Time magazine (March 13) carries AP’s report on North Korea’s radical reaction against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills under the headline, “N. Korea criticizes S. Korea President’s ‘Swish of skirt.’” The article begins with the following lines:’

“The body that controls North Korea’s military is dismissing South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, with a sexist comment about the “venomous swish” of her skirt.”

Though “Swish of skirt” means to me just the sound of the fluttering hem of a skirt, and no more than that, I suspect this has special meaning as the words are put in parenthesises, and moreover they were discharged from the war-mongering country.

What insinuation does the word, S. Korea President’s ‘Swish of skirt’ have?

Is “Swish of skirt” unordinary expression in English? Does ‘skirt’ really have a ‘sexist’ implication as AP says in today’s gender equality world?

  • 3
    Apparently, this is a direct translation of a Korean expression, which is/can be sexist. In English, this is simply a descriptive phrase which isn't really even an idiom. (I read this somewhere yesterday, but I can't find it anymore, which is why this is a comment, not an answer.)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 21:41
  • @Martha. You can still get full text of this AP’s report (dated March 13) in the Asahi Simbun Asia & Japan Watch site (ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/korean_peninsula/AJ201303130108). I tried just now and could revisit it. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:22
  • 1
    Please (always) add the link to your question. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:59
  • @coleopterist.I’ve received the similar requests several times. A few of them wrote me how to do it. I followed them, but didn’t work. It seems an old dog can’t learn a new trick. (To your surprise, it's only a few who can use PC, and even send e-mails among my contemporaries). I can only put the link by ‘copy-and-pasting’ the full line of URI as I did for Martha, though it looks lengthy. If you don’t mind, I can include the link in the same way as ‘ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/korean_peninsula/AJ201303130108.’ Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 9:03
  • That's fine :) As long as you copy it from the address bar and paste it in your question, it should work OK. Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 18:58

4 Answers 4


'Skirt' is not sexist by itself (where 'sexist' means derogatory by sexual connotation). The word 'skirt' simply refers to a short dress, a garment these days that is worn mostly by women.

'Swish of her skirt' is not sexist by itself, where 'swish' ostensibly means a swaying back and forth movement. But the two words together evoke a bit of coquettish imagery, that the wearer might intentionally be moving her skirt provocatively.

A 'venomous swish of her skirt' is definitely sexist as it implies metaphorically that the 'swish of her skirt' (with the coquettish interpretation, is poisonous and therefore dangerous because of its female attributes, implying an out of the ordinary danger or tendentious difficulty based exclusively on the one-sided sexual characteristics of being female.

The phrase 'swish of her skirt' is not an idiom, but it is metaphorical. With 'venomous' it becomes very negatively intentioned.

So the phrase altogether is very sexist.


"Swish of her skirt" means exactly what you think it does. The phrase "venomous swish" has been parenthesised as it is a quote.

The use of "venomous swish of her skirt" is certainly sexist as the North Koreans are derisively drawing attention to the South Korean PM's gender rather than countering anything that she has said. While I am unaware of the full context of the dialogue, this could also be classified as an ad hominem attack.


To swish one's skirt at someone means to act seductively, especially if it is in a deliberate, calculated manner. (It does not necessarily carry negative connotations - we might admire a woman who swishes her skirt at a wealthy man to raise money for a noble cause.)

In the context, the “‘venomous swish’ of her skirt” suggests a dangerous harlot who has seduced a nation. It is an insult to her, as a politician, and to the South Koreans who elected her.

The fact that such an insult could only be directed against a woman makes it inherently sexist, although I doubt the North Korean political class really cares about such niceties.


Surely it is sexist. Because he has tried to humiliate her by pointing to her feminine specialties like her dress and everything which is about it not what she has said and has done as a human!

It is not a weird expression and skirt doesn't have any sexist implication but it is the context which provides a sexist usage of words which are describing something about gender. Surly it is not important the matter is pants or skirt. When there is a human and you prefer to refer her/his problems to her/his gender specialties it is a kind of misuse of gender against that person.

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