Spotlight on: Subversive Kawaii

It’s a typical evening in my New England house. I’m sitting in front of the nightly news, wearing some kind of ruffly pink night-gown and pearl kitty ears. Paul Ryan comes on the screen, talking anti-choice propaganda and grinning condescendingly into the camera. I flip off the TV and have a few choice words for this guy who thankfully is not leaving his dirty socks all over the White House as we speak.

Later, I get on Facebook, where some of my lolita friends are have a discussion about the feminist repercussions of school dress-code. A white guy butts into the conversation to tell us exactly how, “as a man”, he doesn’t seen anything wrong with asking girls to “not dress like strippers” if they want to study algebra in peace. I have choice words for this guy, too.

As a girl, I face sexism, patriarchy, rape culture, whatever your favorite term is – both casual and blatant – every day in my life. And I have to admit, it makes me pretty angry. It’s frustrating, dehumanizing, and just downright rude. Sometimes you got to let it out.

So, I was very pleased to see a new Tumblr put my two favorite things together: pink, cuteness, and a take-no-prisoners attitude to rape culture, patriarchy, and Nice Guys. The ever-popular “offensive kawaii text” graphic subgenre on Tumblr is all about cute insults. So why not pair cute with anger against that creeper cat-caller on the street instead of the girl you can’t stand from your last meetup? Meet Subversive Kawaii.

What I really relate to in these graphics is the underlying message, rather than the straightforward text. Just because I’m cute and enjoy cute things, doesn’t mean you can walk on me. Just because I like pink and ribbons and glitter, doesn’t mean I’ll stand for being treated like a little girl without opinions of my own. Here’s the thing. When I am angry and have choice words and hand gestures for Paul Ryan on my television set, I am tired of being told to act like a lady and express my anger in a more respectful way. I don’t owe these guys my respect. I am five foot two, I have pink hair and I am wearing a tiara and I do not have to show you respect if I choose not to. I do not have to play nice.

 

I’m particularly fond of this one, too – it shows that Subversive Kawaii isn’t just about cis people. It’s good to see that we have some cute pastel that supports intersectional feminism – in this case, trans issues as well. Got pronoun choices? Tell ’em, you badass cutie.

Pink, kittens, and rainbows that threaten bodily harm on people who sexually objectify your body? All of my favorite things. If you want to know more about sexual objectification, I just watched a great TED talk by Caroline Heldman that explains it very well. I don’t think I quite understand objectification until I watched this lecture, and realized how often we’re objectified in culture – but how often women, even scarier, objectify themselves. I was amazed to see that I think of myself as an object all the time.

Okay, now that I’ve thoroughly pinkified your ideas of smashing the patriarchy (I hope), they also have an Etsy I’m hoping will get built up soon with all kinds of pink anti-misogyny products. In the meantime, I’m definitely eyeing their PRINCESS patch to spice up my pink denim jacket for spring.

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  • Isabelle Forlin

    I’ve always been a big fan of your blog and I love that you are not afraid to show how bold we can be in the face of sexism and objectification of women while still being an adorable Lolita. So when I saw this post, I was exited to read it. You surprised me, however, by also mentioning trans rights. It made me really happy ^ _ ^ I’m a gender-queer Lolita, so it can be difficult and I’m really glad that you’re bringing attention to the trans community who struggle with these issues too. Thank you! :)

  • Reina Summers

    You girl , fight for Girl power all over the world yayyy

  • ino112

    rock the spirit the ,keep lolita and style on !!!! the blog above is amazing its got the cutest pictures ,i was starting to get annoyed with all the disses that have hit me but now i can hit back thnxx so much soo inspiring

  • Girls have too dress ‘not like a slut,’ so a boy can learn maths better!? Oh ridiculous. If you were so good at learning maths, why does what someone across the room wearing make a differnece?! Smh

  • frankierain

    “Got pronoun choices? Tell ‘em, you badass cutie.”
    Thank you. I already do. uvu (It’s singular they. For the record.)

    I really admire Caroline Heldman’s statement in that presentation, and I agree completely with what she’s saying about the harm of objectification! I have to say, though, that I contest the notion that women (or anyone else!) caring about their appearances or wanting to be sexy for their own sakes is a bad thing– that instead of doing things like ‘spending an hour putting on makeup’– feminine things– women ought to be out doing ‘useful’ things like, oh, I don’t know… traditionally masculine things (as if femininity can’t be useful or world-changing?).

    While I see where she’s coming from, and I agree in every way that compulsorily-mandated beauty standards can and should go fuck themselves, I think second- and third-wave feminism often falls into this dangerous trap of wanting women to have the ‘choice to choose the right choice’, and in that case, it often means the choice that is not feminine.

    I hope you’ll forgive me if I quote a hefty bit of Julia Serrano’s “Whipping Girl” (which is a magnificent read and I recommend it for everyone, though some of the terminology is a bit out of date now), she puts it so much more eloquently than I ever could. (Bolding mine)–

    “…An important yet often overlooked aspect of traditional sexism… [is] that it targets people not only for their femaleness, but for their expressions of femininity… discriminating against someone’s femininity is still considered fair game. The idea that masculinity is strong, tough, and natural, while femininity is weak, vulnerable, and artificial continues to proliferate even among people who believe that women and men are equals.
    […]
    Even many feminists buy into traditionally sexist notions about femininity– that it is artificial, contrived, and frivolous; that it is a ruse that only serves the purpose of attracting and appeasing the desires of men. …No form of gender equity can ever truly be achieved until we first work to empower femininity itself.”

    {my note: on the “femininity as artificial” front, I think it’s important that Heldman, and often second- and third-wave feminists in general, very often choose the application of makeup– artificial substances that are applied on top of one’s natural face and then removed– to illustrate “bad things women are doing”, rather than any other type of sexualised femininity that is related to objectification, such as, say, flirting with men in order to make other women jealous.}

    I thought this might be an interesting passage for Lolitas of a feminist bent, seeing how much time we devote to the celebration and cultivation of our femininity!

  • I only recently got a Tumblr and I’m happy to find a new one to follow~ teehee (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

  • Thank you thank you for sharing.
    I’ve been afraid to tackle any feminist issues on my blog so far, feeling like I’m not qualified enough to talk about it, or like people might not wan to hear it. But this was really wonderful to read and refreshing to hear. And I really enjoyed the TED talk. I didn’t realize how badly I was treating myself!

  • :s i get the feeling the USA is a horrible place…where i live we don’t have this problem to anywhere near the extent i hear about on your blog/tumblr

    • I think it is only parts of the USA that is like that. I live in a different part of the country and the community I live in is pretty accepting of people as a whole. I haven’t seen anybody out of high school ridiculed for their fashion choices yet. Of course, if I go to a bigger city I might, but I’ll have to see how it is other places too.

  • I went there, and liked what I saw…until I saw the word “misandry” popping up….a lot. I messaged the people running the blog and attempted to explain what many have already to them, that misandry is a word that makes feminists look like they -hate- every single man alive. It shuts down positive conversation. Instead, what they really were describing in their defense of the word was anti-patriarchy, but they refused to switch to that. I discussed the blog with a women’s studies professor who agreed that their refusal to see reason and switch makes them into what the GOP thinks a feminist is…a bunch of man-haters. If they support queers as well, then misandry applies to queer male-identifying individuals as well, thus shutting down any argument that the word doesn’t make them alienate who they claim to be supporting.

    I decided to share that here in hopes that maybe others would send them the same message; it’s disturbing that there is a growing group of young feminists in support of misandry, and I really am afraid of that. I just…I can’t support poor word use, shock value, and lack of reasoning in the face of said shock value. It sucks too, they have some excellent gifs and points and I really dig it…but that whole misandry thing? No. That’s more sexism…in the opposite direction.

    If they’d lose that word, that one word, I could back this. I love everything else they’re doing.

    • zzwriter

      Here’s the thing though, it’s perfectly rational to have a dislike of men when, you know, when you compare misandry (which causes hurt feelings) to misogyny (which causes rape, lower pay, abuse, and a plethora of other nasty things) you will notice a VERY LARGE DISSONANCE IN HOW NASTY THEY ARE. I shouldn’t have to be afraid to walk out my front door in shorts and a tube top, and I’m allowed to hate the group that causes that fear.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. It’s great to hear people speak out <3