Talk:Liza Dalby

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Not a geisha[edit]

Hey, guys. There seems to be confusion about Liza Dalby, with this myth that she was once a geisha. Certainly she spent time with geisha, as indeed Lesley Downer did when she wrote her own book on the geisha world. However there is no evidence to suggest she was a geisha in any sense of the word.

To say she was a "novice" is to indicate that she was a trainee. To say that she was a trainee is to imply she was taking the lessons young Japanese women do in becoming maiko and then geisha. But she did not do that, as she admits - so we cannot refer to her as a "novice geisha". Being a geisha is a lot more than wearing white makeup and having a cute name. If someone wishes to re-write this article more fully, then by all means talk about how she was engaged in the geisha world - and that she accompanied some geisha during their engagements for a year.

But a geisha has to go through years of training as a maiko first - and you cannot become a maiko overnight.

Regards, John Smith's 01:08, 28 August 2005 (UTC)

Ah, of course she was too old to become a maiko. However to class her as a geisha, even a novice, is a bit much really. It was more a case of her being done a favour by friends than anything else. John Smith's 01:14, 28 August 2005 (UTC)

A woman can debut as a full-geisha without going through the maiko period, as stated in Dalby's Geisha and Leslie Downer's Women of the Pleasure Quarters (The geiko Kikuryuu had attended college and in her 20's was too old to be a maiko).

True, Dalby was never an official geisha, but it doesn't discredit her research or experience. Claw789 04:38, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

I think the point I was making was that it's misleading to further the misconception that she was a geisha. It isn't to try to invalidate her research, merely set the record straight. John Smith's 22:34, 15 April 2007 (UTC)
Ah, but Dalby says directly on her own webpage (and likely in her book, which I haven't read) that she was a geisha. Of course, I understand that she did not, could not, go through the formal training process beginning from childhood. But if she, and Ichiume, and Hasui Kiyo, considered her a geisha, then she was one, no? LordAmeth 09:22, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

Further discussion[edit]

To save duplication, more discussion on the content of this article can be found at Talk:Fiona Graham, since the two topics are closely related and one editor is tendentiously editing both articles. Cheers Your Lord and Master (talk) 01:05, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

It's too difficult to follow what's happening over there. All we have to do on this page is follow the sources, and it's fairly well sourced now. Truthkeeper88 (talk) 01:52, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Dalby as "first foreign geisha"[edit]

As Graham and her IP socks are so obsessed with what this talk page says, I thought I'd point out three quotes from a reliable source which is already cited which show that Dalby was the first foreign geisha (empahsis mine):

1) American anthropologist Liza Dalby is famous for being the first Western woman to have ever trained as a geisha.

2) Because of her age, Dalby couldn’t make the conventional debut as a maiko - “Most geisha in Kyoto start out as maiko at 17. I was 24” - but it was agreed that she could instead debut as a full geisha.

3) Dalby finally made her debut in 1976, taking the geisha name Ichigiku, and soon earned a reputation as "the blue-eyed geisha” in the Japanese media.

I hope that clears things up! Regards Your Lord and Master (talk) 04:34, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

That's what she claims. But there's no evidence that she was a geisha. For example, I have not heard or read anything to suggest that her time at functions or parties was billed for. Or that she was on the formal Gion records. John Smith's (talk) 14:11, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I've removed some text because it's misleading. She was not a geisha, regardless of the fact she as allowed to dress up and go to parties. For example, if a group of doctors allowed me to dress up in a white coat and stethoscope, introducing me as "Doctor Smith" to patients and allowing me to observe, that alone would not make me a doctor. Perhaps we could discuss how to change the article further to keep it factual rather than give her the title "geisha". John Smith's (talk) 19:40, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I've reverted your changes. If you want to cite to something in support of your assertions, fine, but your wording does not conform to the cited sources.--Bbb23 (talk) 22:45, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, did you actually read my comment? If so, are you saying that you don't believe me? Please don't just reply with a request for a source, actually address the point I'm making. John Smith's (talk) 10:19, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Oh, and maybe you would like to actually read the sources before you direct me to them. For example, read page 3 of the Bardsley article. "Dalby never participated in the formal ritual of sisterhood or charged for her ozashiki appearances". John Smith's (talk) 10:23, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
There are two sources in this part of the article. One is The Telegraph, and the other is a book review of Dalby's book. The book review is probably not the best source for information on whether she was a geisha or not. Here are the two sentences (before your changes):

During her Ph.D studies on geisha, she was invited to join a geisha community in Kyoto. Since she was past the regular apprentice age of 17, and due to her skill on the shamisen, she was allowed to debut as a full geisha under the name Ichigiku.

Here is the material after your changes:

During her Ph.D studies on geisha, she was invited to attend geisha parties in Kyoto and play the shamisen.

The Telegraph says:

Dalby never planned to become a geisha herself, but during the course of her research was eventually invited to join a small geisha community in Kyoto, where the geisha tradition is sometimes said to have originated.


Dalby finally made her debut in 1976, taking the geisha name Ichigiku, and soon earned a reputation as "the blue-eyed geisha” in the Japanese media.

So, The Telegraph fully supports the assertions before your changes and doesn't say anything about "geisha parties". As for your quote from page 3 of the review, the full quote says: "Dalby never participated in the formal ritual of sisterhood or charged for her ozashiki appearances, but she writes in the original preface to Geisha of being interviewed herself in Japan almost as much as she interviewed others, becoming something of a curiosity as the Japanese-speaking American geisha (1983, xv)." (emphasis added) So, what is your point?--Bbb23 (talk) 14:22, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Since when were The Telegraph or Leah Hyslop authorities on geisha or Japanese culture? Newspapers say a lot of things out of ignorance or simplification. And Bardsley did not say "Dalby was a geisha", she was referring to what Dalby herself wrote.
With all due respect, I think the issue is that you don't understand yourself what being a geisha is. It isn't dressing up and going to parties, it's not much different from being part of a profession. Like every lawyer has to go to law school or get a similar qualification. You can't be a lawyer by rocking up to court and defending people. All geisha bill for their attendances and go through an apprenticeship. It's a set pattern. Like, for example, furisode-san. They're not geisha, even though they do the same sort of things, because they do a compacted course. John Smith's (talk) 14:51, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
This is really very simple - per WP:V we follow what the sources say, even if we don't agree with the sources or don't think what they say are true. If other sources can be brought forward, that's fine, but these are the sources we have now and the page should reflect the sources. Truthkeeper (talk) 14:58, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) It is true that I don't know much about being a geisha, but I edit all sorts of articles without being an expert on the subject matter. In some ways, it's a bigger problem that you know more (apparently) about being a geisha. If a reliable source says something, it can be asserted and included if it's relevant to the article. The Telegraph is a reliable source, and your dispute with what they're saying is WP:OR. If you want to rewrite it, then the burden is on you to find other reliable sources in support of your assertions, not just your own knowledge about geisha. As for the review, you are correct, and I'd be happy not to cite to the Bardsley review at all because it is in fact a review of Dalby's book, and we can't cite to Dalby for controversial assertions. The Telegraph, standing alone, supports the material.--Bbb23 (talk) 15:00, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
I'll address both your comments. The Telegraph is not necessarily a reliable source for all subject matters. One has to consider the author and the subject matter. I see no evidence that Leah Hyslop knows anything about the subject matter and can make a judgment that Dalby was a geisha.
Bbb23, yes the Bardsley article cannot be used to support the assertion that Dalby was a geisha because the reference to her being a geisha was just referring to what Dalby said in the book. But now we're agreed on this, it's even more true that the quotes I took from the Bardsley article are valid in explaining why Dalby was not a geisha. John Smith's (talk) 23:37, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
But isn't your comment about the The Telegraph based on your own knowledge about geisha, in which case we get back to WP:OR and the need for another source to make your point. As far as Bardsley, yes, we agree on the first part, but not on the second.--Bbb23 (talk) 23:47, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
No, it's that you have to prove that The Telegraph and Hyslop constitute a reliable source for the purposes of declaring Dalby a geisha. Wikipedia does not hand out "reliable source status" to various publications on all subjects. I've also noticed the phrase "debut as a full geisha" is packed between quotations from Dalby's book and/or an interview with her. This suggests that Hyslop has just lifted that comment from what Dalby has said.
You'll have to explain why you don't agree with me on the second part about Bardsley. John Smith's (talk) 23:58, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Why don't you take The Telegraph issue to WP:RSN?--Bbb23 (talk) 01:42, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Before I do that, can you please address my above points? I would prefer that we try to resolve this. And if you feel that the Telegraph article is a reliable source you can take it to the noticeboard as well. John Smith's (talk) 09:01, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
It's in the New York Times article I added, and there are more New York Times articles - I only picked one because the page was unsourced and tagged. In my view Dalby is primarily notable as a writer; the training as a geisha is a dispute that spilling over from another page and not at all relevant. Truthkeeper (talk) 02:53, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I would agree that her experiences with the geisha community are not worth getting too hung up on. Does this mean that you would accept alternative wording that does not seek to declare her as a "geisha"? John Smith's (talk) 09:01, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Guys, could I please get your input on the above questions? It would be helpful to know why you believe Hyslop is a reliable source on this matter (it's her article after all), in conjunction with my earlier point that the phrase "debut as a full geisha" is packed between quotations from Dalby's book and/or an interview with her. And Bbb23, why don't you feel that the Bardsley article explains why Dalby was not a geisha? John Smith's (talk) 10:52, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Per your request on my page to comment: I would like to follow the sources. This, from the New York Times Book Review, is the first source on the page [1], and there is says she became a geisha. I'm not interested in finding every source ever written to prove otherwise, because that's using sources to prove a point. This is a very very short stub and not worth so much discussion imo. Truthkeeper (talk) 12:08, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
John Smith's, I guess you're OK with removing all of the content from the Fiona Graham article since the only sources describing her as a "geisha" are newspapers and magazines which are (1) not knowledgeable about geisha according to your standards and (2) only writing stuff which Graham has obviously fed them from her press kit. Whaddayathink? Same standards for both articles, right? Your Lord and Master (talk) 14:37, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Tkeeper. Ok, how about saying (for example) that she has been referred to as a "geisha" by publications like the NYTBR but she did not do certain things as pointed out by Bardsley? If I have time, I will also see if features such as billing for attendances are referred to in more detailed books on geisha, so I can see if that has any significance. Is that ok? John Smith's (talk) 15:31, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Lord&M. That depends, are there any articles that suggest she did not bill for her attendance or otherwise not do things that all geisha should do? And Graham also suggests that Dalby was not a real geisha. Is that simply PR or might she have a point? John Smith's (talk) 15:34, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Oh, we also have a slight problem. This article refers to Graham as the first ever western geisha. This and the other Telegraph article can't both be right. John Smith's (talk) 15:44, 30 August 2011 (UTC)


Although I appreciate the recent work that has gone into the article, we still have a problem with sources being used to support things they do not refer to. E.g. the article "Lady-in-Waiting" does not refer to a debut. It says "taking the name Ichigiku, she became the first and only non-Japanese to train as a geisha".

I also thought that we agreed that Bardsley does not express her own view that Dalby was a geisha, so should not be used as a source to support this. From now on, I suggest that the Bardsley citations included page references and that any links are to that page. I'm not sure what on page 4 is useful for the point it's currently cited against.

I don't mind discussing this a little later, but I wanted to flag it up now before I forgot it. John Smith's (talk) 17:22, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

A couple of things.
  • My motivation for cleaning/expanding this page came from my work on Murasaki Shikibu, currently at FAC, and I've been working on all the subsidiary pages, of which this is one because Dalby wrote a book about her.
  • I synthesized material and bundled cites per WP:CITEBUNDLE
  • The NYT mentions her geisha name, but honestly isn't even necessary in that sentence which is already cited.
  • I wasn't part of the Bardsley discussion. Didn't add the Bardsley material, sure wouldn't have used a citation template which goes against WP:CITEHOW, since I was the first person to add cites here.
  • I suspect the Bardsley material is copyvio and need to reload the 200 page pdf (which is utterly absurd to use and froze my computer on a week when I've already lost a computer) to check
  • After the work done last night this page is DYK ready - it's had a fivefold text expansion and the logical hook is that in the 1970s Dalby was the first westerner to become a geisha.
  • I think this dispute is absurd and unnecessarily time consuming. There's not reason at all for it. Every single source I've read has verified that Dalby was the first western geisha, and I'm using good sources.
Thanks for flagging - not sure what you want of me. Truthkeeper (talk) 18:22, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
How on earth can you say that every source you've read said that Dalby is the first western geisha when on the Graham page I linked to a number of articles that said she (Graham) was the first? You do know that newspapers and publications are allowed to revise previous opinions, right? And I discussed the Bardsley material earlier on this page. If you ignored it, fine, but you contributed to the thread so it's hardly unfair for me to think you might have read what I wrote.
What I would like is for the citations to match text. If you feel you've done more than enough work on this article, I'm happy with that. But what I would hope is that if or when I have the time you don't object to me making revisions. John Smith's (talk) 17:40, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
I think you need to take this up at a noticeboard or something. Bardsleys's piece is by a reputable scholar in a reputable journal and yes, can be used. I don't see where the citations don't match the text. If you're editing from a neutral point of view, then of course I wouldn't object, but you're editing to make a point, I wouldn't like it. It goes against the wiki pillars. Btw - until two days I had not read Bardsley. I've barely been following the Fiona Graham threads because the editing there is clearly tendentious. I think what I've done is actually write an article with sources instead of spending time on a the talkpage discussing a single phrase. You're putting words in my mouth by saying I agreed not to use Bardsley and in fact I find her source to be very useful. Truthkeeper (talk) 18:44, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

This article needs numerous sentences to be rewritten and/or removed[edit]

A lot of it (the statements about kimono, biographical/oversimplified descriptions of Murasaki Shikibu as "a poet", etc.) is just trivial material that might itself be attributed to this author, but doesn't belong in a biographical article about her in an encyclopedia. If the statement about 11th-century court ladies writing descriptions about kimono is accurate, it should be added to one of those articles, not this one. But fo the love of god, please don't mention inline in the Murasaki Shikibu article! :P Hijiri 88 (やや) 17:25, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

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