I Was Cosplayin and Sombody Pinched My….
Hands Off Bub!
Cosplay is an art form – spending months creating costumes, and perfecting an outfit to make it the most authentic representation of a character. Most cosplayers are not creating a sexual provocative outfit, to be sexually provocative. And anyway, even if you have designed a costume that is deliberately sexually provocative – it STILL doesn’t give any one the right to sexually harass you.
A new scheme “Cosplay is not Consent”, backed by the organisers of the New York Comic Con, seeks to end harassment in cosplay, for good. The campaign was a big part of NYCC last year, but has it really had an impact? In 2013, there were 20 instances of sexual assault reported at the NYCC and in 2014 there were 15. Examples of instances were inappropriate touching, as reported by New Yorker Amanda Jade (or Undiesofwondy) who experienced a man touch her behind, as well as reports of derogatory comments and crude jokes. But while harassment cases went down last year, every year the convention gets bigger, and people are still concerned that instances will increase.
Part of the problem was thought to be down to lack of education – at 2013’s NYCC just under half of the attendees had never been before, and 15% had never been to a convention before. These conventions are supposed to be part of a supportive community of cosplayers, but the negativity surrounding the cases of harassment are not helping people to feel safe to express their fandom at conventions.
The harassment isn’t just centered around women, though, a lot of crossplayers have also experienced harassment. And like women, because of the time and effort these attendees put into their costumes, when a bad word or joke is said about them, it can be very hurtful, and it IS a form of harassment.
Some people believe the role of women is changing, and they are becoming a more prominent part of cosplay, gaining more and more roles away from the stereotypical female costumes. And after the appeals, some fans felt as though women’s role in cosplay was moving in a positive direction. However, there is a problem with this. Why should women and men have to change their costumes and their identity? They are not the problem, it’s the uneducated attendees that are taking advantage of them that at the problem.
Street campaign Hollaback! Is helping to spread the message of “Cosplay is not Consent” on the streets, as well as in the conventions. But the growing interest in cosplay amongst adults inevitably opens up the world to abuse, with online harassment a common problem for cosplayers. Moreover, as cosyplay becomes a larger and more prominent topic for the media, it is being dragged into the mass-media objectification of women that already exists. The media attention attracts negative and inappropriate attention from an uneducated minority. The more people believe these cosplayers are “characters” and “celebrities” they almost feel they have a right to them… Um… You don’t.
Is it not just common sense people? Just don’t sexually harass others, no matter how they are dressed, and how famous they are. It’s really not rocket science.