Friday, June 4, 2010

Wicked Geisha

My extended social circle includes a friend who has been involved in a group called Wicked Geisha. I have no first hand knowledge of them, and do not want to comment on them and what they do specifically, but I find that the name alone sparks my own pondering.

Firstly, my friend is white and appears to be non-Japanese, as were the other participants I saw in a random sampling of photos. This raises my own concerns of cultural appropriation. I can say nothing definitive about how they specifically are or are not respectful and/or appropriating, but I feel I cannot go any further with this post without voicing that generalized concern. I sincerely hope they are appropriate and not appropriating, but I do not know one way or the other.

That said, the name Wicked Geisha intrigues me. I was reminded of this when reading this Sociological Images post about an example of how Asian women are marketed according to a stereotype of submissiveness. That post links this submissive stereotype with the idea of a geisha, described as "a Japanese woman trained in the art of serving and pleasing men."

So what, then is a "wicked geisha"? Is a geisha inherently wicked because of her sexual availability and prostitution, such that "wicked geisha" is a tautological, redundant term? Or perhaps a geisha who is extra good at being a geisha is extra deserving of the title of "wicked"? Or is a "wicked geisha" a geisha that twists or perverts the role of geisha? Is she perhaps not really serving and pleasing men, but doing something wicked to them instead? Is she an evil geisha, or an anti-geisha, like an anti-christ? Or perhaps she is really a he, or a lesbian, or engages in some other form of gender/sexual transgression. Could it be "wicked" in the northern US slang sense, as in, "wicked cool", meaning just extra awesome?

Since geishas are portrayed as transgressive within a Western cultural context in that they are a form of prostitute and that they go against feminist ideals since they are all about service to men, the descriptive "wicked" says that these particular geisha are extra transgressive. The question, though, is whether that transgression is a greater degree of their original offense, or a perversion of their original definition/role.Or could this use of language be about a different meaning altogether, like the slang usage of "wicked"?

Definitely an interesting question. Any thoughts? Any other interpretations of the phrase Wicked Geisha?

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