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Commentary: Hot Pants (+tiny things)

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You all probably knew this post was coming. What is Kpop fashion without hot pants? For those of you that don't know, hot pants are "shorts that cannot possibly get any shorter" (Urban Dictionary). In Kpop, sexiness is key, and more often than not, entertainment companies show 'sexy' through skin. In their minds, the amount of sexiness one has is directly proportionate to the amount of skin netizens can fawn over. 
2pm figurines are fit
This expectation of is ridiculous, and far from gender equal. Now, I am not saying that boy groups don't face the same standard; they do. Action figures of 2PM were released in February, and they feature semi-clad versions of the boys (Soompi). Now, I don't really understand why figurines need six-packs, but it goes along with the skin = sexy notion.

More often than not, guys constantly ripping off their shirts does not get as much negative feedback as girls in short shorts or mini-skirts. This is a double-standard and straight-up slut-shaming. I, personally, have no issues with any way someone dresses. The issue I have is that many idols would not choose these costumes for themselves.

Nine Muses gyrating in their 'Wild' MV
Personal issues with this aside, this skin-is-key definition creates a paradox: the very thing that is idolized and romanticized is condemned by the general Korean public. Korea objectifies idols, and then slut-shames them. While Kpop idols serve as the "final goal" --many people get plastic surgery in order to imitate their favorite stars-- mainstream Korean society condemns over-sexualization. You can't have it both ways, Korea. As international fans, we have access to all sorts of music videos, but in South Korea, there is the evil Ministry of Gender Equality & Family to "protect" everyone from explicit music videos and media. For example, this year, Nine Muses' "Wild" was deemed 19+ for provocativeness. But, the show must go on, and in Korea, as with the rest of the world, sex sells. If this is the norm, then why is there always such a fuss when girl groups comeback with the "sexy" concept?

HyunA's 'Bubble Pop' caused quite a stir
Let's take HyunA's wildly popular "Bubble Pop" as an example. This girl put on a camera persona, clad in shorts so tiny that, gasp, her cellulite showed as some points. People made a fuss about her for two reasons: One, how could her shorts be so short? Two, why does she have any bit of body fat? The complaints HyunA got on her video demonstrate the excessive Korean double-standard. People want sex, but when they get it, the want to pretend they are pure and attack idols for wearing what their companies pick out for them. Now, HyunA is still considered "the hottest thing in Kpop" (EYK), but many dismiss her as a slut/whore, etc. not realizing that what we see as the consumer is not the real HyunA; it is only a stage façade put on for the cameras. 

Girl' Day's 'Female President'
But, what's the harm in hot pants? Well, when female idols are forced to wear clothing that fits their concepts and images, this (lack of) clothing grabs fans' attentions and keeps them coming back for more. And, as we saw with "Bubble Pop", this more grows. Soon, people are talking about idols' bodies, whom they're dating, any sexual activities in which they've taken part --while seemingly harmless, the oft-asked "tell us about your first kiss" is an example of this. And then, people are doing more than just talking; they start pushing idols to change, change their clothing, change their bodies, change their personalities, which, as stated, are actually just personas created by idol companies. 

Rania's Dr. Feel Good
To see this, let's look at another example of netizen backlash,  Rania's hot debut, "Dr. Feel Good". I'm sure we all remember this song. With the English chorus going something like this:
Dr. Feel Good
come make me feel real good
strap me down onto my chair
I've been feeling real bad


SNSD 'Flower Power' stage outfits
It was a rare exposure to BDSM and other sexual references, definitely a risqué move, especially for a rookie group. Clothing-wise, -the girls were actually quite covered. While their shorts were indeed hot pants, they were high-waisted. The girls had on tall boots and jackets, so the exposed skin was minimized. These costumes would seem normal in Kpop, right? I mean even, the Kpop queens, SNSD, wore similar outfits. The difference was then the lyrics and dance moves. But what if Rania wore turtle necks and maxi skirts? Would the response have been the same? I think not. The hot pants contributed to their provocative image. And combined with their sensual lyrics? Rania didn't stand a chance. Their talent --their singing is beast, and they kill at dancing, not to mention their damn-near-perfect English-- was completely ignored. The worth of Rania was equated with the public's response to sexiness, bodies, and skin. Members were forced to leave, and the girls permanently got "slut" titles. All of this because they wore hot pants that showed a bit of skin. 

Lee Hyori flashes her underwear
in a shot for Cosmo
Another issue with the teeny-tiny clothing culture is fashion faux-paus, wardrobe malfunctions, and the like. During their "So Cool" promotions, Sistar had more than one run-in with the public eye. Their short dresses left little to the imagination and provided very little coverage for the girls. I know if I had to do some of their dance moves (hello, tango dance-break), that I would like a pair of spandex, at least, underneath. Or what about Miss Lee Hyori's Cosmopolitan pictures? Did the photographer have to capture her exposing her underwear? Thankfully, this was not the final shot used, but why couldn't she be allowed to wear something under her dress? After all, you could just edit it out later. I mean, really, her dress isn't even that short, but the media's attention on skin, legs, bodies, etc. led to her and others' embarrassing moments. (Of course, I do recognize I am projecting what I think happened on the situation. It could be that Lee Hyori wanted her underwear to show. I have no idea.) And these are just a couple instances of the hot pants phenomenon having negative repercussions. 


Running Man members looking sexy in hot pants
Am I against hot pants? Not at all. I am against the way the Korean public treats people who wear hot pants, both positively and negatively. tl;dr: Idols are not better than you because they look attractive in tiny shorts, nor are they below you because they flaunt their bodies.

I will leave you with this thought; in Running Man, when the crew needs a punishment, often times, they have to wear hot pants. 

What are your opinions on this topic/ female representation in general (in Korea or your country)? Please tell us in the comments below. I'm very interested in hearing your comments!

--Lauren

Further Reading: The Grand narrative hot pants article OR Sistar article, Seoulbeats article
Im cr. tumblr, soompi, seoulbeats

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