We’ve never looked up on giant retailer Forever 21 as a bastion of good taste. Cheap, mass-produced products and quick-turnaround trends, sure. But still, even we were shocked to learn that the teen shopping staple is now selling stereotype-ridden “Native American Girl” and “Oriental Girl” necklaces. What’s worse, the company hass actually named the latter, featuring a smiling Asian face in stereotypical Asian garb, “The Oriental Girl Necklace.”
Let’s just begin with why it’s effed up to call something “Oriental,” shall we? Besides the fact that it’s an outmoded term, the concept of “Oriental,” as theorist Edward Said explains, is a throwback to Western imperialism over the East. It connotes the Western perspective on the East, one in which everything that comes out of the East is imbued with a feminine exoticism, a sensualness or an otherness. In short, Oriental explains a mode of thinking in which the masculine West is dominant over the feminine East–much like men have “conquered” women throughout history.
So what makes Forever 21′s “Oriental Girl” faux paus even more bewildering? Forevs is actually Korean-owned (though much of the design work takes place in the U.S.). But anyway, who wants to wear a strange, stereotyped charm of a girl, anyway? What message does that send?