It’s bad enough to sell merchandise that’s offensive to a group of people you have no connection with, but it’s a whole other level of insensitivity to sell something that pokes fun at the ethnicity you come from.
That’s exactly what’s happening at Forever 21, the fast fashion retail chain owned by the Korean Chang family, where you can now buy an “Oriental Girl Necklace” for the low, low price of $1.50. The necklace is a metal pendant in the shape of a young girl with sporting one of those supremely Asian double bun hairdos and a face painted stark, blinding white like a geisha.
We’ve had our own problems with Forever 21′s flagrant abuse of major copyright and trademark laws in the past, but for an Asian business to sell a necklace that supports Asian stereotypes sort of takes the cake, don’t you think? Calling Asian people Oriental has been offensive since the early 1900s — and one of the the reasons it went out of style in the first place is because using Oriental to refer to all Asian people at once sort of diminishes the fact that there are nearly 50 countries (yes, we’re including Russia in that count, so sue us) and God knows how many smaller ethnic and linguistic groups that qualify as Asian. All this necklace does is boil those three billion or so human souls into one cheap piece of metal that costs less than you spend on Starbucks every morning. It’s kinda sad.
And even sadder still when you remember that the family that wants you to buy this necklace is Korean.
But it doesn’t stop there. Our friends at Fashionista point out that the Changs are also selling an “Native American Girl Necklace” — you know, to cash in on all that good will Urban Outfitters has been fostering with its line of “Navajo” products.
Sigh. Another day, another round of offensive products. What do you think is coming next?