With convention season in full swing, and the recent topic of Brock Turner’s conviction for the rape of a fellow Stanford student, I wanted to remind you, dear readers, of similar issues facing many of our own fellow geeks, nerds, cosplayers, actors, etc.
Cosplay is, as we all know, a great way for fans of different shows, movies, IPs, etc. to show their love for their favorite characters. It’s become more & more popular over the last decade or so, and with that popularity comes more & more creativity from the amazing cosplayers who hone their craft every time they build a new piece. These people are artists in their own right, and deserve a lot of respect for the work they put into their cosplays, and for the amount of patience it takes not only to build their looks, but to deal with the influx of attention they garner – both positive AND negative.
That brings me to the crux of why I wanted to write this article today. As I am a member of several groups that revolve around cosplay & fandom, I’ve recently seen & heard some things that have been fairly unsettling. We all know that many female cosplayers have been the victims of unwanted attention, touching, and/or comments from con attendees & people on the street, and those who are usually the offenders cite the way the cosplayers are dressed as justification for the treatment. Instances like this were also the impetus for the #cosplayisnotconsent movement on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Recently, I was speaking to a cosplayer friend of mine (who has asked that her name & image not be used) at a get-together, and she told me about an experience she had at Awesome Con this season. She went to the con dressed as Yoko Littner from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and was approached by a random guy who broke the ice with, “Hey, Yoko! Love it! How’s it going?” However, his behavior soon turned in another direction, when he offered to pay my friend a sum of money if she let him spank her. While she was initially rendered speechless, her reply was simple, yet direct: “Use that [money] to buy a brain”. Thankfully, she was with friends of ours, and was able to remove herself from the situation before any escalation took place.
In another instance, a comment made online to my friend Laney Jade was that her “boobs are too small” to portray a gender-bent Aquaman. Laney told me that, since the comment was made online, she initially ignored it. However, her immediate thought (as she recalled it) was simply, “Men don’t have boobs”.
Remember, though: things like this don’t just happen to women. My friend Rahsaan (whom I have known since we were teenagers), told me of something that occurred to him while he was out with a group of costumer friends:
“I was in my Venom costume with a group of fellow costumers on Halloween. While in one restaurant, three women began taking pictures of my group without asking. Two of them then came over and began grabbing my arms, tugging on my costume, and trying to sit in my lap & grab the zipper down the back of my costume. I pushed them off and was verbally assaulted by these women with phrases like ‘Oh come on. You really liked it, didn’t you?!’ After I told them “no”, they remarked that I must be ‘some kind of woman hater’.”
Rahsaan went on to tell me that his final response to these women was that he can cosplay “whatever the hell” he wants, and that doesn’t give anyone the right to “try to find out if ‘Spider-Man wears underwear’.“ Evidently, there were more “grumbles and name-calling” from the women, and Rahsaan’s team eventually left.
If you, or anyone you know experiences harassment/inappropriate behavior from someone because of cosplay or for any reason, remember that it is OK to report it. Cosplayer Joe Colton had some advice for anyone who experiences any sort of harassment, inappropriate behavior, or touching:
“If it’s harassment like bullying, there are people and groups at cons that are safe places for women. It’s like a sisterhood. I suggest [you] walk away, find a security officer and tell them. Touching is a whole different thing. Move away, say no, become loud, and in a firm voice say, ‘Do NOT touch me!’
I [also] recommend all women take a martial arts class. It doesn’t matter what. It gives confidence and makes you walk straighter and you know your surroundings.”
I applaud my friends for their ability & willingness to stand up for themselves in the face of such reprehensible treatment, and would like to remind you, dear readers, that this sort of behavior towards cosplayers (or anyone, for that matter) is unacceptable. It simply serves to diminish the fact that cosplayers are people too, and that they just want to share their love for their fandoms through the creation & display of amazing costumes.
The Featured Image for this article is a combination of photos from photographer S. Scott Tilton’s #cosplayisnotconsent photo shoot.
Update: If you’ve been assaulted here are some links to go to for help and counseling: