The sex and nudity pictogram of the Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB), a national rating organization, is soon to be changed. This image, used since 2009 by KMRB, is a red silhouette of a woman sitting aslant with her breast and hips accentuated.
This change has been prompted by criticism that the current pictogram’s indication to a particular sex negatively associates the female body with erotic films. In the latter half of last year, 10 civil complaints were filed through e-People: The People’s Online Petition & Discussion Portal. Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), also a government agency, similarly uses an image of women’s underwear to show the level of nakedness on the Internet. The Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC), on the other hand, uses a gender-neutral pictogram indicating both sexes and an image of a hand.
Due to their fast and concise nature and ability to hurdle language barriers, pictograms have been widely used for efficient communications in international events, such as the Olympics. Other examples of pictograms are traffic signs or emergency exit signs that can immediately convey their meaning through their universal pictorial representation. However, pictograms can often be problematic for oversimplifying a specific group and creating stereotypes.
“I believe the sexist pictogram represents the reality of the film world, where female body is equated with sex and nudity,” said Cho Min-hyung, a senior majoring in Korean Language & Literature. “I am happy to hear on-going changes and I hope KMRB and other film organizations sincerely learn and reflect over this change.”
There is a long history of the female body being negatively represented, especially in the film industry. It was only since 2010 when The Motion Picture Association of America Film Rating System began to add “male nudity” to the film descriptor.
“This seems like the aftermath of the ‘commons-based peer production,’ a production where large number of people work together, in this case, men exploiting the image of the female body,” said Kim Sesoria, a professor who teaches Questions for History and Philosophy.
“The female body parts like breasts, legs and bottoms have been sexualized as subjects of men’s sexual desire. To make matters worse, the digitalization of those images is only exacerbating the situation. This change reminds us to adopt critical thinking of female’s body image represented in our society and criticize their problems.”
The social movement #ItWasNeverADress inspired more than 50 million people to change their views on the woman figure depicted in toilet signs forever. This gave a clue to potential steps that can be taken in the future for a better representation of the female body.
The movement was created by Tania Katan and Axosoft, an influential speaker and an Arizona-based software company respectively. #ItWasNeverADress seeks to change perspectives of the traditional woman stick figure by revealing what has long been perceived as a dress to be the cape of a superhero.
When asked about how we can overcome similar stereotypes, Kim pointed out that the female body is objectified to create revenue in male-dominated economic systems.
Furthermore, she added that it is necessary to reflect over how the Korean patriarchal culture play a role in shaping economic systems that takes advantage of sexualized female body.