Victoria’s Secret Drops Jaws Of Reasonable People Everywhere With Tasteless Lingerie Collection

Faux-navajo panties were one thing. Faux-ironic rice paddy hats another. Those were examples of big brands appropriating stuff they probably shouldn’t have. This, on the other hand–the latest act of poor taste from lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret–take things to a new level. Like, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s levels. Rather, like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s but wearing a push-up bra and knee pads.

According to Racialicious, Victoria’s Secret has a new collection called Go East (though all reference to this monumentally bad idea have been scrubbed from the site), which beckons the wearer to “Indulge in touches of Eastern delight.” Above is one look from the collection: the “Sexy Little Geisha” as worn on the terminally Photoshopped Candice Swanepoel, described thusly: “Your ticket to an exotic adventure: a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals. Sexy little fantasies, there’s one for every sexy you.” And yes, in case you can’t make it out, she’s holding a fan and wearing chopsticks* in her hair.

We’re guessing Victoria’s Secret will issue an apology and pull the collection entirely–or just deny it–but we’re actually still skeptical that this is real. It seems impossible that, in 2012, a major brand like Victoria’s Secret would release a sexy racist caricature and sell it for $100 in malls across America. So we’re actually hoping it’s a hoax.

(Racialicious via Bust)

*They are actually described as “hair chopsticks” in the product description.

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    • Katie

      I saw the collection online awhile ago and thought…well that doesn’t seem totally appropriate. And that was without even actually looking at the collection, just the name! And wowza, that costume is just not okay. At all.

    • Cassie

      Personally, I don’t really see what the big deal is. What’s the difference between lingerie that’s totally racist and offensive and lingerie that’s inspired by the beautiful and elegant fabrics used for geisha kimono and obi? Are geisha the only human beings who are permitted to wear hair ornaments? Is this offensive simply because the model is white? Is it wrong to claim geisha inspiration for anything that’s not ultra traditional?

      Geisha ARE beautiful objects of desire… it seems to be this is a modern interpretation of that concept.

      • superjack

        So, what you’re saying is… racist caricature is okay, if it’s sexy?

      • kit

        Imagine Victoria’s Secret’s “Go Urban” collection, with a Sexy Little Hoodrat teddy.

      • superjack

        Better yet, Victoria’s Secret DARKEST AFRICA collection–everything is animal print and each bra and panty set comes with a bone you can put through your nose.

      • sheherbano

        seconded. bit confused.

    • Jon

      jeez..PC police to the rescue, am I right?

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I wish I could hear the siren sound I bet you’re making.

    • Stace

      ummmm, Ashley? how much time do you spend character playing in the bedroom with your sex partner?? give me Greek Goddess, Italian momma, Egyptian Pharaoh, Norwegian Viking princess, Spanish Flamenco, whatever….who cares!!! Get sexy in your character lingerie & have fun in the bedroom!!!

    • Heather

      Am I the only one who doesn’t see the racism in this? People love to get angry about anything. It’s lingerie inspired by things geisha’s wore. Even her makeup is just a take on the traditional makeup. VS could make lingerie inspired by any “costume” and probably have many. If I dress up as a “sexy cat” or scandily clad cheerleader for halloween, is someone going to accuse me of degrading cats or cheerleaders? They could, but it would be ridiculous.

      BTW, Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was racist because it was making fun. I don’t believe someone who is not of a certain ethnicity, dressing up as a person of that ethnicity is always racist. It depends on the context.

      • Violet

        Have you even read the lingerie’s name? Description?
        “Sexy Little Geisha”
        “Your ticket to an exotic adventure”

        I really don’t think any more has to be said. If you need further explanation, please read Cate’s comment.

    • JP

      Do you even know what a Geisha even is and the role she plays ? She is a fun consort to men . How is this ad even racist ? I think it is a complement to Geisha . If I want to dress up as a geisha or ninja or hula girl that is fine . It is no more racist than dressing up as a french maid , swiss miss , or cowgirl you wouldn’t be writing this article . All cultures can be shared get over it ! I think you are the real racist , you have real issues which you should discuss with a certified therapist . You waste time on this ad , you don’t care about cultures or women your just a hack writer . You want a real issue how about writing about girls as young as nine being married off to old Afgani men , girls in Africa having their clitoris cut off with a rusty razor and no anesthia against their will . Or girls & boys sold into sex slavery . Write about that not some nonsense about the racism of role playing fantasies with your partner . As a matter of fact I love Asian culture and I may just buy that lingerie while hopefully you get an education on REAL serious issues .

      • Victoria

        From Wikipedia: The most literal translation of geisha into English would be “artist,” “performing artist,” or “artisan.”

        Not consort.
        So you don’t even know what a geisha actually is, and your “love” of Asian culture is probably a love of the stereotypes about East Asians that you’ve been fed all your life.

        In fact, the very idea of “Asian” culture itself is racist. Asia is huge. There are a lot of cultures. Most of them don’t wear “sexy hair chopsticks.”

        Also, all your examples of “issues we should really be talking about” are also steeped in race-based prejudice. I’ve noticed you don’t have any suggestions about issues involving WHITE people being awful to each other, which we do a lot.

        Enjoy your shitty lingerie.

    • Lauren

      if this exists, I want it.. I don’t think it is racist to want some pretty panties

      • Trudy

        It’s women like this one that are SO SCARY! They don’t even know they are being degraded and brainwashed. That body and boobs are FAKE! Certainly not Asian and playing into male third world ethnic “slave girl” fantasy crap is unbievable. How dumb can a woman be to completely miss the message and steal your money with third world labor at 50 cents a day! OMG!

    • Alison

      If it is something you are likely to find in Japan, and I am sure many things like this *are* for sale there, it is hard to see it as racist. The only possible problem with it is calling it Geisha, since a Geisha’s job doesn’t involve sexy lingerie.

    • uhm

      I don’t think internet journalists understand much. At the very least, they seem to lack a general understanding of what is offensive and what words like racist actually mean.

    • Trudy

      It’s women like this one that are SO SCARY! They don’t even know they are being degraded and brainwashed. That body and boobs are FAKE! Certainly not Asian and playing into male third world ethnic “slave girl” fantasy crap is unbievable. How dumb can a woman be to completely miss the message and steal your money with third world labor at 50 cents a day! OMG! Go watch some bad, bad Brando flick from the fifties!

    • Emily

      How is this racist? offensive, possibly, but racist? In what way are they demeaning a certain race? Are they discriminating a race? Are the holding some sort of prejudice or even stereotype? I have no idea how someone could define these articles of clothing as racist. They are simply creating novelty “sexy” clothing based on the outfits geisha’s used to wear. If this was a french maid outfit would it be racist then? Classifying this as racist is a pathetic attempt to create a buzz over something that is tacky at worst.

      • Victoria

        “In what way are they demeaning a certain race?”
        They’re using a shallow stereotype of East Asians to sell lingerie.
        “Are they discriminating a race?”
        Yes. East Asians.
        “Are they holding some sort of prejudice or even stereotype?”
        Yes. That East Asians who wear geisha-like clothing are exotic sexpots. They aren’t. They aren’t even actually “exotic,” because there’s more East Asians in the world then there are white people.
        “I have no idea how someone could define these articles of clothing as racist.”
        Well I have no idea how someone could look at an image of a white woman wearing a shallow, stereotype-driven “geisha” outfit with “matching fan and chopsticks” and not see how that might make an East Asian woman feel like their race is something to be commodified and sold. Which, yes, makes it racist.

    • Katie

      Ashley, I’m sorry about your sudden influx of extremely dumb readers. But I’m linking to this for their benefit:

      So, yeah, dumb readers, I ask you: what IF Victoria’s Secret did an “African Queen” collection and Candice Swanepoel was posing in leopard print with a bone in her nose? You’d sure as hell be offended then.

      These are ethnic stereotypes–that have been used against people for decades–and making them sexy (by children in sweatshops, ps) doesn’t make them less racist.

      • Katie

        Oh, and one more thing, to all the idiots who come out of the woodwork exclaiming, “If they were French maid costumes, it wouldn’t be a problem!”

        Well, if we’d marched the French into fucking internment camps while we were at war with them and then turned their traditional dress into our slutty Halloween costumes then… yes. Yes it would indeed be racist.

    • MR

      In real life the Geisha are also very talented musicians. I was told by Japanese in Japan that they will let you hire them to play for you. That’s as far as most men can get. I’ll vote on VS later. :)

    • MR

      In real life the Geisha are also very talented musicians. I was told by Japanese in Japan that they will let you hire them to play for you. That’s as far as most men can get. I’ll vote on VS later. :)

    • HW

      This model is not portraying an Asian woman in a negative way. She’s not actually portraying anything. She’s standing there, wearing some lingerie.

    • Netochka

      It’s racist to believe for a second that a few little ethnically inspired outfits, can possibly distort or influence anyone’s ideas about a whole country and millions of people. But I suppose since it’s an AMERICAN company, they must magically have the power to belittle other races, with just a few scraps of fabric.

      If you’re going to have a problem with women dressing up as sexy little anything (cowgirl, nun, french maid) then have a problem with all of it, but don’t play the race card as if these outfits actually have the power to make a damn difference to anyone.

    • Peppermint

      Those aren’t chopsticks, they’re actual hair ornaments. And I’m not even sure if it’s racist; they made it clear the stuff is only inspired by Eastern aesthetics, specifically by garments Geisha wore.

      It would be racist, however, if they took that aesthetic but continued to look down on Asian people.

    • Kristina

      Ok, so, I’m really tired of all the fucking stupidity on here, so I’m going to make it really easy on you racist idiots. First, go to the Wikipedia page on microaggression: Then go ahead and read all of the “Yo, Is This Racist” tumblr. Enjoy the vast knowledge the Internet can supply and stop being such racist dumbfucks. Yayyyyyyy!!!

    • Amy

      The hair ornament is a take on kanzashi, not chopsticks. Jeez, if you’re going to complain about racism could you at least try and educate yourself on the culture you’re claiming has been appropriated? This has been blown out of all proportion in my opinion. It’s just a costume. No one is in any way implying that this is meant to be a true representation of Japanese culture.

      If you go down this road, you could easily argue that harajuku is a racist appropriation of Western culture. Ganguro in particular is a style that’s meant to symbolize the average American teenager. The term translates to ‘black-faced’. The basic look is what Westerners would call a ‘California girl’, with bleached hair, dark skin, fake eyelashes and nails.

      Cultures borrow from and fetishize each other all the time. It’s part mimicry, part experimentation.

      • Kristina

        The ad itself says “hair chopsticks”. Jeez, if you’re going to complain about the article could you at least try and educate yourself on the ad you’re claiming isn’t problematic?

        And the issue with Americans fetishizing other cultures is that there is already an issue with the “othering” of non-white culture in our country. So images like this, which are the only representation most of us have seen of Japanese culture all day, week, or month in popular culture, DO end up as a representation of that culture. This is the same as with the linked articles about “Navajo” panties. We do not see representations of these othered cultures on a regular basis, so when the only seen representations are a mockery of those cultures, it is problematic and, yes, racist.

      • Ashley Cardiff


        Yeah, to clarify in case you couldn’t see, the second to last bullet point says, “Comes with matching fan and hair chopsticks.” …Which is part of the reason I almost didn’t believe this was real.

      • MR

        Interesting concept. But now you got me curious. Which Amy are you? I thought I didn’t need a hint to distinguish.

    • Cate

      You guys, I’m pretty much the least PC person I’ve ever met, but I promise you this teddy is racist. It’s not racist because of the model’s hair and makeup, it’s not racist because of the (truly horrendous) Eastern-inspired fabric, or the faux obi belt around the model’s waist. It’s racist because Western culture has a long, long history of oversexualizing Asian women, portraying them as either evil seductresses, or very little more than docile, willing sexbots. The second stereotype is particularly problematic, given that the second half of the stereotype seems to have arisen from American GI’s visits to brothels filled not with happy, willing hookers-by-choice (though some of them may have been) but with desperate or trafficked women who for whatever reason really had no way out of the sex industry. This teddy, in addition to being aesthetically offensive, plays off that stereotype and is therefore part of the problem.

      • Jenniwren

        Thank you so much for this post! I’m actually writing my dissertation on the perpetuation of the “Geisha” (quotation marks because most Westerners have an incredibly distorted idea of what it is geisha actually do) stereotype and the resurgence of “yellow fever” in contemporary America, so this article is pretty timely. I think prejudice and stereotyping against Asians, and especially against Asian women, are one of the few racial slurs people feel pretty safe using, because the stereotypes aren’t negative (from their perspective) and therefore “can’t be racist.” It’s a benign, hidden racism, but that doesn’t make it less racist.

        Also, I love how some people rely on the “well, I think YOU’RE racist! By acknowledging racism exists you’re perpetuating racist ideas!” argument as if it’s a sensible one. Actually, it would be a semi-provocative, Foucauldian kind of theory- if, you know, actual racism didn’t actually exist.

    • Annie

      This reminds me of being in high school and trying to explain to a bunch of 15-year-olds that the Siamese cats in Lady & the Tramp were racist.

      “It’s a cartoon!” they said. “Don’t be so PC! They’re just cartoon cats.”

    • Alicia

      cultural appropriation? Yes. Racism? No. It isn’t spreading any sort of hateful message. It isn’t even portraying the “china doll” stereotype. I mean, yes the outfit is sexy but its not the “geisha” factor, it’s the fact that it’s VS, they are selling lingerie. About the “African Queen” collection designer have done that, obviously not the “bone in the nose” but animal prints, sure. Assimilation is not always a bad thing, its cultures combining practices but I do acknowledge that ignorance of origin can happen. What seems to be being argued is for cultural ‘purity’ which is more of a racist point of view. I mean imagine someone saying only Arabs can enjoy shawarma and any other race is trying to “steal their culture”. The fact is we are only going to see more and more of this type of thing.

      • Kristina

        CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IS RACISM. Is that clear enough to get through????

    • DirtyBird

      I agree this is has gone way overboard. Its like saying the little hot police outfits for couples is discriminatory against cops, or the teacher outfits is discriminatory against teachers.. etc.. etc.. But this is the society that allowed a Disney movie from 1936 “Song of the South” get banned from ever being released in the United States because they also claimed it was raciest.
      My question is.. Why did we as a people allow our society to become such whinny, meticulas babies. Get over it people.. You want raciest go to a Klan meeting or a Black Panthers gathering.. THIS IS NOT RACIEST !

      • Kristina

        LOL raciest. And just because the KKK is more racist doesn’t negate the racism here. Also “Song of the South” (and a lot of Disney movies) is super racist. Read a book pls.

    • Kj

      Instead of engaging with all your thoughtful (and sometimes not so thoughful) social discourse, can I just say that that’s bloody hideous?!

      It looks like someone went back to my repressed childhood memories of the 80s, stole the ugliest curtains around, and attached them to some mesh, which I’m pretty sure also figured in said memories (don’t ask me how. Yeesh. Mesh. What’s with the fins?! ‘Cause that’s what the thing around the middle reminds me of… And showcasing belly buttons in that way is just… squicky.

      So yeah. Carry on.

    • paul berry

      They are just sadden by the fact that they can not match what an American Woman/European woman can done with the Geisha style! Man this is pathetic, why is it not looked upon as respecting the Culture of the Geisha, chinese and french and all from africans to mongals all wear clothing that is of America, and styles, and designs, and Americans do not begin to commit hari keri, screaming that they took all our dignity by trying to dress like us, it is time someone gets a back bone in china and around the world ands says o’well look how we do America! For evidence our Lord Jesus Christ prepares earth to silence all whining/whiners go to the websites at Adam and Eve seed gathering Ministry on the prophecy_and_the_signs and also at Adam and Eve in action blog both can be found at google search! On the prophecy and the signs page are the prewritten signs of God’s children of Adam to now prepare for the inheritance of earth, signs that were written over three years ago and more and are the likes of the japan quake and tidal wave, to the Washington dc/Virginia Beach Virginia quake which our Lord Jesus Brought on the same day as the unveiling of the martin luther king statue in DC { With more quakes coming there as we speak, to DC/V.Beach } with many more signs listed that have come and are now coming! Respect to all of Adam/God

    • Erika

      Aside from the fact that it is, IMO, ugly, I wouldn’t call this racist. Apparently I’m unreasonable.

    • SE

      I don’t think it’s racist either

    • jelly

      This is a total overreaction. Who cares? In my eyes racism is being unfair, discriminating or condescending towards someone based purely on their belief. This is just using cliches to sell panties. They’re not talking about the people, if this is racism being PC just got a whole lot harder.

      • jelly

        pardon – I meant based on their race :)