PHOTOS: Why Rihanna’s ‘Gangsta Goth Geisha’ Outfit Is Offensive

As much as I love Rihanna, her music, and her edgy style, I have a bone with pick about her latest TwitPic.

The superstar tweeted several photos while on the set of the music video with Chris Martin for “Princess of China.” The picture itself is de rigueur for the popstar — the barely-there outfit, fierce hair and makeup, and badass ‘tude. For those who haven’t heard the number, it’s a sad song about wanting a man, but not getting him — pretty much the same thing as her recent songs.

But it’s her caption, “Gangsta goth geisha #thuglife #princessofchina”, which raised my ire.

While I get the Asian reference from the song title (kind of a lame cop-out, if you ask me), mixing up the Asians has always been annoying. But being Chinese, I’ve heard all of the possible insults, puns, and mistaken identities, so this isn’t new to me.

Rihanna slipped up and associated China with geishas, which is actually a huge part of Japanese culture. Geishas are Japanese performing artists. Women dressed in elaborate kimonos and makeup to sing, dance, and play traditional instruments. On the other hand, there’s not an accurate Chinese equivalent for a geisha, unless you count a courtesan. Chinese courtesans are also performing artists, but do use their skills to seduce men for sex.

I get that the fashion industry is in love with all things Asian at the moment. There’s a huge push for brands to get a piece of the increasing Asian market and luxury companies are cashing in on wealthy, monogram-crazed women. Ralph Lauren brocade jackets, obi belts, and dragon prints for fall 2011, and even Taiwanese-born Jason Wu couldn’t help but take cues from his own background for fall 2012.

But whether she meant to really be a Japanese geisha or Chinese courtesan, the outfit itself is stereotype of Asian attire. The elaborate hair style complete with chopsticks and frog-clasp earrings seemed more appropriate for a South Park parody. What’s next, a conical hat and being driven in a rickshaw?

It’s also offensive because she’s been on the other side of a similar situation. In what was supposed to be a story praising Rihanna’s I-don’t-care-what-you-think-style, Dutch mag Jackie used a few choice words that insulted the singer’s ethnic roots. Rihanna penned a tweet tirade back to the editor and ultimately, the mag’s editor in chief apologized and stepped down.

So, if Rihanna was really dressing as a Japanese geisha, why is her song called “Princess of China”? Or if she was referring to a Chinese courtesan, why did she use “geisha”? And why is the song even called “Princess of China”? Check out the slideshow below and see the pictures for yourself. What do you think?

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