Folks at Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (APAP) are reporting that a bunch of APA activists are upset at the Oakland Planning Commission for approving a permit for a new bar in Chinatown to be titled “Geisha”, stating that the name invokes violent and derogatory stereotypes against Asian women. The campaign is headed by Diana Pei Wu, Jenn Pae, Angelica Jongco, Xiaojing Wang, and Jen Mei Wu.
No, I’m not kidding you. Aside from the heavy cultural significance of the word, the leaders of this protest also cite that giving the bar with such a name would help support sexual harassment, mental illness, and a negative economic impact with its indirect support for the sex trade and/or pornography. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that rapist in the area who was targeting Asian women. Wait, what? These are all related?
I hate to be the one to say this, but I can’t help think these folks are overreacting in this situation, and wrongly defining the history of Japanese geisha. They were dancing and musical entertainers, and nowhere did violence and overt sexuality come to play in their formal occupation. No, geishas aren’t prostitutes. Maybe some of them were but hey, it’s the oldest job in the world. If anything, they should be focusing their outrage on two Asian American businessmen with a tired and unoriginal idea for a new bar, or at least ask why someone would want to go to a Geisha bar in the heart of Chinatown. Wrong culture, people.
Also, what does the NorCal rapist have to do with this? Did he have a geisha fetish or something and this bar is his one chance to finally hang out in the open? I don’t see the connection.
It’s good to see politically active Asian Americans keeping an eye out for their community but I’m finding it hard to support a group who base their protests on a narrow, sensational definition of a single word, especially when it directly affects two men bringing more business to Chinatown.
PS. And I will say that I used to live down the street from the Geisha House in Hollywood; while I disliked the name, never once did I experience a down turn in the civic quality of life. All of that was caused by the Hummer driving douchebags who would congregate in the neighborhood.