Why New York City Lolitas Swear

 

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.

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  • lavendermintrose

    This is so true! Though personally, I like to try the comebacks that appear polite and are elegantly worded but are actually quite a sting. Witty, you know? Feels good even if it goes over the heads of the offending parties. It’s a sort of “ladylike,” but one that’s exceedingly kind only to those who deserve it, and tactfully witty like a sharp sword to those who don’t (e.g. someone harassing you on the street, demanding anything, etc.) I think that’s a lot more British than New York, though, in a way. ^_^;

  • oh man, A+ post. I really need to learn how to be not-so-nice to people like this, but it’s hard for me…haha.

  • shoujo-neko

    I know one girl in my local community who is adorable but super intimidating. When some boys came up making rude comments, she walked up so quickly the group backed away, and she yelled “F*** off!” I was so shocked, but they left us alone!
    I really wish I had the confidence to tell people not to be mean, I will take the advice from this journal~ you’re right; I don’t owe anyone an explanation. Thank you!

  • Well said. Don’t let the frills fool you folks – we from New York!

  • In the south people like lolita outfits or where I am from. They say I look cute and almost never ask for pictures but in the big cities… like when I was in Paris there are more rude people to deal with! WOW! So you have to adapt to the environment. Great post! <3

  • osuneyedgirl

    I loved this entry. I have to admit, I’m totally that girl out of all my friends who can be rude, loud, and curse in situations like this. While I’m not always that way, it definitely has its advantages. All of my other lady friends’ parents feel totally confident that their daughters will be safe when going out with me! It’s not always necessary, but it’s empowering to know that you’ve got it in you when you need it.

  • Hopeless Romantic

    As enjoyable it was to read this entry, I don’t really like the emphasis on how New York lolitas are bold, overly sassy girls who cuss a lot. I was born and raised in New york city but I’m basically the opposite of everything you described a New York lolita is like. I’m a shy girl who likes being polite and “lady-like” to people I meet even if they do come off a little bit rude… And I don’t even curse. At all. I really don’t like cursing and I’m not too extremely fond of people who curse in front of me. I find a bit rude and disrespectful in all honesty.

    And perhaps you haven’t ran into someone like me before is because I don’t participate in the Nyc lolita community…

    • lavendermintrose

      Yeah, sort of this, too. I don’t personally have a problem with hearing others swear, but I try not to do it because I know some other people do have a problem with it, and it’s not important enough to me to risk offending people who haven’t done anything to hurt me.
      But I do agree with Victoria that if you feel hurt or harassed by anyone, you have a right to stand up for yourself in a way that lets them know you aren’t just gonna take it and it’s not okay to do that. You can be bold in a confident way without being loud or rude, which I think is more the kind of person Victoria was talking about (like, I haven’t seen anyone from the lolita community being rude at least.)

    • I think perhaps you are missing the point of the article –
      It isn’t focused on the idea that all NYC Lolitas are a bunch of sassy,
      swearing gals but rather that as a lolita (and a female) we should not have to
      feel forced to play nice to people who are rude to us all because we are
      dressed in a very feminine fashion. As Victoria states, we do not owe anyone
      anything. Victoria (correct me if I am wrong, Victoria) chose to use the NYC
      Lolitas as an example because the group of NYC based rufflebutts she does hang
      out with ARE a bunch of thick-skinned, sassy girls who are not above dropping a
      few f-bombs to get their points across. She was using her circle of friends to
      illustrate how one community handles living in an environment that is often
      exposed to hostility and how they handle it. The point is that we should have
      the freedom to talk back to the jerk harassing us and calling us “little bo
      peep” or, like you, prefer to just turn the other cheek. The point is that we
      have a choice, but lolitas should know that they shouldn’t have to feel forced
      to act a lady-like just because they are dressed in frills. I think Victoria
      was just attempting to promote awareness of the freedom of choice so girls don’t
      have to feel restricted and locked into acting in a certain way.

  • Petrina

    I like this post because it exemplifies that Lolitas being nice can only go so far. There are situations where one can be nice and situations where one shouldn’t (and defend themselves in the manner that people can back off immediately). Or rather that one should know to analyze the situation when it’s okay to react or not. And whether you do or not or just ignore it is your choice.

  • PrincessRune

    perfect post

  • I love posts that support the idea that while being kind is a great way to live, you don’t have to be nice nor generous to every asshat that comes along.

  • Paula OKeefe

    100% this. The least you ought to require is that they ask a real question. I can’t guess your level of expertise/interest just by looking at you; don’t just point at me and expect me to know whether your question is “is that real Cluny lace?” or “are you advertising something?” And DON’T expect me to accept your opinion that I’m a freak and ought to be prepared to justify my existence to anyone who’s puzzled by it. MAN, I hate that.

  • MissMilly

    Wow, totally what happened to me: I was at an antiques sale wearing my lace Meta dress and purple wig, in which I feel totally comforatble. I pass by two police officers who stop me and say “What happened”. I smiled and said very politely “What happened what?” Police: “To your hair”. I looked at my hair, gave them a puzzled look and said, “Well what?”. And they just shrugged and said “nothing”. I was having so much fun. You’ve got to confront people with their own prejudiced behaviour. I’ll definitely write about my experience of “the public” in and around Paris on my blog. Good going!

  • Arika Kimsey

    I always feel like I’m lucky living where I do, I’ve never been harassed while dressed in Lolita in public, in fact there were a few times I thought I was going to be harassed and was complimented instead.
    I worry about the day it happens (cause I’m sure it will one day), and wonder how I’ll handle it, will I fight back, or ignore? I don’t know.

  • Guest

    I really wish I could meet you in person, I feel like I’d need someone like you to walk around in a lolita coord just as a confidence boost ;___;

    I still have the problem of being too shy to go out in public, so yeah, I wish I could be like you.

  • Sometimes you have to be really shocking and jarring when dealing with people who seek to treat you like crap. You never know what someone on the street may do- if you show weakness, they may see that as an opening to mess with you more. Hands down, if someone says something nasty to me, I am going to swear at them. If someone puts one of my group in danger, I’m going to scream at them. So, for real real, being polite only goes so far, and then it can lead to actual dangerous situations if you don’t make your boundaries very clear.

  • 1. This is why you are my unicorn waifu. <3

    2. I am inspired to write an entry on"Why ElleJay Swears" which will be much less inspirational and much more having to do with what happens when I drive.

    3. Did I mention that I love you? And that I miss you? Because I do.

  • I am one of those who is overly nice most of the time. Although, I cuss a lot. XD I have yet to encounter any negativity whilst wearing lolita. But I hope that if it happens, I can be so absolutely sweet and overwhelmingly nice that it will throw them off completely. ^_^

  • Great post! Totally agree with you.
    But wow, I had no idea that New York loli’s got harassed THAT much! Ugh…I commend you and the community for being such strong women! (and men? :3)

    I’m a really passive person, so even if someone insulted me, I would have a hard time fighting back.

    I go to College in Toronto, and for two years of wearing this fashion I haven’t gotten a insult (thank God!). I have gotten a few confused, perverted, and unpleasant stares, but then I just smile back. (Except for the perverted ones…I give them the death stare. Lol)

    I’m sure one day I will have to face being harassed, and after reading what you wrote, its just really encouraging to know that I don’t have to put up with that shit!

  • ichigohime

    The more I know about you the more I like and admire you <3

    I do as you say: if someone is interested and curious, I do my best to be nice and polite. If someone is just rude and annoying I feel free to treat them as nice as they treat me.

  • Sasha

    Wonderful post! You said nothing overtly rude, but everyone understood your point, and maybe that lady will think twice before stopping someone else in the future. . . Perhaps she would only dress up to get attention, but we wear lolita because it feels right, not because we want to be detained twenty times a day.

  • nina petrossian

    omg thanks for using the picture i made ;A; i never even saw this post omg i cant belive i missed it but hi this is nina and im looking through your bloggu for inspo <3

  • pumpkin_spice

    this is insightful I wonder how people in my small town would react to me, a small black girl wearing a super ruffled pink dress completed with bows? I just might try :) how do you get started in the lolita dressing business?