Cosplay Harrassment Takes Spotlight After Comic-Con
No one should after have to say that they’re against sexual harassment, but it seems when it comes to cosplay, silence equals consent. Leading the charge to get conventions to crack down on harassment is Geeks for Consent. They pushed San Diego Comic-Con to create a strict and formal anti-harassment policy. They were essentially ignored, but other conventions are recognizing that cosplayers need to feel safe participating in the fun that is a comic convention. SDCC received criticism for their lackluster response for a posted Anti-Harassment policy. SDCC instead opted to e-mail it to attendees and put it into the programs that were handed to all attendees. Other cons have posted it as a large poster to be viewed and at Needless Essentials, we covered HeroesCon’s posting of it’s policy. Well, San Diego, your opting to go low profile probably resulted in at least one sexual assault which resulting in the offender getting a bloody beat down from cosplayer Adrianne Curry.
So let’s get this straight and for the record. I don’t care how they’re dressed, it is unacceptable to catcall, take a photo without permission, grope, and especially try to remove any part of the costume of any woman cosplaying at a convention. If you see it, it is your duty to confront the offender or alert authorities. Alert police over security, security over convention staff, but alert staff if that’s all you can find. Confronting someone yourself is a last resort. If you’re with a friend who does such egregious conduct, your responsibility is to call them out on it.
Now, comics, movies, and video games have always made female costumes sexually appealing, but not exclusively so. I used a 1980s Hercules from Marvel to make my point. Proportionally, yes, they do it more often for women, but you know what? It doesn’t matter if a cosplayer is wearing a skimpy or provocative costume, it doesn’t give you the right to harass them. It’s almost a moot point about how revealing a costume is, because the guys that harass cosplayers would do so no matter what was being cosplayed. They will find something provocative about anything. The onus for sexual assault is never on the victim.
Do cosplayers have to tone down their costumes? Depending on the convention, they might need to. If the convention bills itself as family friendly, then cosplayers might want to make adjustments to their plans. Unfortunately, Cons are using vague guidelines which usually result in staff targeting heavier women while women with more revealing outfits but more athletic and/or slimmer bodies get a pass. However, the onus for this problem again doesn’t fall to the cosplayer, it falls to the conventions. If you place restrictions on cosplayers, spell it out in the policy. I know it isn’t easy but set guidelines like “no thongs”, “navels must be covered”, “underwear must be worn under all costumes” or “nipples must not be discernible .” Authorize only a limited number of specific members of your staff to confront cosplayers to make those members of the staff responsible for their actions. A dress code that’s not enforced on everyone is not a dress code, it’s discrimination.
Cosplayers need to feel safe at conventions. The responsibility for it does not stop with them. The responsibility does not end with the conventions. The responsibility belongs to all of us that go to conventions. Insist that conventions post their anti-harassment policy where everyone can see it, not hidden in an e-mail or an event booklet. Notify someone when you see harassment at a con, even if it seems as innocuous as a photo taken without their knowledge. In most cases, the conduct that people are trying to get conventions to crack down on are actions that would result in arrest outside of a convention floor. It needs to stop and it needs to stop yesterday.