Шинэ жилийн мэнд хүргье (happy new year) to all!
I am back from Korea, re-energized and ready to make the descent into my last two months here in Mongolia (at least for this stint). I told myself I wasn’t going to do any research while on ‘vacation,’ but (I guess you can’t take the research out of the researcher) the lightness with which many Korean women evinced their plastic surgery stories baffled me. Western, free-market ideals seem to drastically affect the role of women and the perception of female beauty in every culture they impact, yet unique to the cultural and historical context. In the case of South Korea, it has lead to the highest rates of plastic surgery per capita in the world (esp. for eyelid surgery).
For a great article on the portrayal of gender role stereotypes with Western and Korean models in Korean media, click here.
Is this where Mongolia is heading? I recently collected about 500 surveys from Mongolian students in the countryside (so mostly herder kids) and in the city, which depicted a set of five different ethnic eyes (Latin, Scandinavian, African, Asian with eyelid, Asian without eyelid). When prompted to answer which eye was the most beautiful, a whopping 80 percent of both the city and countryside students chose either the Latin or Scandinavian eye (with the results seemingly split between them). Only 5 percent chose the most classic of Asian eyes (without the double eyelid) and that in combination with the statement one of my interviewees gave recently – namely that “Asian eyes are ugly” – has led me to ask what skewed women’s perceptions so severely against themselves? You tend to psychologically favor what you see the most, so why the overwhelming preference for what is ethnically unobtainable?
As the above article on Korean media mentions, Caucasian women represent around .01 percent of the Korean population, yet are depicted in around 40 percent of Korean advertisements. I would hazard to guess that the numbers are about the same here. And the power of the global advertising market to not only push specific (Caucasian) beauty ideals, but furthermore to almost exactly imitate the same gendered norms in advertising across the globe astounds me.
This is what I mean: These are Mongolian T.V. advertisements we (YWC – Young Women for Change and I) recently used in our beauty image workshop; just in case you thought that the battle regarding the hyper-sexualized and violent depictions of women in advertising was solely a Western phenomenon…
Here is a very gender norm stereotypical French “1 Million” perfume ad:
and its Mongolian ‘Bolor Vodka’ counterpart:
Just replace Western actors with Mongolian ones: A global advertising agency’s dream.
The Gender Politics of Alcohol
In my previous post, I talked about how drinking and smoking in Mongolian society traditionally have very strong masculine connotations. Well, to support that notion, it seems that the industry in Mongolia that has the most sexualized, gender stereotypical advertisements is the alcohol industry. Anyone who has ever watched superbowl commercials can not help but notice the similarity these ads have to Western beer commercials…
Woman = beer bottle in this advertisement with four top Mongolian models (including Odgerel):
This advertisement for a dutch beer, “Bavaria,” is super new (just a few months old) and super infuriating *cough*:
Mongolian standard (for women)? w/ Urantsetseg
Seriously, West, what are you exporting?