by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Atlasien
Geisha cultists seriously disturb me.
Surprisingly enough, many of them are women. They love the geisha mystique, the tinge of nostalgia for a bygone era, the careful artifice, the idea of humans as living artwork.
I’ve enraged a few of them simply by dropping the “geishas are prostitutes” bomb. They tell me they know about Japan more than I do. I’m a lowly mixed-race Japanese-American. I don’t even speak Japanese. I’m pluralizing “geisha” wrong. I obviously have no respect for the traditions of my ancestors. Geisha = serious business. Ha!
Geisha are not very relevant in modern-day Japan. They’re a fossilized archetype, almost like ninja. If you asked a group of Japanese people the burning question, “are geisha prostitutes?” depending on region and generation, you would probably get a variety of answers: “that’s an insult, of course not!” “Well, it depends on your definition.” “Yes, they’re high-end prostitutes.” “I don’t really know.”
But a lot of people, especially white people, are invested in defending geisha, in putting them on a pedestal. And when they do that, it does harm to Japanese-American women and to all Asian-American women. Appropriation is almost too mild of a word. It’s not just theft, it’s domination. Imagine a young girl, on the verge of understanding herself as a sexual being, looking deeply in the mirror… and seeing her mirror image controlled by puppet masters. Continue reading