Tag: Japanese culture

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. Read the Post Geishas and Whores