Bad Girl, Good Girl: Gender and Sexuality in Kpop

by Raizel Liebler

We are launching a new series focusing on gender and sexuality in kpop. We will be writing about Hyuna from 4minute, Amber from f(x), Minzy from 2ne1, and Ga-in from Brown Eyed Girls, to start.

To get things going and to contextualize how gender and sexuality are commonly portrayed in K-pop, we’ll be discussing how Kpop dichotomizes gender and sexual behavior through songs called either Bad/Good Girl or Bad/Good Boy in the past couple of years. And strangely enough, there have been plenty! This post covers Bad/Good Girl songs, so if you want the Bad/Good Boy post, go here.

I needed to stop adding songs to these posts because there are just so many songs with this theme — there are nineteen songs in these two posts. More possible additions include 2ne1’s Pretty Boy (doesn’t quite fit) and Black Queen’s Good Girl (hasn’t officially been released).

Overall, the message is — being a bad boy is something that can be excused, being a bad girl breaks some guy’s heart through being cold (and cheaty), so being a good girl is where it’s at. Because bad girls are just wrong!

Because the visuals of the music videos usually support the lyrics, demonstrating how “bad” or “good” someone is, I’ve tried to include mostly the original music video. Want more about the bad girls of kpop? Check out this Billboard article by Jeff Benjamin about the The 10 ‘Baddest Females’ in K-Pop.

Lee Hyori — Bad Girls (2013)

A comic book style origin story for a bad girl! Awesome! A heroine who can’t stand injustice, including sexism, wrapped within a catchy song, this is a considerable step up for Hyori in sending the same message within the song and the video. Her song U-Go-Girl had very independent lyrics about trusting oneself, while the video showed the road to success was paved with plastic surgery. This song is likely the best example on this list to demonstrate that “being bad” can have a positive disruptive influence on the world — as long as the audience isn’t distracted by the fanservice!

CL — Baddest Female (2013)

Technically, the English translation is Baddest Bitch, but considering it was released at the same time as Hyori’s Bad Girls, hence the name change. Despite CL’s excellent (even in heels!) dancing abilities, this song turns her “bad”ness into all talk and swagger and “bad meaning good”. Like Hyori’s Bad Girls, the lyrics announce a hard attitude (“if you want it, come and get it, if you don’t get married”), but the video is all boast, no proof.

Bumkey — Bad Girl (2013)

So this “bad girl” is bad because she — at worse — is stringing along one guy while committed to another? There’s nothing in the song that states that she is actually cheating, but the narrator wants her only for himself. So her ability to get up and go afterward to another guy is held against her. Bad girl = not tied down.

Ladies Code — Bad Girl (2013)

So this bad girl “is deceptive for love, who doesn’t know how to feel pain or cry”, so stay away! Otherwise, she will feminize any man who gets close to her, and then blow him away with long, pointy weapons.

Girls’ Generation (SNSD) — Bad Girl (2011)

Girls’ Generation is so not a bad girl group. None of them are the “perfect bad girl” that they boast to be, never saying the secret that proves it! In addition to their short-term “dark soshi” theme, which showed them in similar all-black outfits, their attempts to be bad are minimal (or laughable, depending on if you are being mean), and not likely to disturb parents of tweens. And yes, this song was originally released in Japanese.

miss A — Bad Girl, Good Girl (2010)

This song is the only one that specifically addresses slut-shaming, with the narrator singing about all of the things said about her behind her back. “Why are you judging me? Are you scared of me?” But at the same time as she is not ashamed of who she is, how she dresses, and how she dances, deep down, she is really a “good girl”. The narrator is looking for a boyfriend who won’t be clingy and let her be who she really is. Possibly the closest kpop is going to get to male-written feminism (for female fans) — while still with plenty of fanservice (for dudes). And this song became controversial, specifically the “drop it, bad girl” part, due to the age of Suzy, the girl in the A-line skirt, leading to her always doing that move behind the others while performing live.

Sunny Side — Bad Guy Good Girl (2010)

He’s a bad guy for breaking her heart, thinking that she was unfaithful, but she was always a good girl. Nothing she does will bring back her bad boy.

Beast — Bad Girl (2009)

So the girl who broke the heart of Beast doesn’t seem to have done anything specific to make her “bad”. Basically a K-pop version of Bieber’s Baby.

Devil & Angel — Bad Girl (2009)

Now she’s a bad girl. Mostly for not sticking with an arrogant ex. And getting around. Seriously? She transformed from a good girl to a bad girl — by piercing her ears, losing weight, and wearing pretty clothes, yet retains her innocence. I don’t get this song, but “everyone wants a bad girl.” Worst of the “bad girl” songs.



Comments (1)

hi do you have any research link or journal about kpop and gender matters , because i’m on research about Gender bieased on kpop Thank you

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