9.06.2013

Diet Street Vendors: Body Shaming Harassment

IT isn’t enough that I can’t ride the subway, walk down the street, turn on the TV or read printed material without an onslaught of advertisements for diet, cosmetic surgery or encounter body shaming. Now, diet companies are taking to the streets to do one-on-one diet promotions in Seoul.

YESTERDAY at about 3PM, I was walking down the street and passed a promotion table set in the middle of the sidewalk in front of a new diet shop. Four employees (3 male, 1 female) sat at the table with pitchers of some kind of diet drink. A male employee approached me and blocked my path.

Employee: 다이어트! 다이어트! (= Diet! Diet!)
Me: 관심이 없습니다. (= I’m not interested.)
Employee: [He makes hand gestures for the hourglass body shape and repeats] 다이어트!
Me: 관심이 없다고 했어요. 다이어트 필요없어요. [= I said I'm not interested. I don't need to diet.] (I try to step around him)
Employee: (He dodges back into my path) Make Good Body. 다이어트! Make Good Shape! (He keeps making the exaggerated hand gestures for tracing an hourglass figure in the air in front of me as if he were TRACING on my body as a blank canvas)
Me: 가는 길이 막히고 있어요. 필요없다고 했어요!  (= You’re blocking my road, I said I don’t need it!)
(Meanwhile the other 3 employees are laughing hysterically)
I picked up my pace, got past him and walked about 10 meters further down the street. Then I stopped. I was angry. I returned to the table and confronted the member who seemed to be in charge.

Me: 왜 재미있어요? 왜 무례한말 하면서 웃었어요? (= Why is it funny? Why do you laugh while saying rude things?)
Team Leader: 죄송한데요. 다이어트 프로모션하고 있어요. (= I’m sorry, we are doing a diet promotion)
Me: 그렇게 잘 팔라요? 가는 길 막히고 무례한말하고 손으로 너무 성차별적인 행동이 안 돼요! (Do you sell well that way? Blocking the road, saying rude things and making a sexist hand gesture is not ok!)
THAT was all I could say. What I wanted to say was that it was harassment, body shaming, that this company had no right to follow and bother customers. I wanted to say that after I said I was not interested in the diet products, his employee further insisted that I should “make good body shape” and that there should be some sort of consequence for inappropriate behavior.But what consequence would there be?

WHAT if I do call the company? They are probably glad that their sales team is being aggressive.
WHAT if I reported (to someone) feeling harassed? It’s pretty minor, really.

WHAT if I told that employee how he made me feel? Would he be able to consider me enough of a person to care that I had to fight off the internalization of the shaming he was putting my body through, the way he was objectifying me, tracing symbols over my body as he looked on it.
Image Credit deviantart 

I am not a picture, I am not a canvas, and I am not a drawing board, sculpture or object that you can sketch over with your eyes or your hands!