Online clothing company Fashion Nova is facing criticism and outrage after releasing their new “Geisha” Halloween costume. The controversy has revived a familiar debate about the ethics of cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation during Halloween.
Here’s the offensive costume in question. Is this cultural appropriation?
— Models Of Diversity (@ModsOfDiversity) October 8, 2018
Critics have pointed out the costume totally fails to accurately re-create traditional geisha robes. Others seem concerned with the promiscuous nature of the costume, which arguably perpetuates the misconception that all geishas were sex workers.
Quite a few people expressed disgust at the costume online.
As Halloween approaches, Native American costumes, Geisha costumes, and Blackface will get you kicked. It’s disrespectful and not fucking funny.
— Moccahontas (@BEEis_iconic) October 8, 2018
if I see anyone dressed up as an “Indian,” “thug,” “geisha,” and other culturally offensive costumes, I'm beating ass. miss me with that “it's just a costume” shit
— spooky pie ambassador (@adventurejub) October 8, 2018
halloween is getting closer and closer by the day!! just remember not to wear “native american” or “geisha” costumes!
— ( ,,Ծ ‸ Ծ,,) (@orbitstwice) October 7, 2018
Unless you sacrificed your teen years rigorously training in shamisen, classical Japanese dance, and traditional etiquette, you are not a fucking #geisha. That goes for cheap halloween costumes too. Geisha literally means “artist.” FUCKING STOP YOUR CREEPY ORIENTALIST BULLSHIT.
— GoddessEriko (@Goddess_Eriko) October 4, 2018
Geisha are Japanese women who entertain through performing the ancient traditions of art, dance and singing. They are distinctively characterized by traditional costumes and makeup. Contrary to popular belief, geishas are not the Eastern equivalent of a prostitute.
— عادله Dumoret (@AjeJolie) October 6, 2018
Well, I'm pretty sure commodifying a significant part of someone's culture to make money, whilst not respecting the significance of the commodity is the exact opposite of “celebrating”. Geisha are highly trained, highly respected individuals, not dime store costumes
— Nagasaki (@NkNgawai) October 1, 2018
Some mocked the outrage over Fashion Nova’s supposed cultural appropriation.
— ❤️Lee❤️Trump❤️ (@NGinantya) October 6, 2018
@FashionNova DO NOT BACK DOWN ON GEISHA COSTUME. People buy bc they want to. Don’t be intimidated. SJWs everywhere. KEEP SELLING
— Gregory Giagnocavo (@conexiant) October 7, 2018
My costume will be a blind naked insane native american geisha bandito who won a beauty pageant.
— ADorkontheSPOOKYNet (@ErKPaph) October 7, 2018
Frankly, it's not my call. An “authentic” geisha costume costs thousands. They're specially made. It seems unlikely that someone would then say “ok, let's hit the Halloween keggers” in an authentic geisha costume.
— Julia Hudson (@orangejuls1975) October 8, 2018
this though… is complete bs. You appropriate Asian cultures when you stick chopsticks into your hair or wear geisha makeup or wear our traditional clothes as costumes. Asians can appropriate other Asian cultures as well. All POC can appropriate, be racist, etc.
— manni (@mannidoan) October 8, 2018
One Twitter user thought the costume might be inspired by Nicki Minaj’s Chun-Li character, which was also criticized as cultural appropriation.
I thought it was suppose to be nikki minaj costume from that video where she sings “When I was a Geisha he was a Samurai
Somehow I understood him when he spoke Thai”
— MiaCarla (@MiaCarla_NY) October 7, 2018
Obviously, this issue opens up quite the can of worms.
While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating another culture, things become problematic once elements of that culture are commodified, altered or cheapened for profit.
As many pointed out, it’s probably not worth getting outraged over a Halloween costume. That said, it’s best to avoid wearing any garment that might be considered sacred to a culture you don’t belong to.