Asian Women and The Kimono Have Long Been Sexualized in Western Culture

Japanese women wear kimonos attend their Coming of Age Day celebration ceremony. Photograph: Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

The two Asian women painted on the facade of the Irish pub outside the US military base in Okinawa, Japan, wore kimono. They lounged on a white-sand beach. Their black hair was coiled atop their heads, and their garments were falling open to reveal bare legs and cleavage.

Never mind that the real women in that area didn’t dress like that. Instead of kimono and up-dos they sported colored contacts, blonde hair extensions, fake tans and jeans. Never mind that kimono are ankle-length and high-necked, covered-up. To the artist or bar owner, the picture that would draw men inside, the epitome of desire, was the woman in the kimono – and an erotic style of kimono that doesn’t exist.

It’s no surprise that Kim Kardashian West appropriated kimono to sell underwear. In the western imagination, Asian women have long been sexualized, and an emblem of the Asian woman is the iconic Japanese gown.

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