Don’t get your panties in a bunch

By Sophia Coleman

Oh, look, Victoria’s Secret is offending people again. During the week of Sept. 24, the lingerie retailer was forced to pull its new “Sexy Little Geisha” get-up off the shelves after backlash from angered bloggers.

The Asian-inspired ensemble from the company’s “Go East” collection included a mesh body suit with floral patterns on the bra cups and crotch, a tiny floral fan, a removable obi belt and matching chopsticks with tassels.

The rage surrounding the outfit was ignited by, a website that discusses the intersection of race and pop culture. Nina Jacinto, a writer for the blog, called the outfit “offensive” and “a troubling attempt to sidestep authentic representation and humanization of a culture and opt instead for racialized fetishizing against Asian women.”

Sounds like a valid point. I agree the “Go East” lingerie collection teeters on the edge of being racially insensitive. But this isn’t the first time the company has designed stereotyped apparel, nor is it the only retailer to do so.

Victoria’s Secret carries sexy French maid slips, skimpy Sergeant outfits and skin-tight police officer nighties. Sure, these garments might not offend an entire culture, but they do make light of serious professions.

Believe me, I know. I worked at Vickie’s for several years. Though the nighties, teddys, garters and slips played around with stereotypes, they still flew off the shelves.

I’m sure thoughts of “this is so offensive,” rarely cross anyone’s mind when buying the garments. Want to know why? Because it’s just dress-up meant for a special someone; women aren’t buying lingerie to parade around town

insulting others.

Also, there are hundreds of costume companies out there selling apparel much more odious than a skimpy geisha bedroom outfit.  What about “ghetto fabulous” costumes, Nazi uniforms or garb related to Islamic fundamentalism? I can guarantee you’ll see a few people donning these while celebrating this Halloween.

Yes, you’ll probably see a few geishas too, because they’ve been a go-to costume option for years now. So why is it such a big deal that Victoria’s  Secret designed a bedtime outfit meant to be seen in a private setting?

I understand the history of the geisha is complicated and fraught with degrading societal issues. However, geishas are far less common than they were in the 16th century. For the most part, any geishas today do it by choice and consider it pure art.

History has shown an unfortunate tradition of hyper-sexualizing Asian women, and it’s understandable that some feel anger toward the geisha costume. But rights are not being taken away by wearing this costume, and no one is being demoralized. It’s just lingerie, so loosen up.