BREAK THE STEREOTYPES – PART 1 BEING ARMY IS A SECOND FULL-TIME JOB
Stereotype (noun): A standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment (Merriam-Webster).
The human brain is wired to always make things up about the unknown because it is terrifying, even if that implies fantasy and unverified facts. ARMY is a huge, well-organized, and dedicated fandom to the Korean boyband BTS, which can appear scary to other people. Thus, people prefer to put ARMY in boxes and stereotypes to be reassured. The word “boyband” resonates in people’s ears as dismissive and petty, immediately bringing the general public to refer to our fandom as “screaming teenage girls.”
Working against stereotypes
At ARMY Magazine (AM) we have the dream of deconstructing these untrue stereotypes around BTS and ARMY. We believe that we can demonstrate how diverse our fandom is without having young girls’ impact on music belittled. BTS’ fans are not only teenage girls; like the Persona, the Shadow and the Ego of a human-being, the ARMY fandom has many faces. Starting with our staff, let’s dive into gripping careers and their associated responsibilities that many of us experience daily, while proudly belonging to BTS’ ARMY.
Numbers immediately call out on ARMY’s diversity. At AM, we have 103 volunteers so far, the youngest of whom have just started their careers, while some of us have professional experiences of fifteen or even twenty-five years.
Results of the survey carried out among the members of ARMY Magazine
As many ARMYs as professional fields
Lia and Elena, respectively Indonesian and Spanish translators, are dedicated teachers for a living. So is Marcie who is also assistant manager, writer and editor at AM. Elena teaches middle school students, Marcie works with high school students with moderate and severe disabilities and Lia teaches English to elementary school pupils in Indonesia.
Selflessness is a core definition of Shay and Katelyn’s jobs, too. A researcher at AM, Katelyn also works at a public library as a circulation clerk. In addition to being AM’s General Manager, Shay is a Service Coordinator for home health. About her job, she says: “I schedule visits to patients’ homes, hire staff, run background checks on potential employees, teach First Aid and CPR classes, etc.”
ARMY Magazine also has technical and creative representatives. ThornToHisRose is a graphic designer both in real life and at AM, like Eli who is also a media content creator. Achan, another one of our designers, works as a door-to-door seller. AM’s designer and co-manager Judy is an interior designer, and Kevia, from the HR and translators teams, works as a Research Consultant at a Science Communication Training Institute. When she isn’t writing blogs for AM, Nawaahl is a Professional Assistant to an IT Business Partner. Do you see that wall of stereotypes slowly cracking?
Dealing with a professional job and ARMY Magazine
Pursuing two “careers” simultaneously obviously requires a great deal of organization. Pury, our Indonesian language co-manager, translator, and virologist who does research and laboratory testing, works for AM at night after her daytime job or sometimes, at lunchtime. So does Melis-san who is one of AM’s French translators and works in a small music agency as a commercial and administrative assistant.
Following BTS’ footsteps and busy lives, keywords of ARMY workers are mostly “schedule” and “balance." Kevia, Elena, Lia, Achan and ThornToHisRose are happy with the balance they found between their ARMY and working times whereas Dani, researcher and Emergency Manager, finds it a bit complicated to handle everything at the same time. Like Avi, HR manager, translator and blogger for AM, who is a Marketer for the biggest local cosmetics company in Indonesia. She shares, “If it was not because of my love of both my job and AM, I don't think I could make it.” Shay confirms: “Effective time management is definitely something I have learned since becoming a part of AM.”
Ashley, manager and designer for our SNS, works in the Pharmacy at a Level 1 Trauma Center. She considers AM her break from her everyday life. “So no matter what, I make it work,” she says enthusiastically. On the other hand, Katelyn and Marcie bring some of their ARMY life to work. “I work with the research team and sometimes, I work on BTS’ research while at work,” states Katelyn. Marcie happily shares: “I used to be very shy about it. One day, though, I just decided, ‘Oh forget it! Just embrace it.’ Since then, my principal has approved a K-pop club!”
ARMY’s life and career: an influence that goes both ways
Joining a team of ARMY volunteers while having a career needs a level of commitment that influences both work and ARMY life. Positivity is one of the main influences that emerges. Jackie Murphy, Spanish translator at AM and elementary school playground supervisor, shares BTS' positive messages with her coworkers and reminds the children she works with to have confidence and to practice loving themselves. Shay feels that her positivity transfers to the way she interacts with her employees. At school, Elena emphasizes “the importance of learning a culture along with the language” and uses examples of what she learned “of Korean language through BTS.” Katelyn has also done displays at the library to educate people on BTS and Korean culture and helped enrich their collection with BTS music.
Connection is also a widely shared theme among AM’s staff. Thanks to BTS, Katelyn connected online to ARMYs who work for libraries. Kevia found a community of ARMY researchers who helped her have a new perspective on her work, and Eli contributes towards ARMY spaces while feeling more careful about the graphic elements she uses. “Being part of ARMY exposes you to a lot of social problems,” Eli states. “It makes you more aware and feel responsible towards society.”
Being a volunteer for AM helped Judy to become organized in her work. Avi finds her ARMY life useful in her job too. “As a Marketer who works very close to the customers, I learn so much from Big Hit about their strategies to promote their "products." (…) I even made a slideshow presentation for my boss to explain how Big Hit does this and we implemented some of their market research methods!” It also helped Melis-san to realize why she “chose to help small/young artists with developing artistically and tackling everyday life issues that come with choosing this career.”
Ashley and ThornToHisRose rightly pointed out that their work provided them the ability to “afford” their ARMY life and buy merch or concert tickets, for example.
BTS happens to be an excellent way to cheer up too. Pury usually watches their videos before work to boost her mood. Ashley shares, “[Being an ARMY] makes me happier and has gotten me through many hard days at work,” to which ThornToHisRose agrees since being an ARMY gives her the encouragement she needs “to not just give in to the pressure.”
Coworkers: a step which is a bit more difficult
Many proud ARMYs let their coworkers know about BTS and don’t hide their passion if asked. That being said, they face a range of reactions, from racist or off-putting comments to bewildered, mixed feelings or showing no reaction.
Marcie, Achan, Lia, Pury and Avi got positive reactions and are surrounded with supportive people, sometimes even fellow ARMYs. Nawaahl says: “My coworkers love it! They are supportive and when I play music at my desk they come and listen (…) My boss and colleagues arranged a BTS hoodie for me as a gift, he even bought me MOTS: 7.” Some of Katelyn’s colleagues are ARMYs too and they set up multiple computers to help her get tickets for the “Speak Yourself” concert. She also converted one of her coworkers, a librarian in her 70s.
ThornToHisRose states, “Once they got past the ‘How do you understand anything?’, most of my coworkers respect BTS for what they've done and their talents and their achievements.”
On the other hand, Jackie Murphy experienced looks of confusion and misunderstanding about “BTS’ adult appeal,” from her coworkers.
Melis-san has not yet brought herself to tell her coworkers, partly because “stereotypes about fangirls are making me wary of how it could be perceived, especially since I work in this industry.” She continues, “I feel difficult to stand for BTS in a country where pop culture is for a less cultured population… But I hope I will manage!” Living in a world full of stereotypes can sometimes make it difficult to be ourselves.
As for Ashley, however, she has never been bothered by the different reactions from her coworkers and proudly declares: “I always will talk about our boys, no matter where I go or who I am talking to!” We couldn’t agree more with Ashley’s words and determination to break the barriers, could we?
We hope that our AM staff's stories inspired you somehow, to always give it a try. You could be surprised by the reaction of people around you! Until our next blog, feel free to share your own experience with us while we continue to support BTS, help people open up their minds and spread love and awareness all together, ARMY. Purple You!
Written by: Hel.B
Edited by: re