From television shows, documentaries, magazine spreads and studies, the world of Cosplay is being exposed more and more to those outside the Convention/Cosplay circuit. As more focus is thrown on the hobby, it seems that more and more problems are arising and one that many are taking very seriously is the issue of consent and the safety of the cosplayer. The problem is not with the cosplays (the majority of the time) but with the attitude that a select few have towards those who wearing the costume, as the community grows and rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour begin to take root, it becomes evident that Cosplayers and fans of Cosplay are not willing to take this matter lying down.
The issue can be be summarised as the following: Cosplayers who wear short/revealing/tight costumes only do it for the attention therefore I’m doing nothing wrong by jeering/whistling/touching/shouting at them!
There are cosplays that are considered risqué and revealing an they tend to be some of the most popular at conventions, Slave Leia, is a Convention Classic with both women and men donning the revealing garb, Yoko from Gurren Lagann, Cat Woman, Power Girl and Psylocke, these are all cosplays that feature tight fabrics and/or revealed skin.
Personally I applaud those women who have the guts to wear those costumes and wear them with pride to show their love of the character and more often than not their own craftsmanship at putting together the entire outfit from masks to armour but what goes on show for some is not the costume but rather the body! Individuals passing sexual jibes, taking inappropriate pictures or touching/groping without permission, after Molly Mcisaac attended a Convention as Dark Phoenix she found pictures of her costume appearing online:
“After the convention, photographs of my butt started popping up on forums and weird aside Tumblrs. “I’d slap that ass so hard,” one anonymous man said.” (Source: XoJane)
The issue of consent and cosplay dredges up so many more problems, in particular the issue of fake geeks/posers at Conventions/Gamer Events.
If you google the term, ‘fake geek girl’, one of the first suggestions you’ll get is ‘Fake Geek Girl Meme’, yup… they have made it into a joke! A girl plays video games? Must be Farmville! A girl likes Fantasy? Must be Twilight! A girl likes cosplay? Must be so she can dress slutty and get away with it! It’s not about who has read the most Batman comics or clocked in the most hours on their consoles, these don’t make you some sort of super geek, the title of geek isn’t privileged to you and your mates just because you can recite the Green Lantern oath! When things don’t go their way though the tactic of jesting is swapped out for shaming and it’s not used sparingly.
In one case at one of the bigger cons in America, Emily Finke wore a Star Trek uniform (TOS) and it was as accurate as she could get it. Emily heard comments such as “slutty”, ” too short”, “attention seeker” and “fake geek girl” from both men and women, hellbent on outing her as a Fake Geek Girl or shaming her for what she was wearing!
“I was dressed in a science officer costume from Star Trek: The Original Series. Not the sleek little work-appropriate but still sexy jewel tone tunics from the new movie, but the flared, strangely-constructed, unapologetically teal and chartreuse polyester cheerleader dresses that fit perfectly with the (now) retrofuturistic vibe of the original show. It’s a screen accurate dress. And by “screen accurate” I mean “short”. And at the beginning of the day, I just assumed the lady who commented was pointing out that I needed to tug down the dress a bit. That was the first comment. After the next 30 or so, I had had enough.” (Source io9)
Consent doesn’t just cover being physically or verbally harrassed, it also can involve the use of a cosplayer’s image without their consent. Like the recent case in which people were getting pictures of them in cosplay used on Hug Pillows. The person who used the images did not have permission from cosplayers to use their images for printing on these products. Cosplayer Dustin Dorough was quoted saying ..
“Whoa… I DEFINITELY did not give permission for this. I never signed any sort of release for any products or prints. I’ve only done photoshoots with 4 photographers and never in this suit. This pillow is a random convention candid from Dragon*Con.”
These pillows that were being sold by a vendor at AnimeNEXT has an image of both the front and the back of the cosplayer on it. Considering the nature of some of the more lewd acts associated with hug pillows it’s a wonder it took 2 Image Solutions so long to to rectify their deliberate breach of the cosplayers privacy.
More recently after the passing of summer and multiple conventions there have been even more reports of violations of personal space, inappropriate conduct and blatant sexual harassment.
A female attendee of NYCC this year Bethany Maddock definitely had her fair share of inappropriate questions passed her way. Bethany Maddock was cosplaying when a camera crew approached her for an interview. There were already warning bells going off when she noticed that the interviewer had locked eyes with her chest and even after she pointed it out in a slightly playful but serious way and the response she got was that he was “looking at the costume”. She proceeded to let him look at the rest of her costume, her arms were crossed over her chest at this point to prevent him for staring at her but then it only got worse when the first question she was asked was:
“So, does your costume help you get laid?”
I doubt I am alone in thinking this but that doesn’t sound like the type of interviewer who has genuine interest in the costume and not how it was being worn.
There are plenty of questions he could have asked if he was genuinely interested. Reasonable questions such as “Why that particular costume?”, ” Did you make it or buy it?” and ” How much work did you put into completing your costume?”. Those are all good places to start but no he chose to 1. Gawk at her breasts and 2. Further insult her by asking such an inappropriate answer.
Hearing about this incident made me angry for many reasons but one of them way how it was handled by security within the first few hours. A picture was taken of the crew by Maddock but they were still walking around the convention hours later doing the same thing. God knows how many more people were “interviewed” by these people posing as professionals.
This wasn’t the only incident that took place and I must add that you should only read this post at your own discretion as it may lead to anguish, frustration and anger!
It doesn’t end there though and this story in particular upset me – young female cosplayer had a run in with another “interviewer”. She looked to be between the ages of 16 -17. The girls was already giving of vibes of being uncomfortable when the “interviewer” grabbed her and kissed her. He kissed a potential minor without her consent! Just typing that sentence made me feel nauseous. Apparently it’s not the first time something like that happened, it’s a “trend” on YouTube.
Guys film themselves kissing random girls and record their reactions, to me that looks like a fast track onto the ban list at cons or anywhere in general. The young woman was visibly horrified and left the location quickly. The “crew ” scrammed when they saw they were being glared at. Jenipedia went to check up on the girl who said that she was going to get her mother. The incident happened so quickly that an accurate description couldn’t be given to the security but you can bet she tried her best. I hope her mother got to speak to someone and action was taken because incidents like this can and should not go unpunished. [Source: Jenipedia]
This isn’t just solely about women in cosplay at conventions though, in fact male cosplayers face similar problems when it comes to the behaviour of other convention-goers, it’s reported even less amongst male cosplayers but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken any less serious. Being a male cosplayer you face the same issues, you are viewed by both men and women as something to oogle, you’re only cosplaying to show off your muscles and you’re just seeking attention and while your credibility might not be questioned, you can become the target of media trying to ‘turn the tables’ on men:
Not every man who attends these conventions is there to creep and oogle! Not every woman who attends is there to berate and tear the fragile ego-system of geek culture down! We are all attending these events because we enjoy them, it’s not about who can throw the biggest punches at either side, this should be a united front against discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment.
The straying of hands from both sexes is becoming increasingly common and despite the fact that many cosplayers deem this sort of touching inappropriate and invasive it still continues to happen because the attitude of “They dressed this way, they want attention, I’m doing nothing wrong, it’s funny!” still permeates throughout our culture – we are led to believe our actions do no harm or have no consequences!
People need to stop letting this sort of stuff happen and treat others as they would like to be treated but in a society that at times justifies objectifying those who meet the standards of stereotypical beauty is it really that hard to believe that some people think this type of behaviour is acceptable?
There are the odd occasions where people intervene when things like this happen but more than likely this behaviour is either blatantly ignored or worse, celebrated. We scare vitcims of harassment into silence by showing the backlash of what happens when you report an incident, they are scrutinised as much as the perpetrator, if not more and find themselves targeted through various social media sites, as much aggression rises up against them often overshadowing their supporters.
Encouraging people to come forward and report these incidents would help combat the problems but until we see a real shift in the attitude in our culture then nothing is going to change. There is one simple rule we need to hammer home to people:
Cosplay is not Consent and never will be!