‘Where all my bad girls at?’
cosmopolitan femininity through racialised appropriations in K-pop
Keywords:appropriation, embodiment, chronotope, Korean, performance
This article examines the polyvalence of racial(ised) representations in K-pop performances. The analysis of K-pop star CL’s (2013) song and video ‘Nappeun gijibae’ (‘The bad girl’) demonstrates how the artist projects an assertive femininity by embodying and localising the Bad Bitch: a sexually agentive figure of womanhood from US hip hop. CL’s use of African American English and conventionalised hip hop tropes helps resignify gijibae, a pejorative Korean term for women. By shifting between decontextualised styles invoking a different time and place, CL is able to build a kind of chronotopic capital that transforms fragmented styles into an empowered cosmopolitan femininity. However, although CL’s performance challenges Korean gendered norms in its use of local linguistic resources, her selective appropriations of US Black and Chicanx cultural signifiers reproduce narrow images of racialised femininities and reify a hierarchy of valuation along lines of gender and race.
NE1 (27 May 2013) CL (THE BADDEST FEMALE) M/V [Video File]. Retrieved 1 October 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LP4foN3Xs4
Agha, Asif (2007) Language and Social Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ahn, Patty (2017) YouTube is taking K-pop global. Flow Journal. Retrieved from https://www.flowjournal.org/2017/11/youtube-is-taking-k-pop-global/
Alim, H. Samy (2004a) Hip Hop Nation Language. In Alessandro Duranti (ed) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader 272–289. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Alim, H. Samy (2004b) You Know My Steez: An Ethnographic and Sociolinguistic Study of Styleshifting in a Black American Speech Community. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Alim, H. Samy, Ibrahim, Awad and Pennycook, Alistair (eds) (2009) Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language. New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203892787
Anderson, Crystal S. (2020) Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1595mmf
Andy (30 July 2014) ‘Show Me the Money 3’ is losing its way. Seoulbeats. Retrieved from https://seoulbeats.com/2014/07/show-money-3-losing-way/
Bakhtin, Mikhail (1981) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin (Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist trans). Austin, TX: University of Texas.
Bauman, Richard and Briggs, Charles Leslie (1990) Poetics and performance as critical perspectives on language and social life. Annual Review of Anthropology 19: 59–88. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.19.100190.000423
Benjamin, Jeff and Oak, Jessica (13 July 2015) Top 10 K-Pop boy bands you need to know. Retrieved from http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6620438/10-essential-k-pop-boy-bands
Berrios, Reynaldo (2006) Cholo Style: Homies, Homegirls and La Raza. Los Angeles: Feral House.
Billboard (25 June 2015) CL: An interview with the K-Pop star, 2013 Billboard [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMdE3F4rOYk
Bloomquist, Jennifer, Green, Lisa J. and Lanehart, Sonja L. (eds) (2015) The Oxford Handbook of African American Language. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199795390.001.0001
Briggs, Charles Leslie and Bauman, Richard (1992) Genre, intertextuality, and social power. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2(2): 131–172. https://doi.org/10.1525/jlin.19188.8.131.52
Bucholtz, Mary (2003) Sociolinguistic nostalgia and the authentication of identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7(3): 398–416. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00232
Bucholtz, Mary (2011) White Kids: Language, Race and Styles of Youth Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975776.004
Bucholtz, Mary (2016) On being called out of one’s name: indexical bleaching as a technique of deracialization. In H. Samy Alim, John Russell Rickford and Arnetha F. Ball (eds) Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas about Race 273–289. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190625696.003.0016
Bucholtz, Mary and Hall, Kira (2004) Language and identity. In Alessandro Duranti (ed) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology 369–394. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470996522.ch16
Chang, Jeff (2005) Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Choi, Lee Jin (2017) The gendered construction of ‘inauthentic’ female bilinguals in South Korea: authenticity, English and gender. Gender and Language 11(4): 507–528. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.31606
Condry, Ian (2006) Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822388166
Considine, Austin (20 June 2012) When sneakers and race collide. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/fashion/adidas-cancels-release-of-shackle-sneakers.html
Dattatreyan, Ethiraj G. (2014) Hard Kaur: broadcasting the new Desi woman. Communication, Culture & Critique 8(1): 20–36. https://doi.org/10.1111/cccr.12071
Daum (n.d.) gijibae. dic.daum.net. Retrieved 1 May 2017 from https://dic.daum.net/search.do?q=%EA%B8%B0%EC%A7%91%EC%95%A0
Daum (n.d.) gyejibae. dic.daum.net. Retrieved 1 May 2017 from https://dic.daum.net/word/view.do?wordid=kkw000015703
Eberhardt, Maeve (2016) Subjects and objects: linguistic performances of sexuality in the lyrics of black female hip-hop artists. Gender and Language 10(1): 21–47. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v10i1.16507
Epstein, Stephen and Turnbull, James (2014) Girls’ generation?: gender, (dis)empowerment, and K-pop. In Kyung Hyun Kim and Youngmin Choe (eds) The Korean Popular Culture Reader 314–336. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822377566-019
Escobedo, Elizabeth R. (2007) The pachuca panic: sexual and cultural battlegrounds in World War II Los Angeles. Western Historical Quarterly 38(2): 133–156. https://doi.org/10.1093/whq/38.2.133
Fregoso, Rosa Linda (1995) Homegirls, cholas, and pachucas in cinema: taking over the public sphere. California History 74(3): 316–327. https://doi.org/10.2307/25177514
Fregoso, Rosa Linda (1999) Re-imagining Chicana urban identities in the public sphere, cool chuca style. In Caren Kaplan, Norma Alarcon and Minoo Moallem (eds) Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms, and the State 72–91. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Fuhr, Michael (2015) Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315733081
General, Ryan (4 February 2019) Jay Park defends artist with dreads after accusations of ‘cultural appropriation’. NextShark. Retrieved from https://nextshark.com/jay-park-cultural-appropriation/
Green, Lisa J. (2002) African American English: A Linguistic Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511800306
Guevara, Nancy (1996) Women writin’ rappin’ breakin’. In William Eric Perkins (ed) Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture 49–62. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Gupta-Carlson, Himanee (2010) Planet B-Girl: community building and feminism in hip-hop. New Political Science 32(4): 515–529. https://doi.org/10.1080/07393148.2010.520438
Hall, Kira (2014) Hypersubjectivity: language, anxiety, and indexical dissonance in globalization. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 24(2): 261–273. https://doi.org/10.1075/japc.24.2.06hal
Hall, Kira (2019) Middle class timelines: ethnic humor and sexual modernity in Delhi. Language in Society 48(4): 491–517. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404519000435
Haugen, Jason D. (2003) ‘Unladylike divas’: language, gender, and female gangsta rappers. Popular Music and Society 26(4): 429–444. https://doi.org/10.1080/0300776032000144904
Herman, Tamar (26 March 2018) Female K-pop stars face criticism for seemingly feminist behavior. Billboard. Retrieved from http://www.billboard.com/index.php/articles/columns/k-town/8257777/female-k-pop-stars-face-criticism-feminist-behavior
Hiramoto, Mie and Kang, M. Agnes (2017) Media articulations of gender and sexuality. Gender and Language 11(4): 453–559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/genl.33342
Hiramoto, Mie and Park, Joseph Sung-Yul (2010) Media intertextualities: semiotic mediation across time and space. Pragmatics and Society 1(2): 179–188. https://doi.org/10.1075/ps.1.2.00int
Hogarth Hyun-key Kim (2013) The Korean Wave: an Asian reaction to western-dominated globalization. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 12(1–2), 135–151. https://doi.org/10.1163/15691497-12341247
Hydara, Siti (27 June 2017) No, you don’t get to do blackface just because you’re brown. Madison365. Retrieved from https://madison365.com/no-dont-get-blackface-just-youre-brown/
Jin, Dal Yong (2014) The power of the nation-state amid neoliberal reform: shifting cultural politics in the new Korean Wave. Pacific Affairs 87(1): 71–92. https://doi.org/10.5509/201487171
Jin, Dal Yong (2016) New Korean Wave: Transnational Cultural Power in the Age of Social Media. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. https://doi.org/10.5406/Illinois/9780252039973.001.0001
Johnson, Imani Kai (2014) From blues women to b-girls: performing badass femininity. Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 24(1): 15–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/0740770x.2014.902649
Kang, M. Agnes and Chen, Katherine Hoi Ying (2017) Gender stereotype as a vehicle for social change?: the case of the Kong Girl. Gender and Language 11(4): 460–481. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.31607
Keyes, Cheryl L. (2000) Empowering self, making choices, creating spaces: black female identity via rap music. The Journal of American Folklore 113(449): 255–269. https://doi.org/10.2307/542102
Keyes, Cheryl L. (2002) Rap Music and Street Consciousness. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Kim, Minju (2008) On the semantic derogation of terms for women in Korean, with parallel developments in Chinese and Japanese. Korean Studies 32(1): 148–176. https://doi.org/10.1353/ks.0.0000
Kim, Suk-Young (2018) K-pop Live: Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781503606005
Kim, Suk-Young (2020) Black K-pop: racial surplus and global consumption. TDR/The Drama Review 64(2): 88–100. https://doi.org/10.1162/dram_a_00921
Kim, Youna (2013) The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315859064
Lee, Jamie Shinhee (2004) Linguistic hybridization in K-pop: discourse of self-assertion and resistance. World Englishes 23(3): 429–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0883-2919.2004.00367.x
Lee, Jamie Shinhee (2011) Globalization of African American Vernacular English in popular culture: Blingish in Korean hip hop. English World-Wide 32(1): 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.32.1.01lee
Lie, John (2015) K-pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520958944
Lopez, Qiuana (2014) Aggressively feminine: the linguistic appropriation of sexualized blackness by white female characters in film. Gender and Language 8(3): 289–310. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i3.289
Mau, Dhani (10 April 2014) Watch: Nicki Minaj, Jeremy Scott, Sky Ferreira and 2NE1 star in new Adidas campaign. Fashionista. Retrieved 2 April 2020 from https://fashionista.com/2012/08/watch-nicki-minaj-jeremy-scott-sky-ferreira-and-2ne1-star-in-new-adidas-campaign
Mendoza-Denton, Norma (1996) ‘Muy macha’: gender and ideology in gang-girls’ discourse about makeup. Ethnos 61(1–2): 47–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/00141844.1996.9981527
Moon, Kyuwon, Starr, Rebecca L. and Lee, Jinsok (2013) The role of African American English and Anglicized Korean in the construction of authenticity in Korean popular hip-hop. Paper presented at the Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.
Morgan, Joan (2012) Hip-hop feminist. In Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal (eds) That’s the Joint: The Hip Hop Studies Reader 413–418. New York: Routledge.
Morgan, Marcyliena (2005) Hip-hop women shredding the veil: race and class in popular feminist identity. South Atlantic Quarterly 104(3): 425–444. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-104-3-425
Oh, Chuyun (2014) Performing post-racial Asianness: K-pop’s appropriation of hip-hop culture. Congress on Research in Dance Conference Proceedings 2014: 121–125. https://doi.org/10.1017/cor.2014.17
Park, Joseph Sung-Yul (2009) The Local Construction of a Global Language: Ideologies of English in South Korea. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110214079
Pennycook, Alastair (2007) Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203088807
Pennycook, Alastair (2009) Refashioning and performing identities in global hip-hop. In Nikolas Coupland and Adam Jaworski (eds) The New Sociolinguistics Reader 326–340. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-92299-4_23
Perry, Imani (2004) Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822386155
problematicidod (9 February 2020) MASTER THREAD ~ kpop idols mocking or appropriating other cultures!! [Twitter thread]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/problematicidod/status/1226557608913403904
Ramirez, Catherine S. (2006) Saying ‘nothin’’: pachucas and the languages of resistance. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 27(3): 1–33.
Raven, Erick (2020) HyunA: the nexus of Blackness, feminism, and K-pop. The Journal of Popular Culture 53(1): 192–214. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12883
Rickford, John Russell (1999) African American Vernacular English: Features, Evolution, Educational Implications. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Robertson, Robert (1995) Glocalization. In Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash and Roland Robertson (eds) Global Modernities 25–44. London: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446250563.n2
Rojas-Sosa, Deyanira (2020) Should Latinas go blonde?: media representation and the regulation of Latinas bodies and Latinas social and cultural practices in a beauty magazine. Gender and Language 14(1): 49–72. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.36302
Rose, Tricia (1994) Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
Saeed, Saeed (8 June 2020) Why K-pop needs to stop appropriating black culture and start collaborating more. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/music/why-k-pop-needs-to-stop-appropriating-black-culture-and-start-collaborating-more-1.1030376
Saleh, Safa (25 December 2019) K-pop and the hypocrisy of cultural appropriation. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@safasaleh383/k-pop-and-the-hypocrisy-of-cultural-appropriation-42779e0ac55f
Scott, Karla D. (2000) Crossing cultural borders: ‘girl’ and ‘look’ as markers of identity in Black women’s language use. Discourse & Society 11(2): 237–248. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926500011002005
Seabrook, John (1 October 2012) Factory girls: cultural technology and the making of K-pop. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/08/121008fa_fact_seabrook
Shim, Young-Hee (2001) Feminism and the discourse of sexuality in Korea: continuities and changes. Human Studies 24(1–2): 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1010775332420
Smalls, Krystal A. (2018) Languages of liberation: digital discourses of emphatic Blackness. In Netta Avineri, Laura R. Graham, Eric J. Johnson, Robin Conley Riner and Jonathan Rosa (eds) Language and Social Justice in Practice 52–60. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315115702-7
Smitherman, Geneva (1997) ‘The chain remain the same’: communicative practices in the Hip Hop Nation. Journal of Black Studies 28(1): 3–25. https://doi.org/10.1177/002193479702800101
Song, Myoung-Sun (2019) Hanguk Hip Hop: Global Rap in South Korea. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15697-8
Squires, Lauren (2014) From TV personality to fans and beyond: indexical bleaching and the diffusion of a media innovation. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 24(1): 42–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/jola.12036
Stanlaw, James (2000) Open your file, open your mind: women, English, and changing roles and voices in Japanese pop music. In Timothy J. Craig (ed) Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture 75–100. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Sutton, Laurel A. (1995) Bitches and skankly hobags: the place of women in contemporary slang. In Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz (eds) Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self 279–296. New York: Routledge.
Tatum, Charles M. (2011) Lowriders in Chicano Culture: From Low to Slow to Show. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.
Tuzcu, Pinar (2017) ‘Ich bin eine Kanackin’: Decolonizing Popfeminism – Transcultural Perspectives on Lady Bitch Ray. Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839435724
Vigil, James Diego (2013) Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Washington, Adrienne Ronee (2020) ‘Reclaiming my time’: signifying, reclamation, and the activist strategies of Black women’s language. Gender and Language 14(4): 358–385. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.41607
Williams, Quentin (2017) Remix Multilingualism: Hip Hop, Ethnography and Performing Marginalized Voices. London: Bloomsbury. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781474295420
Willoughby, Heather A. (2006) Image is everything: the marketing of femininity in South Korean popular music. In Keith Howard (ed) Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave 99–108. Dorset, UK: Global Oriental.
Zeenah (17 August 2019) Cultural appropriation in the age of K-pop part two. Stitch’s Media Mix. https://stitchmediamix.com/2019/08/17/cultural-appropriation-in-the-age-of-k-pop-part-two/