- Infinite and Woollim Entertainment
Cancel concert screenings and plans for release of "Inconvenient Truth"
"Inconvenient Truth" ("불편한진실"), a track performed by Korean male pop group Infinite, is a production embedded with misogynist messages and triggers for gender-based violence. The lyrics promote victim-blaming and gender oppression, while the music video depicts rape culture and undermines its severity. The video is currently being screened in all 31 venues of their world tour "One Great Step".
We accept that this may have not been intentional, which makes it all the more deserving of attention. As much as misogyny in any form should immediately be confronted, there is great concern about the effects this will have on the thousands of the young fans, most of whom are female, who will attend these concerts. As a pop culture product, it stunts efforts against gender inequality and violence by misinforming young audiences about sex, interpersonal relationships, and their individual liberties. As a production undertaken by Infinite, young men whose voices thousands listen to, it is a betrayal to their obligation not only as role models, but as members of society with influence many wish they had. "Inconvenient Truth" feeds the structures of patriarchy that continue to disempower women and men alike day by day. They owe it to their fans, and their fans owe it to them, to take responsibility and assume a role in the effort towards a safer and fairer reality.
We call upon not just Inspirits but the K-pop community, Korean and non-Korean; and even those outside of it, to sign this petition to request Infinite, their label Woollim Entertainment, production and management teams to 1) re-evaluate the concept and execution of "Inconvenient Truth"; 2) consider canceling screenings of "Inconvenient Truth" at upcoming world tour venues and plans for any official release; and 3) acknowledge and understand the reasons behind these requests. We wish not to pin ourselves against Infinite and Woollim Entertainment, but rather work with them in sincere and mutual interest to foster genuine understanding of our plights as young men and women in today's society. That is our ultimate purpose, for we believe it is the true expression of our support as fans, and indeed one great step closer to positive change.
We would like to get this message directly into the hands of Woollim Entertainment. Signing this petition will make you a signatory of this message. You will be added to our contact list; and we will communicate with you our updates every step of the way.
The launch of Infinite’s first-ever world tour “One Great Step” is undoubtedly a milestone. Being able to perform in over thirty venues all over the globe demonstrates the group’s popularity beyond South Korea, a growing number of fans who devote much of their time and energy to support these seven talented men. As a part of their global community of fans, we applaud them for this achievement, and we look forward to the many more successes heading their way.
But "Inconvenient Truth" is a concern we strongly believe warrants attention and understanding. With the sincere intention of helping Infinite, Woollim Entertainment, and fellow fans understand the issue at hand, we have outlined it in detail below.
The lyrics promote victim-blaming. Reprimanding a woman because of her decision to wear the clothes she chooses justifies that it is her fault she is attracting unwanted attention. This is wrong because it encourages the idea that the reason behind potential violence and abuse is because she is a woman; the acceptance that women will always be violated because they are women; that there is something inherently wrong with being a woman. This is not a healthy message. It steers the blame away from those who are truly responsible: the people who leer at her and the people who violate her. Some examples in reality include this case of an 11-year old Texan girl who was gang-raped and blamed; a 23-year old woman in India who was also gang-raped and continually shamed even after her death. In South Korea, a 29-year old woman who took her own life after being insulted by the court judge; and a 12-year old whose assailants have been excused from certain criminal laws because 'they thought the girl was older.' The ones who commit such horrid acts are sympathized with at the expense of their victim's dignity and self-worth; and the ones truly prosecuted are those who were hurt and abused. This is unfair.
The lyrics promote the assumption that women ought to fear men. The line “men are wolves” (”남자는 모두 늑대야”) is the center of this concern. To accept this as fact is extremely dangerous for a number of reasons. First, this is merely a gender construct and serves to strictly define what being a 'man' really means. Gender constructs buttress power inequalities between sexes because what a man is 'supposed to be' is often a more privileged and advantaged position than a woman. On an individual level, this encourages men to be forward in their approach, as it is an expression of their 'masculinity', even at the expense of a woman's comfort zone. At its extremity, it gives the go-ahead to sexual aggression. Second, men themselves are pressured by definitions of masculinity, thus such characterizations are very reductionist and dismissive of the myriad of ways men choose to express themselves. Third, because it is seen as part of ‘man’s nature’, it is rendered into something that can not be helped. It thus allows for women to be dictated by male-defined standards in how they should behave in society, completely disempowering them from carving out their own individualities. Fourth, it reiterates that the cause of rape and forms of sexual violence and harassment is because, again, a woman is a woman, not because a man violated her. Are women are the ones who need to ‘restrain themselves’ in this situation? This discourages proper prosecution against sexual aggressors, the real instigators of violence and abuse. Finally, as men are reduced to merely their sexual urges, women are desexualized. Women ought to be allowed to express their sexuality (responsibly and consensually) as much as men do; but instead they are discouraged as they are shamed, ridiculed, and automatically thrown under the threat of violence. Men are not told to think they are in danger of the opposite sex, but women are. Men have the agency and a voice that is heard when they fight against harm, but women don’t. This is unfair.
The music video not only depicts patriarchy and rape culture but undermines the severity of it. Rape culture describes our society today: the normalization and perpetuation of violence against women through images and language in advertising, music, movies, TV, books, politics, and personal, everyday life. It is so ubiquitous that we ourselves do not know we allow it to continue through our own experiences, through the words we say and the decisions we make. Portrayals of the Infinite members staring at the woman’s breasts and attempting to look up her dress to the backdrop of lyrics that put the responsibility for these behaviors in the hands of the woman alone - this is rape culture in action. The woman is not communicating any consent whatsoever to being stared at and eventually harassed. “But her clothes?” This communicates the flawed belief that all there is to a woman is her physical beauty, and that she is nothing but a object for men to gaze upon. This arbitrary deprivation of her liberty, the subjugation of her individuality to men, is violence. Furthermore, all of this placed in a humorous light that plays to the affection of their fans minimizes the gravity of this issue and impedes them from knowing how to properly identify abuse and violation. Rape culture and patriarchy is the reason why women feel inferior and constantly threatened out in public, and even in their own homes. It is the reason why women experience higher rates of sexual assault than men; why you see on your local news reports of rape incidents in which the victims are women; why a close male friend, acquaintance, or relative are among those who are likely to assault a woman. This is unfair.
We acknowledge the counter view, that the lyrics and imagery express protectiveness on the man’s part. He is merely looking out for the safety of the woman. But ‘protectiveness’ is a double-edged sword. By dictating her on what she can or cannot wear - which he has no endowed right to because he does not own her - he is taking the side of those who will harm her. If she gets violated, it is because her skirt was too short, not because of the abusers with the ill intentions. It disempowers the woman, tosses her into a pit of helplessness, and subordinates her to not just one man but all men.
As much as we are Inspirits and K-pop fans, many of us are these women we talk of. It is not fair that we will always be under the threat of violence anywhere at anytime merely because of who we are. It is not fair that it is not our words, opinions, talents and individualities we are judged by, but our external appearance - how short our skirts are, how fat or thin we are, how dark the color of our skin is. It is not fair that we are to live our lives in constraint, that we are robbed of our freedom and right to assume who we want to be; that everything we do for ourselves is seen as for the attention of men. It is not fair that no matter what we do, we will always be seen as objects claimable by any man who walks down the street.
Many K-pop fans are also men, and we would like to turn to them and encourage them to speak up against the gendered behaviors and mentalities that are forced upon us by this system of patriarchy purely because of our sexes. It is not fair that men become ridiculed for not being "manly" enough, for thinking there is something wrong with them if and when they refuse to adhere to external definitions of "masculinity". Clearly, even as the supposed centerpiece of a male-oriented world, they too are targets of violence.
"Inconvenient Truth" is a slap to our faces. As fans, we have the obligation to communicate its harmful effects to the group and its creators. As young women and men, we have right to stand up for ourselves.
We will continue building our case; and we wish to keep spreading awareness about misogyny and rape culture, especially among K-pop fans. It should also go without saying that it victimizes men just as much as women too. Please direct questions, comments and other correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org, @angrykpopfan, Facebook or visit http://angrykpopfan.tumblr.com.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: I just want to point out that there are many of us who did not think much of the song and the music video in the beginning. But just because we don't see it at first or at all, it doesn't mean it's not a problem. Sexism and patriarchy is hard to see because we are so immersed in it. It's not a secret that there is so much gender-based violence and discrimination happening around the world, and it comes from this very culture that is so normalized and so invisible. It really is true that all of us, guys and girls, are harmed by its effects. That's why it's important that when we realize something is wrong, we speak out against it.
There may be some out there who feel that what we are asking is a lot to ask. I acknowledge it is a lot. But the reason why I think it’s worth urging this request is to demonstrate how serious of an issue this is. Our request reflects not so much what we expect them to do as to what we feel is right should happen. The eventual plan of action is in their hands, because the ultimate goal of this campaign is to achieve understanding on why this is a problem. I think a big part of that will be enforced by pushing forward this request. We want to instigate action, but I think what is most important is to show that we are standing up for ourselves and in what we believe in, beyond ourselves as fans of Infinite and fans in general.
- Infinite and Woollim Entertainment
We urge the re-evaluation of the song and music video concept of "Inconvenient Truth".
We request that the cancellation of its screenings in future "One Great Step" venues and plans for any official release to be considered.
Most importantly, we strongly ask that our voice is heard and attention granted to the issue of misogyny and gender-based violence encouraged by pop-culture products.
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