Today during my daily news surfing, I came across an article about a blogger's complaint towards VS's "Go East" line, apparently some "Asian"-inspired collection, including one called "Sexy Little Geisha."
Upon reading the name, of course I had to see what it looked like:
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="410"] What the Fudge-pop is this...?! (Source: E! Online)[/caption]
First off, I'm more offended by the design itself than I am about the "Geisha" label slapped on it. It's ugly. That belt with that obnoxious bow in the back just looks tacky. The mini fan is laughable; it's so tiny and pathetic! And probably the worst of all, apparently NONE of the models in that collection are even Asian! So it's easy for some to say that it's making a mockery of Asian culture by fetish-izing it. And it's no wonder that several blogs have already said so. (See Angry Asian Man and Racialicious)
I did one simple thing. I typed in "geisha" in the search bar of my favorite site for online shopping in Japan, Rakuten. And HEY, LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="436"] Hey, it's another Sexy Little Geish--wait a minute...[/caption]
This one isn't being modeled by an Asian woman either. Looking at the name of the item reveals:
[caption id="attachment_1004" align="aligncenter" width="460"] The highlighted word is how "geisha" is written in Japanese. Thanks, Rikaichan.[/caption]
And that's not the only one; you can click here for the full search result. I could've typed in "kimono" or "yukata," since search results for those items in the past has given me similar results. (I was looking for a REAL yukata at the time, mind you.) But the reason I used "geisha" as the search term was because I KNEW such things would come up, even on a Japanese website.
So there you go. Sexualizing Asian culture--or any culture--is not a new thing, neither overseas nor at home. Victoria's Secret's version of it just got the spotlight because they're a major, internationally-known company. Just to confirm though, where's the cultural offense? Is it in the clothing design itself, in the race of the model, or the description? Is it all three? (Not rhetorical questions, I'm honestly asking.)
One thing's for sure, I'll be honest; that item I found on Rakuten is pretty cute and I'd wear it as lingerie if I had a reason to. I just wish they didn't call it a "geisha" costume.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="489"] This is what geisha actually look like, in case you didn't know. (Source: Wikipedia Japan)[/caption]
EDIT: For the record, here's a list of other roles that have been sexualized other than the geisha:
- Schoolgirls (For goodness' sake, SCHOOLGIRLS)
- Maids (might I add the "French" maid)
- Racecar drivers
- Football Players (!)
- Clowns (creepy, I know)
- Minnie Mouse