly can Mnet do to improve? Well, I’ve compiled a relatively short list of Suggestions for the company.

First, it must expand its representation of different artists who perform, win and announce awards.

Creating individual categories for countries can be as simple as this.

One option is to eliminate the “Korean Category” and put all the different countries’ artists on the same level of evaluation for awards such as best female artist.

Another option is to replace “Best Asian Artist” category with an expanded sections dedicated to each country.

Second, to accomplish the first suggestion it needs to establish and standardize communication and officiate a language. This means that all media needs to be in this language including announcements and award presentations. This standardization will help fluidity and understandability throughout the course of the show.

English is the most likely candidate since it is the current universal language, but this does not need to be the case. It can also be Korean, Chinese, or even change depending on location. However, this does create other issues such as ensuring that attendees not fluent in the chosen language are able to follow along. This issue will likely call for instant translations of speeches, but pre-translations for scripted or filmed segments. Although there are some issue, the benefits outweigh any possible problems.

Lastly, Mnet it should take advantage of the location of the show, especially if it plans to continue hosting the show in different cities. It would be a great opportunity to incorporate some local culture into the show.

Additionally, Mnet needs to be extra careful when it comes to spelling and pronunciation. In the past, the show has had a number of errors presenting correct names. If awards are going to be given to artists from different countries correctly spelling and pronouncing their names becomes paramount.

Mnet’s Korean Music Awards?

There a lot of other issues with the award show, but this really is one of the most pressing. If this award show fails to rectify these problems, then it really isn’t an “Asian Music” award show, but a K-pop festival with some diversity thrown in. And if that is the case it should change its name to reflect that. How does Mnet’s Korean Music Awards sound? It’ll basically be just like KCON, but with some metal statues thrown in.

By O.C