You know what? I really do. I believe that we all could be united, that as lolitas, we could be a subculture brimming with positivity: we could be a unified force fighting the status quo, a force to be reckoned with battling a world dressed in gray powersuits and smart black pumps and nude nylons. There's no reason we shouldn't be one. We're thousands of girls brought together from all parts of the globe, united by our love of beauty and little else. I guess that means we should expect the cattiness, the rudeness, the backstabbing, but I just can't. I can't believe that people who have come together in a way only made possible in the last ten years solely by our love of and search for beauty could be so ugly to each other. I guess I'm an idealist. I just don't see the point in having entire websites devoted to calling people ugly, or stupid, or naive, or fill in the blank with whatever these communities have decided is taboo en vogue today. And you may that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. There are plenty of fabulous ladies who leave the scene all the time because they're sick of getting beaten down for being themselves in an alternate fashion (crazy, I know - here I'm in this fashion because I just LOVE to look like everyone else!).
Some people say negative communities are necessary. They say they need to discuss scammers, they want to laugh at mainstream media's perception of lolita whenever it rears it hilariously ugly head, they need to blow off steam about people who annoy or anger them. Well, the first two I agree with - I enjoy reading both of them. However, I don't see why these things can't be posted to the main community; they can be, and they are. Think back to the belle_bete drama, or Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty episode. Everyone knew about them, even if egl was the only lolita website they read. Therefore, these are moot points. (Also, I would like to add that I have no problem egl, and agree that the main community and most of its subsidiaries are pretty much harmless, as far as these things go - my problem is not with the positive communities that the fashion has spawned but with the negative.)
The last part, however, always amuses me. I snicker a little whenever I see that the only way for the people who participate in these communities to blow off steam is to post the offense in question. I get annoyed too, guys - I get frustrated when I see someone doing something offensive in lolita, I get righteously angry when I see people flagrantly throwing the rules away and still calling themselves lolitas. I'm human - it grates my cheese too. However, when one of these things happens, guess what I do? Get out my cellphone. Phone a friend. Rant. Friend counter-rants. We rant together. Steam is blown off, peace is restored, and no one's feelings got hurt. No one needs to know that they pissed me off unless the offense is so unpardonable that I absolutely cannot bear to see it go unprostested. Here's a doozy: when that happens... wait for it... I tell them. I know, I know, it's crazy! I send them a private message on facebook, or livejournal, or whatever it was, and I say "Listen, I know you were just stating your opinion about ______, but it really offended me. Maybe I misunderstood, but it seemed like you were saying _______. Would you mind explaining to me what you meant instead? I'm sure I just read it wrong." It's simple and effective: if they're mature enough to respond intelligently, they'll either explain the misinterpretation or tell me that what I understood was correct, and they're sticking to their opinion. In either case, I thank them for their time and put the incident out of my mind, bearing no bad blood. If they're children, they'll either ignore me or respond with something like "You know what? I'm entitled to my opinion and I don't need YOU coming out from nowhere and criticizing it, who the fuck ever are you, I don't know you at all, you don't know me or anything about me, how dare you judge me on what I say..." and that's usually when I stop reading. Either way, the situation is over. Something offended me, and I did something about it. I was the big kid and they proved their utter immaturity, and I can let the situation go knowing that I did the right thing.
Why am I talking about this? Well, I've pretty much always felt this way - I never read wank or spam communities, or if I do it's once in a very blue moon, and I don't think it's a habit I've ever adopted nor do I plan to. However, it was this article by The Ugly Ducking that really got my gears grinding about it, and after typing up a novella of a comment I decided I had enough to say about the topic to warrant my own blog post. One of the points she made is one that I've wanted to discuss for a long time, anyway: taken from some survey results from Ramble Rori:
"An eighth (12% / 52 people) of those surveyed say that they themselves, or someone who they know have developed a mental disorder of some kind related to online bullying."I'm personal friends with Christina of Ramble Rori; up until a few weeks ago I was her roommate at college, and therefore we discussed the survey results heavily as soon as they were gathered. When she told me this statistic, I kind of wanted to throw up.
Now, Miss Rosie makes an excellent point in her article: We can't shield new lolitas from the big, bad, scary world. Of course we can't. And if they can't even deal with negativity from their peers, they will not be able to take the kind of abuse they'll get from people on the street. And who wants to censor themselves? That's so 1950's! Free speech! Fuck the man, and all that jazz! Of course we live in a world where Freedom of Speech is almost universal... but is that a good thing? I'm a Taurus - I'm all for justice. Fairness and equality are practically my middle names. However, we have become a global society where our speech is so free that words no longer have meaning to us, their originators. Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only people they don't have meaning for.
I've heard all the tired excuses. "Lol, it's the internet!" "Someone call the WAAHmbulance!" "It's not real life!" "She broke the rules - she was asking for it!" Sure, it IS the internet. Sure, the people who are saying these things are usually cities or states or countries away from the people they're about. And sure, someone who would get upset that people they have never met and probably never will don't like them must have a pretty thin skin. However, you can never know what underlying, deep-seated problems a person might have, and you never know what could set off a relapse or be "triggering" (as wary as I am to use that word, with all of the negative connotations this exact situation has created for it). Things have happened to me and those who are close to me that make me uncomfortable about rape jokes, and that is a hard battle to fight when the entire world seems to think it's peachy keen to talk about "Superman-ing a ho." It gets even harder when my friends or the people whose opinion I care about make those jokes. The same could be said about people fighting eating disorders: if she's already in a fragile mindset about her appearance and then she sees that someone said "lolz fatty put down the cheeseburger" on some wank community, do you think it matters who the poster was? No. All that matters is that when she was trying to fit in and follow along and do something right, the very people she thought would accept her want to spit in her face too.
The point is... no. There are so many points here that I don't even know where to start. Were you bullied intensely as a child, so you think this kind of thing is normal and acceptable? Weren't you raised right? Weren't you ever told "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?" Have you really become so callous from our society that you don't think there's anything wrong with making someone feel worse than dirt?
Sure, maybe they should lighten up. Maybe they're making a mountain out of a molehill and maybe you didn't mean anything by it and maybe you shouldn't have to walk on eggshells because you might hurt someone's precious, delicate ~feelings~. But you know what? The statistics don't lie, and one-eighth seems like a pretty small percentage, but in the end, of almost 450 surveyed, that's fifty people. Fifty human beings, fifty human souls who have become mentally ill over some flippant little response you don't even remember making: fifty girls burning their esophagus with their own stomach acids or adding another tally-mark to their wrist with a razor blade or chasing a bottle of Advil with a bottle of vodka because goddammit, just when they thought they finally found somewhere to fit in...
This is something we can fight. This doesn't have to be the truth. The amazing, blessed thing about statistics is that they change with the mindset of their targets. We can still be that sisterhood. I don't think it's impossible; I don't even think it's hard. All it takes are baby steps: instead of posting a picture to 4chan, give it a sentence-worth of constructive criticism instead. Don't respond to getoffegl posts. Don't be that girl at meet-ups who's whispering behind her hand; engage your fellow lolitas. Get to know them. You might be surprised to find yourself actually caring. With International Lolita Day just passed, I think this is the perfect time to open up to your fellow lolitas. This isn't a solo fight, but I think we can do it. Be strong, fight the fear, and kill this hatred once and for all.
Look out for my follow-up post to this, "The Curse of 'White-Knighting'" in which I will discuss the horrors of giving a shit.
POST SCRIPT: It was pointed out to me that this article excludes our male population, who may or may not be keen on joining my little feminist tirade. It could be said that I was thinking in a sexist manner when I wrote this article, but the term "sisterhood" was actually not coined by me; I first saw it used to refer to lolita in an article from Lolita Charm. To quote:
"Lolitas are so different from the mainstream, and so small a percentage, with such a sensitive interest. There is a sisterhood there; there is something we all yearn for that we try to taste with ruffles and bows and ribbons."
That said, I don't think that this idea of "sisterhood" necessarily excludes men- I know that sounds stupid, but hear me out. This fashion is devoted to the feminine side of life; therefore, regardless of sex, it seems to me that anyone who engages in a feminine fashion could identify himself as of the female gender whenever he dons those clothes while still being of the male sex (remember, 'sex' means biological identity and 'gender' means social identity). I also imagine that someone who is so comfortable with femininity that he will wear lolita would not be adverse to considering himself one of a sisterhood, whatever he identifies his gender as.
In this article, I'm not also talking to those who wear masculine versions of lolita such as kodona or dandy simply because I haven't exposed myself to their side of our world enough to have the knowledge to comment on them- this goes for broli's as well. I don't want to label the men in our community as catty if they aren't, or hold them up as an example of sweetness if they don't suit that term either. I don't like to talk about things I don't know well, because that's always a recipe for disaster, especially when you're commenting on the thoughts and actions of an entire group you don't know well. I stayed away from discussing it, but if there are any male followers of our fashion who would like to add their two cents, please do so - I'd love to get a better understanding!
(image found via tumblr, original source unknown)