BLACKPINK music video reignites controversy over sexualizing uniforms
BLACKPINK music video reignites controversy over sexualizing uniforms
  • Yang Nam-kyung
  • 승인 2020.10.17 02:19
  • 수정 2020.10.21 15:51
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YG Entertainment (YG) received backlash when BLACKPINK’s new music video featured Jennie, one of its members, in a nurse outfit poles apart from actual ones. The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union and other institutions openly criticized the short skirt, nurse cap, and high heels, stating it was severe sexual objectification. YG decided to delete the following scene on Oct. 7, but it was only after the video had reached nearly 100 million views.

The Union was concerned that nurses are constantly subjected to sexual harassment in real life, even as they stand at the frontier of fighting the global pandemic. They said the sexual objectification of nurses by the media only exacerbates the situation.

Lee Yeo-sol, a senior student from the Department of Public Administration stated she was shocked at the sexual harassment that nurses were subjected to.

“When I was hospitalized, I heard some male patients sexually objectifying a female nurse,” Lee said. “They told her that they liked nurse cosplay so were happy to see a real nurse and commented that the nurse was pretty with the uniform but would be even prettier in other clothes.”

Lee stated that female nurses were not the only ones subjected to sexual objectification.

“Last year, I saw a middle schooler commenting on a female stewardess’s figure and face. It is an unforgettable memory. I think this sort of sexual harassment happens because certain professions force females to wear uniforms which emphasize their body. For example, female flight attendants have to wear extremely tight skirts and high heels.”

Sexual objectification controversy sheds light on first genderless flight attendant uniform

Ewha Voice interviewed Bhaak So-hyan from Post December, the Design Director of Korea’s first genderless stewardess uniform, from a novel airline called Aero K.

Bhaak said she was intrigued when she heard that Aero K wished to form the flight attendant crew with a 1:1 gender ratio. From three key words “upside-down,” “insideout” and “gender neutral,” an unprecedented genderless flight attendant uniform was developed.


Aero K is the first Korean airline to feature genderless uniforms. Photo provided by Aero K.
Aero K is the first Korean airline to feature genderless uniforms. Photo provided by Aero K.

“We created the uniform with activity and functionality in mind, which inevitably led us to changing the silhouette,” Bhaak said. “The uniform design is different from conventional uniforms, but what is valued as beautiful changes with time. Flexibility is needed in order to accept that this type of relaxed, loose fit is also beautiful, and our society has changed enough to accept this. I think uniforms are on the brink of change, as we no longer deem a revealing silhouette as necessary. Sexually objectifying uniforms no longer meet the wants of society.”

Bhaak emphasized her belief that designers are people who sense change and express it.

Kim Sang-bo, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Aero K, was the project initiator. He stated that his original goal was to break away from the stereotypical image of female flight attendants, who were tailored to male-oriented service. This made him wonder what the essence of flight attendants were.

“As a low-cost airline, we don’t have business or first-class seats,” Kim said. “This means providing ‘safety’ is the key factor of the job. Rather than chasing some narrow standards of ‘beauty’, I thought that activity and convenience should be the main function of the uniforms.”

He added that at first, it was the flight attendants themselves who had the most doubts. As they were already used to the established culture, the unfamiliarity of the genderless uniform made it hard for them to understand and accept it at first. Kim said he was determined to break the prejudices of the airline market and greatly welcomes customers with similar values. He stated that to those who question the direction Aero K is taking, he proudly tells them “You are not our customer!”

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