Sometimes brands are so dopey that you almost feel bad for them for not realizing they were being racist. (Almost.) First Paul Frank were ding-dongs with their Native American tee-pees-and-tomahawks party on Fashion’s Night Out. And now Victoria’s Secret is selling an outfit called “Sexy Little Geisha” featuring an “Oriental” patterned fan and hair sticks with tassles to put in your hair.
The outfit in-and-of itself is actually funky and cute. As Bust magazine’s blog noted, there is nothing “necessarily wrong with a clothing company, or a lingerie company, incorporating some pretty Japanese-style flowers. That in itself isn’t racism, it’s globalization.” But this isn’t just a pretty Asian-inspired pattern. It’s an entire outfit — a sex costume, really — based on the accoutrements of the Japanese geisha to make your lingerie “exotic” and signify the sexual submission and exploitation of Asian women. (A broad generalization, but you can’t dispute its not there.)
I actually have one of Victoria’s Secret’s costume outfits (the French maid one) and the point of these get-ups seems to be to make role-playing fun and silly. Other costumes in the same genre have included stuff like “sexy cop outfits.” Considering the complicated history of geishas, repurposing the “look” for a major corporation to sell as role-playing lingerie seems a bit tasteless.
Again, “Sexy Little Geisha” is part of a “Go East” line, which, again, is not in-and-of-itself racist. This particular execution just makes me, well, want to execute myself.