Although I have never dressed in Lolita, I have always been fascinated my the fashion movement and how it shows that femininity can be empowering in some cases. I highly recommend spending 10 minutes to watch this video. But be warned, it has left many a viewer teary-eyed.
“Kawaii” Japanese fashion, specifically Lolita, is often misinterpreted as being the opposite of empowering because it appears to be extremely feminine and enforcing of gender roles. I previously wrote an article on this topic entitled Kawaii and Independent, in which I discussed how “Rather than kawaii being a form of oppression, as some people tend to view it, fans of kawaii culture will be quick to confirm that it is rather a form of self-expression, empowerment, and individuality.”
This week, the “Sugar Coated” documentary about Lolita Fashion that was posted on YouTube began circulating on Tumblr. The documentary interviews several people who wear Lolita fashion and actively engage in the lifestyle. The documentary is very well done and the stories give insight into various reasons people choose to dress in Lolita fashion and how their decision changed them for the better, often helping them find self confidence.
Gender roles are a tool of the patriarchy used to keep women in a submissive role. We are taught that femininity is to be delicate and weak. As Gwen Sharp accurately describes in Policing Masculinity in Slim Jim’s “Spice Loss” Ads, “Femininity is depicted as weakness, the sapping of strength, yet masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it.” Although Lolita fashion is hyper-feminine and subsequently seemingly oppressive, it is interesting that many people have instead found it to be an empowering lifestyle. Lolitas don’t choose their outfits to please anyone other than themselves because it’s about what makes them feel happy and confident rather than about the approval of others.
The Lolitas in the video felt empowered in different ways. Every person’s story was unique and touching. I found Jordan’s story particularly interesting as Jordan, a male, says he feels “100 times more confident and more comfortable” when dressed in Lolita. Although femininity is viewed as oppressive for women and men shy away from engaging in those activities because it makes them appear weak, Jordan completely embraces it because it makes him feel empowered and he looks damn good too!
At the end, one of the girls leaves us with the following uplifting message, “If you love it, just be true to yourself and forget about those who hate it.”