New York City lolitas swear. A lot. At least, all the ones I run with do. In fact, your average New York City lolita has enough mothaf***ing sass to power the Empire State Building for at least a year, with the exception of special occasion Christmas lights. From my travels around the country, it seems like New York City girls do the most backtalk to street harassment. Maybe that’s because we’re subjected to plenty of it on a daily basis, or maybe because we’re from a culture where people speak their mind often.
So this article is to bust the myth that lolitas are “ladylike” and don’t swear. If you want to see gorgeous lolitas draped in chiffon and pearls shatter lolita stereotypes, holla at my New York City girls.
My friend Andrea, the moderator of the Atlanta lolita community, came to visit over International Lolita Day. She’s got that southern charm and class, which is something we New York girls aren’t really known for. When people are rude to us (everyone from native New Yorkers, tourists, or drunk guys on a train), New York City girls do not hesitate to put them in their place. Andrea said to us, “People often tell me I’m too nice. I need to hang out with you girls more to learn some of your attitude.”
On International Lolita Day, it’s also prime Christmas season in New York and plenty of out-of-towners and tourists are visiting to see the Rockettes and Rockefeller Plaze and generally live out their Home Alone II daydreams. Riding the train in, we rode in a car with a few families – mom, dad, 2.5 kids and the like. As the train pulled into Grand Central, everyone starts gathering their things to exit the train. Both families sitting further to the front stopped dead in the aisle, effectively keeping everyone on the train from leaving. The mom flashes an L.L. Bean smile at me and says, “So. I gotta ask.” And waves her hand vaguely at my body. (Check out my previous post to see what I wore!)
“What do you have to ask?” I asked her, looking her dead in the eye.
“Uh… I don’t know,” she said, stumped. The guy across the aisle, with his own posse of kids, asked the usual, if we were in a show. I said no. He said enthusiastically, “You should do one.” I responded, “I ain’t getting paid for that.” (See the sass?) Then I turned to the previous mom and asked, “Are you going to let us off the train? We’re waiting on your family.” She and her husband grumbled and moved their brood along.
This is a totally common occurence in my life as a New York City lolita. When Stephanie came to visit, she was amazed at the sheer number of people who harrass/bother/impede us on a daily basis. In some tourist hubs like Grand Central Station and Times Square, it’s gotten so bad that I invented the $5 rule. If you want a photograph of us, we want $5. Nobody wants to part with $5 that bad, so we get to go on our way. Otherwise we can literally be detained 20 minutes while dozens of tourists insist on photos of us or with us. We’ve even tried to get our own group photos only to have complete strangers photobomb us for their OWN pictures.
Okay, here’s the deal. I know in the past I’ve been a big supporter of representing your lolita community, being polite, explaining to strangers and being ambassador to the world of lolita. And I still believe in that. For people who are genuinely interested in your outfit, I think it’s best to be polite and answer any questions.
Here’s the catch. A lot of people are not genuinely interested in your outfit. They are there to be snide, or rude, or just laugh at you. They feel perfectly fine detaining you, asking for photographs, and ignoring that you are a human being. Sometimes these people are dismissive, or belligerent, or just downright condescending. You don’t owe these people anything. As women, we are conditioned to be nice, even to the point of our own detriment. We are taught not to be rude, whether to a creepy stranger or obnoxious Aunt Sally. We are raised to put other peoples’ comfort before our own, every time.
You don’t owe these people an explanation. You don’t owe them a photograph. You don’t owe them your attention, your time, your conversation. You certainly don’t owe them politeness, or your niceness, nor do you owe them your silence when they’re rude.
Another story from ILD involved a certain drunk British gentleman on the street who demanded I tell him why I was wearing such an outfit. When I said no, I don’t have to explain anything to him, he complained that I wasn’t “nice”. Well, sir, no. To drunken jerks like you hassling me, detaining me and my friends from our business, I don’t have to be nice.
So perhaps now you’re saying, “Well, Victoria Suzanne, I can be a strong independent woman without swearing. I don’t need to cuss to stand up for myself.” And you’d be right. There are plenty of ways to express yourself and your confidence that do not include four-letter words that will get you nailed by the FCC. Probably New York City girls swear more often because that’s just the local culture and color around here. Plenty of people prefer not to use profanity, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What I object to is the lolita fallacy that lolitas must be “ladylike”, which involves antiquated notions of being polite, demure, and accommodating. You can choose to be ladylike if you want. There’s nothing wrong with being ladylike if you so desire. But the real beauty of feminism for the modern woman is that you have the power of choice. If you want to swear, drink, and whatever else you want, you can. Defining your gender and how you choose to express it should be your job.
So girl, you don’t need to change your language from Brooklyn to Brontë if you’re donning your frills. Be yourself and be bold.
I also want to add a shout-out to the project iHollaBack, a non-profit movement to end street harassment against women. I think as lolitas, who get catcalled plenty every day, this is a cause particularly close to my heart. You can choose to donate, or you can share your stories in social media with the hashtag #ihollaback to get the movement some press.