Friday, December 10, 2010
Get Offa My Lawn! Lolita and Territoriality
I've often said that lolita fashion should be for everyone. I feel that all girls have a princess inside of them waiting to be released, just as we all have Joan of Arcs waiting for something to fight for and Juliets confronted with something worth dying for. Like many lolitas, sometimes when I'm bored in class I sit and imagine dressing up my classmates in frills and petticoats and tiaras, just so they can feel it for themselves once. I'm one of those girls who was elated when brands started making larger sizes, not just for my own purposes, but because it makes this amazing aesthetic so much more accessible to the people who, arguably, may need it most. After graduating high school, I discovered that some of my friends in the class under me were buying their first frills, and instead of feeling replaced or getting hot-headed about having done it first, all I could be was happy to have played any part in introducing lolita to these girls' lives, no matter how small. In conclusion, I'm not one to get territorial over lolita. It's not mine, I don't own it, and therefore I feel no need to keep it all to myself. And anyway, it's kind of silly to try and keep your clothing style to yourself- everyone within a quarter-mile is going to notice a huge, walking cupcake!
But sometimes I feel kind of alone in this. Everyone knows about the cattiness of lolitas, the stereotype that "lolitas are bitches" - I must be mostly meeting the exception to that rule, because a large amount of my lolita friends are even sweeter than I am (though admitted that's not saying much!) It's always seemed to me that lolitas are so harsh on newcomers almost as a form of hazing: if you can prove you can take the heat, you're worth your frills, but if you get offended or hurt, your name will be splattered across the front page of Get Off EGL and maliciously passive-aggressive Secrets will be posted about you. Now, I don't use either of these communities, and I've heard that they're getting much more docile, so maybe this is one of those "Back in MY day..." things; if so, then just assume I am speaking only of the past, commenting on the actions of girls who've grown up or quit the fashion. However, it has always seemed to me that this was almost a way that a newcomer proved she deserved the status of a "lolita;" she was allowed to call herself a lolita only if she could take the ugliness of this fashion as well as the beauty. That's honestly a very poignant sentiment, but what about those girls who can't? They, this argument would have to state, do not deserve any of our beauty. They need to remove their rose-tinted glasses and go back to the grayness of modern life.
Now that doesn't jive with this princess. I'm of this crazy opinion that beauty is beauty, and that it belongs to the whole world, no matter your size or age or ethnicity or religion. That being said, even I get possessive of my lifestyle sometimes. This is my conundrum: I don't think any hopeful should have to pass through some kind of flaming hoop to be considered a follower of this fashion, but on the other hand, one can't just drop everything one day and simply decide to be a lolita. There are even times when I see someone in lolita and I get physically angry; she doesn't deserve this, she doesn't appreciate the beauty she's trying so vainly to emulate. That's the hardest for me, personally; I try my hardest to be non-judgmental in every aspect of my life, especially topics which already garner such hostility as lolita. If I do find myself judging other people, I tell myself that everyone gets exactly what they deserve in life, and if that's a nicer dress or better job than me, so be it. It's normal for people to be jealous or judgmental or territorial over things they love; however, that doesn't mean that these feelings should be indulged, nor does indulging it answer the bigger question.
That question is: why? What good does it do the individual or the group to be so insular? Of course, I'm not saying that people make a conscious effort to be territorial- mostly it's an instinctual way for us to protect what's important to us, and it's not lolita-specific, either. How many times you heard of so-and-so being called a poser because they don't perfectly submit to a certain stereotype? Those who willingly fall under that label make a point to exclude those who don't. Maybe this action is a testament to how much they've given up, e.g. a normal lifestyle, to earn the title of "freak," and anyone who hasn't given that up just doesn't deserve whatever title they're striving for. However, in lolita, while lifestyle-ism is rampant and wholly encouraged (especially by me!), usually, no matter how far into the depths you get, most lolitas do have a non-loli side to them, whether that's the clothes they wear to work or the way they act around their friends. I'm not saying this is bad- quite the contrary! I think it's great- all lolitas have many sides of themselves, just like all people do, so why not express them?
It also means that we're a little more immune to this idea of absolutism: "you're not doing it right" rarely becomes "you're not doing it enough," so while we're definitely more hasty to get territorial than your average Joe, the followers of other subcultures have been known to be even moreso (I'm thinking old school punk or goth here, simply because that's the only other subculture I've ever found myself involved with). Is this to do with the mainstream-ing of lolita fashion? Maybe. Once we're as household of a name as punk, when "cosplay lolita" becomes as common a fashion insult as "mall goth," I wouldn't be surprised if we started getting just as up-in-arms over purism as our alternative fashion predecessors. For now, however, it is important for us to remember that, while territoriality has its place (and I'm not saying we should be all open-arms-y to people who won't understand or appreciate this fashion), but if push comes to shove, I'm certain that she can protect herself just fine without us playing overbearing mothers. Besides- it's not like any of us own this fashion.