Archive for language babble

Our Lady of Preteens




lolita from Agnes B.

Originally uploaded by alex itin

When I started this blog, I kind of went in with the misguided hope that only those with a knowledge of and interest in lolita fashion would find their way here. Sure, there would be some foreigners casually wandering into our safe fairy tale castle made out of sugar and lace, but they would be harmless beings who quickly found the door when they realized their mistake.

I don’t cater to the uninitiated here. You may notice that I lack the usual disclaimers proclaiming “lolita is not a fetish,” “lolita is not cosplay,” and “lolita has nothing to do with the Nabokov novel by the same name” (although that last point is debatable and very intelligently explored by Yumemiru). After five years in the fashion, it seems silly to still tag this disclaimer onto everything I do. I have no interest in educating the masses.

And then a few days ago, as I was casually skimming my blog stats, I came across a recent search engine term used to find this blog. It went like this: “preteen little nymphets.”

Of course I’m not naive enough to be unaware of people in the world who may be Googling sexually precocious preteens, but the idea of being associated with such gives me the sudden pressing urge to vomit on my shoes. Imagine: my writings, my thoughts, my personal emotions on a page, being read by some creepy pedophile who unintentionally found his way here thanks to some unfortunate wording, when in fact he was looking to get his jollies.

I have had people tell me, “well if you don’t want people to think that, you should have called yourselves something else!”

“But,” I insist back, “it was named by a bunch of Japanese teenagers in the 1980s who probably had no idea what they were talking about. It’s not my fault!” Well, but is it?

Alright, so one of my favorite dorky pleasures is linguistics, so lets take a look at this word objectively as it is used by western lolitas. It is true that western lolitas inherited this name from their Japanese aunties in the lolita world. But it is also true that there are two alternative terms that I have seen used for the fashion, both of which have been employed by western lolitas but are currently shunned by the community at large.

EGL – Ah, EGL. Remember the days when we all thought that this was the technically correct, full name for lolita? And then some smart people were swift to correct us that, in fact, Mana came up with “Elegant Gothic Lolita” to describe only his own line, and that it is simply a derivative term for the much older and more widely-used word “lolita.” True, the acronym involved “lolita” in it, but wasn’t it so convenient to not have to say that part out loud? But there are a few reasons why, even with this convenience, lolitas prefer not to use it. First, it is inaccurate. Lolitas are sticklers for accuracy, and to have their very name be imprecise is simply unacceptable. Second, it has connotations that every lolita is both gothic and elegant, when in fact 80% of lolitas would rather wear pink and baby blue than black. Last of all, it means pretending that all lolitas follow Mana. Non-Mana fans take issue with this, if only to stamp out excessive instances of whiteface.

Gosurori – Ah, this is a fun one. “Gosurori” is a romaji approximation of how the Japanese say and write “goth loli,” or gothic lolita. True, lolita is once again in the title, but how could anybody guess that when you mangle the word with a fake Japanese accent? In addition to that whole “saying we’re all gothic” thing mentioned above, “gosurori” sounds frighteningly weeaboo. If there is one thing lolitas as a whole hate, it is being accused of being a weeaboo. Better to be on nymphet searches than a weeaboo.

So then, we can actually say that, through rejection of the alternatives, the English lolita community did actually choose their name. That doesn’t mean that we can go and choose a different name now, because lolita is entrenched in the language–it is used in the Japanese source material we depend on, as well as our own “official” publications. But more importantly, it is used by the ten thousand or so members of EGL on LiveJournal, as well as the many thousands more who are not part of that community.

So we’re stuck with it–does that mean we have to like it? Maybe not. But maybe we don’t have to be ashamed of it, either. The Yumemiru discussion about the relationship between the fashion and the book “Lolita” makes an excellent argument about the character Dolores being an ordinary girl–not a seductress, as she is portrayed by contemporary media. And in fact, it has been suggested elsewhere that if people are getting the wrong associations from the name due to such misinformation, then why aren’t we talking about the need for society to change its perception, instead of about whether to change the name?

Why is a “Lolita” considered a nymphet, when the character Lolita was a sexually innocent victim? Why, indeed, is there a “lolita complex” and no “humbert complex?” Many girls see lolita fashion as an act of reclaiming femininity. Maybe, while we’re at it, we should reclaim the name lolita for ourselves. Instead of being ashamed of our name, why not celebrate it?

Lolita comes from the name Dolores, which is short for “La Virgen María de los Dolores”, or “Virgin Mary of Sorrows.” This is one of the titles granted to the Virgin Mary (another being the Latin “Mater Dolorosa,” or Mother of Sorrows), referring to the seven sorrows in her life. Whether you subscribe to a Christian faith or not, she is an undeniable symbol of grace and compassion. As the Mother of Sorrows, she is represented with seven swords piercing her heart–an iconic symbol of strength.

This is quite appropriate for lolita fashion, which aims to be nonsexual in appearance. Though perhaps “virginal” is a little too strong a word, there is a strong feeling that lolita should be, in some way, pure. Additionally, lolita is a source of strength–sometimes, it is simply a source of confidence (if only the confidence you need to walk down the street in those frills). Other times, it can be the thing you draw on just to get through your day.

This would not be the first time that lolita adopts a religious symbol for itself, either. La Virgen María de los Dolores is right at home among Moitie’s crosses, Baby’s stained glass print, and the brand name Mary Magdalene, not to mention that unfortunate Juliette et Justine dress depicting Jesus on the cross.

Maybe the symbol doesn’t stretch too far. But for myself, I’m pretty happy to call myself a mini-Our Lady of Sorrows.

And, Mr. Creepy Pedophile with a thing for preteens, I see no reason why I should adjust who I am for you.

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