Victoria’s Secret Caves On Geisha Outfit Controversy

Maybe if they didn’t call it a geisha outfit.

This is from am article on a big new controversy:

It takes hundreds of employees, thousands of hours and millions of dollars to launch a mass market lingerie line. And one blogger to take it all down.

“I never thought they would pull the Geisha outfit off the market,” Nina Jacinto tells Shine. “I imagine there were a number of factors that went into that decision.”

Two weeks ago, Jacinto, a 26-year-old Bay Area blogger and non-profit development manager, most likely became one of those factors.

It all started here. “I saw a link to [Victoria’s Secret’s Go East] line on the blog, Angry Asian Man,” she says.

“Hooray for exotic orientalist bull—-,” wrote the blogger who included a link to the “Asian-inspired” lingerie line’s centerpiece: “The Sexy Little Geisha,” a mesh teddy that comes with an obi belt, chopsticks and a fan.

Immediately Jacinto sat down to write an insightful post on why she found the outfit, and the line in general, offensive. “It’s the kind of overt racism masked behind claims of inspired fashion and exploring sexual fantasy that makes my skin crawl,” she wrote in article published September 6 on the blog Racialicious, a site for commentary on the intersection of culture and race.

“There’s a long-standing trend to represent Asian women as hypersexualized objects of fantasy,” wrote Jacinto. She also took umbrage with the lingerie description as “your ticket to an exotic adventure” and the fact that none of the models for the collection were of Asian descent.

This is a tough one for me. And I’m trying to think about it without my male sense of the world impacting my view. While I think Victoria’s Secret messed up by referencing the line as a Geisha inspired look, since Geisha’s were considered by many to be prostitutes, I think some would have a problem with this ad and line simply because of the whole Asian sexuality component.

Frankly I don’t get up in arms when the dominant culture copies from minority cultures, as long as the imitation is based on finding what they are copying beautiful or inspiring. Copying negative stereotypes or making fun of the culture is another thing of course. When it comes to this outfit I don’t see where Victoria’s Secret is putting down Asian women or particularly singling them out for male fantasies. People must remember that we are talking about Victoria’s Secret here. The people upset over this outfit should then be upset over every ad Victoria’s Secret does because they sexualize all women, not just Asian women. So if this outfit bothers them, then be mad at VS for what they do to all women.

Now this is not to say that our male society does not foster too many stereotypes about Asian women, but I am not sure we can single out Victoria’s Secret because they came up with an Asian-inspired outfit that is sexy by nature. If it was a different company, maybe. But you have to consider the source. To me it is like being mad at Playboy if they show nude Asian women. It is what Playboy does with all women. Have a problem with Playboy, not just with one group of women they show.

Now the other issue brought up in the controversy is the issue of using a White woman in the Asian-inspired outfit. Again, I don’t see the issue and I think some would be just as mad or more mad if they had put an Asian woman in the outfit. In fact I am sure they would be more upset. Most VS models are White, right or wrong.

I know this is a complicated issue in many ways, and as a minority I am particularly sensitive to issues of the majority culture making fun of or belittling minority cultures. But I just can’t get that upset over this one. Read more on this controversy here.

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7 thoughts on “Victoria’s Secret Caves On Geisha Outfit Controversy

  1. Jackie Schroeder says:

    I think giving in to these people is what’s wrong with our world today! How one person, or even a few people can dictate like this is very scary, and they’re getting away with every day. Don’t give in..bring the line back. Thank you, Jackie

    • Earnest Harris says:

      While I do believe in the power of one or a few to affect change, I agree with you that in this case this is an overreaction by Victoria’s Secret. There’s a lot more to get worked up over than some lingerie.

  2. peachymilk says:

    What a shame, I thought it looked really nice >3<

  3. […]  blog site, Angry Asian Man, and was not happy with what she saw.  She blogged about it and her article sparked the controversy. Huffington Post also picked up the story and  a twitter debate was […]

  4. […]  blog site, Angry Asian Man, and was not happy with what she saw.  She blogged about it and her article sparked the controversy. Huffington Post also picked up the story and  a twitter debate was […]

  5. felicia says:

    You hit it on the head. If they wouldnt have called it “sexy little geisha”, it probably would have sold just fine. It isn’t bad. Its nothing wrong with sexy clothing for women, but the title does sexualize a group of people, and in the wrong way. Geishas dont/didnt dress like that for one, and from my understanding apart from sex, they are considered elaborate performers. The asian-inspired fabric is beautiful and fine. Without the chopsticks and fan, I would love something like that. But I put this into perspective being a african-american woman for myself thinking how would I feel if I saw something in kente cloth titled “sexy little african” my skin kinda craweld. Or in a stereotypical fashion “sexy black video girl”. OUTRAGE! But I would buy sexy lingerie or bathing suit, in minute, in kente cloth or some other other ethnic pattern if it was presented simply as lingerie.

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