A Racist Little Outfit: Victoria’s Secret’s “Sexy Little Geisha” Lingerie

by Lilly O'Donnell

Victoria’s Secret—always a feminist favorite—recently decided to add a dash of racism to their usual objectification roster. Their new line, called “Go East,” features lots of what they call “touches of eastern delight.”

I don’t think that there’s 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, in a piece on Racialicious, Nina Jacinto pointed out that Victoria’s Secret’s new line isn’t celebrating the beauty of a fabric pattern or design motif, but is in fact promoting a racially and sexually demeaning fantasy version of Asian women. She explained:

When someone creates a collection like this, making inauthentic references to ‘Eastern culture’ (whatever that means) with hints of red or a fan accessory or floral designs, it reinforces a narrative that says that all Asian cultures–and their women–are exotic, far away but easy to access. It’s a narrative that says the culture can be completely stripped of its realness in order to fulfill our fantasies of a safe and non-threatening, mysterious East.

But when a company takes it one step further by developing a story about how the clothes can offer a sort of escape using explicit sexualized and exploitive language, it takes the whole thing to another level. It’s a troubling attempt to sidestep authentic representation and humanization of a culture and opt instead for racialized fetishizing against Asian women.

She also took issue with the fact that none of the women shown modeling the collection appear to be Asian. This adds a whole other level of creepiness, suggesting that by buying these pieces of lingerie, you can buy the “Asian fantasy,” and in essence transform your girlfriend (or yourself) into an embodiment of it. Another blogger, on a site called Angry Asian Man, posted a photo of the Sexy Little Geisha and commented “Yaaaay, hooray for exotic orientalist bullshit.”

After reading the Racialicious post I rushed over to the Victoria’s Secret website to see what other laughably ignorant “sexy” descriptions I could find for my own post – only to discover that the “Sexy Little Geisha,” and, in fact, any mention of the “Go East” Collection had vanished.

Excited by the possibility that all “Go East” merchandise had been collected from Victoria’s Secret stores and warehouses under cover of night and burned in a ritualistic fire to banish the racism and exploitation, I looked up their press contact. Of course, the press office didn’t confirm my fantasy version of what had happened, and instead suggested that the product had sold out. (I had asked specifically about the “Sexy Little Geisha,” the piece in the collection that seemed to piss people off the most.) However, when pressed, they couldn’t confirm that the piece had, in fact, sold out. Nor could they explain why an error message comes up on the website even for a general search of the phrase “go east.”


Looks like VS is working overtime to cover up this little snafu.

Images from victoriassecret.com

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