When Jill linked to an article on “geisha guys” in a recent link roundup, I thought to myself, “I bet they’re talking about hosts. I mean, what would an article about Japan be without using Othering terminology to emphasize how Different! And! Exotic! it is.” And lo and behold, CNN’s Kyung Lah did not disappoint with the article, Japan’s ‘geisha guys’ the latest accessory.
Now, first off, hosts have been around for long enough that it’s just ridiculous to call them “the latest accessory”. What that really translates to is, “the latest thing that racist foreign media has picked up on to titillate their readership about that ‘wacky land of the rising sun’.”
Just in case you think that the “geisha guys” reference was an unfortunate choice of a copy-editor choosing a title or somesuch, observe this quote:
It’s a dizzying reversal of traditional gender roles in a country long known for geishas pampering male clients with conversation, singing and dancing. Now a new breed of entertainer has cropped up — think of them as male geishas.
Now, there are several things wrong in that one little quote that I don’t have the energy to get into. But to the assertion that we should “think of [hosts] as male geishas”, I say, “Let’s not.” Seriously. Hosts, like their hostess counterparts, are pretty much escorts. But I suppose that since escorts are available in most countries, using that comparison just doesn’t invoke the same “exotic Japanese sex worker” vibe that “geisha” does.
Whatever influences the sex work industry here may or may not have gotten from geisha culture doesn’t make it accurate, or a good idea, to conflate everything and anything under the header with geisha. It’s Othering. It’s fetishizing Japan. It’s racist. Full stop.