Victoria’s Secret pulls ‘sexy little geisha’ lingerie after backlash
Sep. 25, 2012 at 3:55 PM ET
By Jada Wong, Styleite
Victoria’s Secret has come under attack for a ”sexy little geisha” outfit that was being sold on its website.
The outfit is part of the retailer’s Go East collection, a line of Asian-inspired negligées and accessories. The ensemble, modeled by South African beauty Candice Swanepoel, consists of a mesh bodysuit with an oval cut-out on the bodice and an “Eastern-inspired” floral print on the bra cups and bottoms, a mini fan and removable obi-belt in the same print, and hair chopsticks with tassels.
The outfit is undoubtedly sexy (even though Swanepoel looks a bit uncomfortable in it), but some say it’s offensive to Asian women — particularly the Japanese, from whom geisha culture originated. Historically, geishas are professionally trained entertainers and generally cater to a male audience, but many non-Japanese mistake them for prostitutes.
Possible cultural misidentification aside, critics say the outfit perpetuates the sexualization of Asians, while some — such as writer Jessica Wakeman of The Frisky — say that a corporation capitalizing on a geisha ensemble for “role-playing lingerie seems a bit tasteless”. Others, however, think critics are overreacting and that the backlash is “ridiculous”.
“You might as well [criticize] the ‘sexy French maid’ [costume] for sexualizing French women,” wrote commenter Inna on Styleite.com. “It’s meant to be playful and sexy, not degrading.”
Unsurprisingly, the link to the specific outfit and the category page were both pulled down this morning, but screen captures still exist. We reached out to Victoria’s Secret for comment, but as of press time we hadn’t heard back.