Forever 21 has the Internet buzzing with an “Oriental Girl Necklace” that some shoppers are calling offensive for its stereotypical depiction of an Asian woman and the use of the outdated term “Oriental.”
The charm is of a white-faced girl with her black hair styled in two buns over her ears. It is on sale for $1.50 on the Forever 21 website.
There is debate, however, in the online world about whether the item is offensive or racist. Many of those who believe it is offensive comment that the issue is with the word “Oriental,” which is often regarded as a derogatory word when referring to people.
“Apparently, Forever 21 thinks that people want to wear outdated, cultural stereotypes as necklaces, and that it’s okay to sell them,” wrote Dhani Mau of style website “Fashionista.”
Others think the criticism is an over-reaction and say the charms aren’t offensive.
One commenter wrote, “People need to grow thicker skin, get a sense of humor and stop yelling racism at every little thing.”
Forever 21 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Cultural caricatures were the target of a recent effort by an Ohio University student group poster campaign denouncing “racist” Halloween costumes.
The posters showed students of a different ethnicities holding photographs of an offensive costume. An Asian girl holds an image of someone dressed up as a geisha. A Mexican boy holds a photo of someone in a sombrero, colorful poncho and exaggerated mustache riding a stuffed donkey.
Each poster has two sentences on it: “We’re a culture, not a costume.” And “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.”
“Fashionista” also spotted a necklace in a Forever 21 store with a Native American girl charm that is not available online. This charm has a tan-skinned girl with exaggerated rosy cheeks sporting her hair in two braids and wearing a “traditional” Native American dress.
Urban Outfitters was recently slammed by the Navajo Nation for its ‘Navajo’ line that included the “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask” and the “Navajo Hipster Panty.” Under pressure, the company eventually dealt with the situation by replacing the word “Navajo” with “Printed” in the product names, but left the products up.
This is not the first time that Forever 21 has been at the center of a controversy surrounding a product. In September, outraged consumers denounced the brand’s “Allergic to Algebra” shirt marketed to girls and teenagers. The shirt was criticized for sending an anti-education message to girls. The company ultimately pulled the shirt from its website.