Smith Sophian

Looking Like a Lolita and a Rebel

By: Victoria McCarroll

Posted: 10/9/08

For the first nine years of my schooling, I wore a uniform. It was the typical Catholic schoolgirl outfit - white knee-highs, black shoes, a plaid skirt and a white dress shirt. I didn't mind the uniform and when I went to public high school, I occasionally dragged it out and wore it to school. I did this mostly for the irony, but in 12th grade, I put on the pleated skirt - which, much to my astonishment, still fit - and realized that this was no longer ironic. Though the skirt was within school code, there was something essentially wrong about me wearing it. The 13-year-old in the school skirt was innocent; the 17-year-old in that same skirt was sexual. I looked like a Lolita.

In fashion, Lolita refers to a movement originating in Japan; its adherents wear Victorian style girls' dresses with Mary Janes, knee socks and bloomers. These so-called "Gothic Lolitas" distinguish themselves from the Lolita of Vladimir Nabokov's novel, saying that their fashion choices have nothing to do with sexuality or pedophilia, but instead are a form of rebellion and self-expression.

If you are in your twenties and wearing children's clothing, even if it is period clothing, you will be placed in a sexual, infantilized context. By no means am I saying that this is right, but you must be aware of it. If this is rebellion, articulate why you are rebelling and what you are rebelling against. You cannot change language without using language, and simply saying that this is self-expression or rebellion does not challenge social contexts. Self-expression is a grab bag term; we have heard it too often to find profound meaning in it.

Many Lolitas also use the word "escapism" to describe their motivation. While I certainly indulge in escapism, I cannot reconcile escapism with rebellion. Rebellion is about confrontation. If you want to completely change the context society places you in, you must be actively aware of and responsive to society.

Furthermore, the Lolitas are not drawing on adult Victorian fashion; they are drawing on children's fashion, and though they are looking to the past, their clothing is very clearly young girls' clothing. Childhood is a sacred space, and individuality is no excuse for corrupting that space. Innocence is their object, but the Lolitas must realize that intention is not the same as result.

I believe in re-interpretation and questioning of terms and conventions, but you cannot void the connotations of word simply because you want to appropriate that term. Certainly, there are social movements that have reclaimed words - queer is a good example of this - and word meanings do shift over time, but I doubt that modern Lolitas will be able to avoid the controversial heritage of their title.

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