K-pop’s music video gender imbalance : A look at some of the most popular clips reveals far more women than men on screen
But, a deep dive into the most popular music videos of the past few years on YouTube reveals that, in the majority of K-pop music videos, the number of women on screen often surpass the number of men, creating scenes where men are often paired up or surrounded by women, whereas women are often depicted as fighting over the same guy or dancing for the gaze of the camera.
Large pop groups with more than five or six members don’t usually feature backup dancers in their music videos or at live performances to fill up space. This is the case for many popular idol groups these days, such as the seven-member boy band BTS, the nine-member girl group Twice, the six-member group GFriend, the 11-member group Wanna One, the nine-member group Momoland, the seven-member group BtoB, the nine-member group EXO as well as some smaller groups such as Blackpink, which has four members.
But when artists do decide to feature other people in the background of their videos, they are nearly always women.
But contrary to the message of the song, the music video opens with the members of Winner sitting among eight girls in bikinis.
Similar images can be seen in music videos from a wide spectrum of artists. Rapper Zico and Babylon are surrounded by girls lounging in bathing suits in their video for “Boys and Girls” (2015), while scantily clad women dance for the camera in rapper Jay Park’s “Mommae” (2015) music video. Park Jin-young’s “Who’s Your Mama?” (2015) opens with Park blatantly staring at the bodies of women while they work out in the gym.
If this is the nature of music videos from male singers, then one might assume that music videos from popular girl groups would feature men as eye candy as well. Instead, most of these music videos feature stories that pit members of the group against each other as they fight for the attention of a single man or feature only the singers.
Even music videos from strong, young and female divas, such as CL, HyunA, Sunmi and Chungha, are packed with girls with maybe one man playing the singer’s lover in the video’s story. While male singers are often seen playfully hanging out with the women in their videos, female singers are frequently depicted as if they are flirting or fighting for the attention of a single man.
According to culture critic Ha Jae-geun, this phenomenon is based on conventional gender roles in the Korean art world that are set deep in the minds of the video directors, where women are deemed as something comparable to a flower - nice to look at and good to lighten up the mood.
“Conventionally in pop culture, women have been treated as a means to lighten up the mood, and to act as eye candy,” said Ha. “This is the case with the idol groups’ stage performances, but especially in music videos. Producers use women to make the screen look brighter. While a large number of women are used for sex appeal, the small number of men who appear are there to depict ordinary love scenes.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]