If you’ve followed my words and read the fine print, you’ll know that I am a bit of a critic concerning Victoria’s Secret. In a past article titled, The Secret Is Out, I gave a hard spanking to Vickie’s and critiqued their decision to mass produce a t-shirt that said, ‘Study Less Party More.’ I also exposed how much of a stickler I am for the curvy woman. I would absolutely love to see a woman of normal size both wearing and representing their lingerie in catalogues and on billboards. I hoped my resentment for Victoria’s Secret would have ended there, but needless to say, they’ve made another mistake that has cost them customers, cash, and hate mail.
In the design room, “The Sexy Little Geisha Outfit” from the Go East Collection must have seemed like an ingenious idea. Who wouldn’t want to wear a mesh teddy adorned with an obi belt, chopsticks, and a fan? I wouldn’t! While I do support the concept of role-play and fantasy, I also see so many issues with reappropriating a traditional Asian garment for sexual enticement. Perhaps most directly, the concept reaffirms Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism, otherwise known as the representation of the East (“other”) in Western culture. Most often, Orientalism is seen in writing and painting from the 19th century. But in the case of the Geisha garb, we are essentially witnessing an adoption of the “other” in a time when Orientalism should be of the past. Clearly, it still has a presence in the fashion industry
By capitalizing on a stereotype, Victoria’s Secret both exploits the Asian female and fetishizes her into a sexual entity, exotic in form and docile in nature. For Westerners, the term ‘Geisha’ is one that can bring forth images of a high-class sex worker. In other cases, she is known as an obedient and passive female ornamented for everyone but herself. As a result, the Geisha is a weighted body that holds heavy consequences if utilized improperly or even, utilized at all. But in every circumstance, she seems to be misunderstood.
Due to the fact that Victoria’s Secret is a multi-billion dollar company, it’s rather difficult to have a minor or major slip-up fall under the radar. In the case of the Geisha piece, blogger and activist Nina Jacinto was one of the first individuals to speak out and find issue with the product. Now two weeks past it’s unveiling, and the Sexy Little Geisha Outfit is nowhere to be found. But even with the removal of the tasteless teddy, Orientalism is still occurring in major realms of artistic production. In fact, it’s perhaps most prevalent in pornography, as adult content caters to the realm of fantasy and fetish. By reappropriating any marginalized group of “otherness,” one is able to better control the community in question. And as we all know, porn is plainly a matter of who is being controlled and who is doing the controlling. Is it too to much to ask for consensual sex between a naked couple in a bed? Sometimes, I think it is.
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