[FOUNTAIN]The butt of feminist issuesAs music lilts in the background, a pretty woman walks along the street, slapping passing men on their bottom. Then, she slaps a police officer in uniform and the officer turns out to be a policewoman. The pretty woman smiles, abashed. These are scenes from a TV commercial that is being aired by a credit card company. This TV commercial reminds me of an advertisemen in the "Twenty Ads that Shook the World" by James Twitchell, which Revlon Inc., a major U.S. cosmetics maker, used to sell its perfume "Charlie" in the late 1960s. In the advertisement, a young female model, who is tall and self-assertive, slapped the man on the bottom.
In Western culture, slapping a person on the bottom had been a gesture that only men used, as when a coach encourages his player in a sports contest. But in the advertisement, women have begun to play that game. The perfume, Charlie, sold briskly, perhaps thanks to the feminist ad, and was at one time a global best-seller. A pat on the bottom is an unusual gesture, and what is unusual generally challenges the existing order. So the commercials are a reaction, in essence, against a conservative and male-oriented society. Ironically, Revlon had a rule at the time of the Charlie commercials that barred female staff members from coming to the office in slacks.
The Cabinet council approved a revised gender equality bill to prevent indirect discrimination against women. "Requiring some physical conditions in employment, such as minimum height, can be discrimination against women unless the conditions have critical influence on the performance of the job, even though such requirements may appear superficially to be an equal standard for men and women," said Kim Elim, a researcher at the Korean Women's Development Institute. In 1977, a female applicant for employment as a prison guard in Alabama filed a suit against the prison after she was rejected. She failed to meet the minimum weight and height requirements of 55 kilograms and 157 centimeters. The applicant finally won her case. During the court procedures, the defense pointed out that the requirements would exclude 41 percent of American women, and the prison authorities failed to show that the height and weight requirements were closely linked to the performance of prison guards.
Despite the butt-slapping of the pretty woman in the credit card commercial, problems of gender equality will continue. Men might accuse the woman of sexual harassment.
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun