March 7th, 2019
Happy International Women’s Day! Jung Il- WOOmen!
It was hard to give a name to this post. But basically I aim to do two things: one, to give a picture the state of womanhood in Haechi as tomorrow, and today in many places is International Women’s Day and to summarize what happened in this episode of Haechi.
So how does one look at what I call the “State of Womanhood”? There are a few websites out there that have extensive research on these topics. But the top one and my favorite is ‘The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media’. For those of you who may not know who Geena Davis is, she is an American actress, known for her role in Thelma and Louise from 1991. (She was Thelma). She founded this institute in 2004. Here is a short video that showcases her institute, what her goals are and what they have been doing…
And these are some of the figures from this institute’s research:
- In movies, male characters received twice as much screen time and spoke twice as often compared to female characters. Lack of a voice on the screen can lead to a lack of a voice (or at least the perception of a lack of voice) in real life. Yes! Imagine all those little girls watching!!!
- Many female characters have unrealistic bodies and behaviors: Unrealistic unless you are Jessica Rabbit. Four studies reviewed the appearance and presentation of women on a variety of shows, animated and live action and found lots of big chests, small waists, and generally unrealistic bodies. Such images may be good for some plastic surgeons but can’t be good for the body image, self-confidence (unless you are Jessica Rabbit), eating habits, and other behaviors of girls and women.
- Advertisements feature twice as many male characters as female characters: The Gender Bias in Advertising study also found that 25% of ads had only men versus 5% featuring just women. Unless a quarter of all ads are about Viagra or testicle cream, something is wrong with this picture.
This is an excerpt from a study by Dr. Stacy L. Smith done for this Institute as well:
#2 Often Females’ Aspirations are Short Sighted
We assessed the goals or wishes of the female protagonists across the 13 films. Our analysis showed that Graded females can have a distinct set of desires. Some long for romantic love. Others wish for family, adventure, or even an attempt to discover who they are or what they want out of life. We can categorize their character cravings in one of three ways: as daydreamers; as those that get derailed from their initial ambition; or as daredevils that risk it all to achieve a particular goal.
The Daydreamers. Daydreamers are those characters that possess no particular goal or dream only of romantic love. In films with daydreamers, the female lead is more passive, i.e. unlikely to set a chain of events into motion or take action to seek her goals. Instead, the protagonist may respond to changes in her environment while other characters propel the action. A few females are shown with no explicit aspiration. These females are simply reactive to external forces impinging upon the course of their life.
The Derailed. Some leading females express a desire for one thing and are broadsided by romantic love. When this occurs, it can be said that the protagonist is derailed from her initial ambition. Characters evidencing this theme may desire adventure or express an urge to explore, yet they fixate their entire intention on romantic involvement with another person. As a result, the derailed females often make unimaginable sacrifices in the name of love.
The Daredevils. Protagonists in this category express a goal or make choices that will move them toward their ambition. Unlike the derailed, daredevils may encounter romantic love but are not willing to relinquish their initial pursuits or accept romance as their only prize.
Overall, in the sample, love seems to be in an integral part of female protagonists’ aspirations. Love may be an end state of, an interruption to, or an enhancement in the leading female’s life.
Another way to gauge the state of womenhood in a TV show or film is to look at the interactions between the female characters. What do they talk about? For this there is something called “The Bechdel Test.” Also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test, it is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For the test first appeared in 1985. Bechdel credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf.
Virginia Woolf, one of the best female writers this world has ever known made the same observations in her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own.
All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. … And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. … They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that …
I think that I can say personally that it’s not a small part… our families, husbands, children take at least half of our lives and in many cases even more if we don’t have an occupation that takes us away from our homes. But women like men have dreams of accomplishing other things… to learn, to travel, to create and do all kinds of things! And we should not be shamed for wanting it! It is our right!!!
So now let’s take a look at Haechi’s Episode 7.
Who are the women portrayed? What do they talk about? What are their roles in this society? Of course, because Haechi is a Saeguk, we can automatically know… Joseon was a very Patriarcal society, where women had very little say if any about their lives, no matter what position they occupied. They went from fathers to husbands and many times as girls. But in spite of this Haechi has shown some moments in which women characters as ‘stuck’ and as little as they appear have very strong voices. There is a reason for this… the writer of this series is a woman.
Ms. Kim Yi-young, she is the writer of Haechi. She has written several dramas like:
- Hwajung (MBC / 2015)
- Horse Doctor | Maui (MBC / 2012-2013)
- Dong Yi (MBC / 2010)
- Lee San, Wind of the Palace | Yi San (MBC / 2007-2008)
- Marrying a Millionaire | Baekmanjangjawa Kyeolheunhagi (SBS / 2005-2006)
- My Love Patzzi | Nae Sarang Patjwi (MBC / 2002)
This is a photo of her:
I found all that at Asianwiki.com. And sadly that’s all I could find … Now let’s look at the world she has recreated, under I imagine the watchful eye of the SH Entertainment Production Company KimJonghak.
So when do we see the first image of a woman in this episode? And who is it? 6:32 minutes into Haechi Yeo Ji appears… she is suffering as Mun Su is getting beaten for disrupting the King’s passage and speaking his mind in discontent about the civil exam corruption.
She is the leading lady and well she is like a he in some respects right? She is a “Damo.” It’s funny because at first I thought that it may have come from Spanish as “Dama” is a lady, so I figured that she is like a he so she is a Damo… but no. A quick search and Wikipedia had the answer:
“Damo specifically refers to class of servants during the Joseon Dynasty who were considered lower than slaves in their overall ranking within Korean society. Their main responsibility was to serve tea to the gentries. (Damo is literally translated as “Tea Lady”.) Damos were also employed in the palace to work as attendants in various government departments.
Historical records have indicated that in certain times, Damos were used as police officers to investigate crime, mostly for adultery and other crimes involving women, where male investigators could not ask questions about the case without causing embarrassment. They were required to be ” taller than 150 centimeters, be very agile, flexible, lift 40 kilograms of rice, and even withstand large quantities of alcohol without getting drunk.” The damo carried special identification that verified their authority, and were equipped with a small iron flail that could be used to break down doors and rope to apprehend criminals.  Arguably, the damo were the first female police with arrest capabilities in the world.”
Ha!!! So cool! so even in this sense her character is historically correct, except her whole involvement with Prince Lee Geum is not… She is pretty strong being able to stop this man with her little arm:
And I like that she has the same purpose in a way as the main male character… a more just and fair Joseon:
Yet in the end, she does need her prince with a higher status to save her friend:
Well… might as well enjoy the prince shall we?
And take by take:
Alright…back to WOOmen… I meant, women!
Update March 9, 2019: Go Ara suffered an injury in her ankle while filming on March 7th. HERE is an article. (I think this is why we saw some photos of Jung Il-woo back in Seoul eating soup, he has unintended break…) I really wish she heals well and soon!
So back to this episode, when does the second woman appear? Well we had to wait a long time… At 19:38, we finally get to see another specimen of that rarity called a woman… but not only do we get one, we get three more! So first is Chun Yoon-young (the woman who wants to be the queen via Mil Pung-kun), then the Crown Princess (wife of Gyeongjong.) and finally the Queen Inwon, the Queen Dowager. And do they pass The Bechdel Test? Nope…they are talking about men…
but there is an interesting twist… that first character, the ambitious queen wanna be, she actually says:
While, the highest ranked female in Haechi eavesdrops and agrees with her!!! This was refreshing to see!
Promising… well as much as it can be… but sadly then Haechi took a huge step backwards for me. This part coming up actually bothered me. Remember the part when the three ‘brothers’ are discussing what to do? Well Yeo Ji has the idea of going to the scholars to turn the tables:
But then , this male character steals here idea…
and then the main character ( who could be say the boss, the director, the owner of the company) does not acknowledge her… he just says:
WHAT?!!! Not fair…!!! This is the kind of stuff females put up with constantly! Even in my teaching world it has happened to me… But now I’m older and bolder and I stand up for myself saying my favorite line: “Yes! wasn’t my idea great I’m so glad you guys like it!” HA!!!
And we go to our next woman scene. Here we see Lee Geum’s two women, the wife and the concubine… and how could they possibly not talk about him? Another Bechdel Test Fail.
Then later on is this part… just read what she says…
What load of …!!! Selfless love… love your man no matter what he asks of you… yeah except everything has a limit! Because you should have something called self love and self respect! And stop him right there!
And here is the perfect portrayal of the woman who is boss over her feeble weak man:
Yes… here is your pacifier you wacko! She is definitely the strongest character after Yeo Ji!
And then…of course…what comes after… is classic:
Haechi had to fall for the Man shocked to see semi-naked woman part… heaven forbid should a man be shocked by a woman’s wit? or strength? All that she has shown him already? So many bad messages sent here to all the young girls: if you don’t look like this, you will not be admired by a man. Yes! Make your eyes bigger, straighten your hair, those curves means you are too fat… etc!
But yes… It was funny! And Jung Il-woo was so great in this part… the hit of his hat, the bewildered look… like oh my goodness, she’s got …uhhhummmm! WOOw~! He totally sells it…well…
OK…time for a WOOreak! I love…how he looks here:
Yes, I have to admit that as a woman I do look at looks as well… no doubt. I mean … hard not to with all the media screaming it! But many of my favorite actors are actually not handsome. But Jung Il-woo is really one of those rare packages that has it all! This man is smart, talented, sensitive, perceptive, kind, down to earth and handsome. Ok… enough WOOwness!
Update: March 14, 2019. Well maybe just a bit more of WOOOwness, I found these gorgeous images from this episode at the Haechi website:
Now moving onto the episode end… I loved the parallel balance between the female and the male leads in their fights:
Bravo Kim Yi-young! My final score for this Episode, in the state of Womanhood is 7/10. She manages to keep Yeo Ji strong, and give a little power to some of those other women.
So what happened in this episode? Well… I would call it table turning… both sides are trying to get their way… and the reunion of the the three siblings! and the most important… Prince Lee Geum is supported by key people to become the Crown Prince!
Even though women and men are different, the respect for each other and the balance in their strengths is what will make a more just world for both. As one hurts, the other hurts too…even though they may not realize it. We’ve come so far… women… and men too! We still have way to go before we are balanced… Cheers for that day… ! May it not be too far… for now I will say goodnight…or good morning with these amazing ladies… and that amazing guy who ran behind them in trying to save them …
PS. Update March 9, 2019: I saw this amazing Oscar winning documentary yesterday on Netflix. It was so up-lifting… just what I needed to watch! It’s called “Period. End of Sentence.” This is the trailer:
It was created by a non-profit organization called “The Pad Project” and this is part of their about description in their website:
“When a girl gets her period in the United States, she may miss a class.
When a girl gets her period in a developing country, she may never go to school again.
A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.
But, unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening all over the world.
Too many girls cannot afford or access sanitary pads, which means that when they get their period, they have to turn to unhealthy alternatives like dirty rags, leaves, or ashes. On top of their high risk of infection every time their period comes, they also have to miss school–and the more school they miss, the more likely it becomes that they will fall too far behind and have to drop out entirely.
But there is a new invention that solves this problem.
A man named Muruganantham created a machine that makes affordable, biodegradable pads from locally sourced materials.
Better still, the machine does more than just supply girls with pads: it supplies a steady income to the women in the area who want to work on it.
In other words, this machine helps both girls and women gain independence.
Our job is to aid that independence, and here is how we do so:
Connect with activists on the ground who have communicated that they need the machine.
Learn about the area’s specific needs from the local experts and make sure that we can supply enough funds to cover each one (for example, we always check if an area has sufficient power, and if they don’t, we will supply solar panels).
Raise enough money for one machine, a years’ worth of supplies (after which the machine and its profits will become a self-sufficient microeconomy for the women in the area), and a team of local women who can educate other women how to use the machine and also how to destigmatize periods.
Help us spread the word about our award winning documentary, raise more awareness and launch a monumental movement through our newly created non-profit, The Pad Project, LLC, a California non-profit corporation.”
It’s so great to see that seemingly small actions can be so helpful to our world. I knew about the use of rags by women in many third world countries… and even here when they can’t afford pads here in the USA. That’s what women used before pads came… but leaves? ashes? What?! And it can be so shaming and uncomfortable when you can’t deal with it properly. It falls on that list of basic needs of Maslow…and if you can’t cover the physical basic aspects of life, it’s harder to reach those mind higher ones…education, creation… this is what I’m talking about:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
On my list to support from now on! Go women!!!
PS. Saw Google’s Women’s tribute… and I loved it so I’m including it last minute: