Very recently, I had a discussion/intervention on twitter regarding a piece on Buzzfeed, asking cosplayers at the recent New York Comic Con what's the creepiest thing someone said to you.And why he labelled the girls in that piece, disparagingly, as "victims." Because they dress in a eye-catching way, they should expect attention, sexual or otherwise. And woe betide them if they don't like being stalked and have the cheek to speak up about it, like the cosplay is not consent movement does. Now, if you're one of the 5 people who regularly read this blog, then you expected me to tear this ignorant victim-blamer a new arsehole. But I'm not. Not in the way you think at least. Because firstly, he has enough problems as it is- being a writer for Ready Up. And secondly, because I used to hold the same opinion. Growing up is a gradual process, and sometimes it takes an outsider's view to point something out that's been right under your nose. So let me tell you about the time I was a hypocrite over cosplayers.
Many moons ago, during my failed attempt at being a professional games writer, I did the easiest way for fledgling writers to get a whole bunch of game previews (and hopefully some networking with the PR bastards) in one go, going to conventions. There's loads of different games and publishers exhibiting, you don't need an invite from some marketing scumbag, you can usually go for free with a press pass. And if you can't, you can still pay to attend.
As is the case with non-paying sites and blogs, as well as "legit" gaming sites and mags, part of reporting from a convention will usually involve getting photos, if not interviews, with cosplayers. And although I appreciate the effort and creativity that goes into a good costume, I have never really been mad about copslay as a concept- and the close association it has with the, "That's so kawaii" anime/manga crowd anyway. But when you have to spend hours interview to them. Trying to get think of something other than, "how long did it take to make?" while breathing in the acrid vapours of the collective body odour of everyone inside the venue, having your ears assaulted by over loud anime themes or J-pop songs being bleated out of the tinny speaker of numerous mobile phones just exasperated that minor annoyance into full on anger, thanks to a cocktail of booze, sucking at my job and my overall hatred of loud, obnoxious teenagers. Since then I saw sense, quit games writing, going to conventions and drinking. But I didn't think anything of my disdain for cosplayers. It wasn't something I had to deal with any more, so why address it? I still thought it was a bunch of hyperactive weaboos, hopped up on too much Pocky and vicariously living through the personality of a fictional character because they have no personality of their own. In short, I thought they were attention whores.
I honestly thought that the only reasons someone, especially women, would ever cosplay was because they were looking for a short cut to self confidence by dressing up as a popular genre character and feeding off the adulation of total strangers. So if they got some untoward comments, then that's just par the course. Even though, outside the confines of the convention centre, I would not have thought a woman on the street, wearing revealing clothing, was, "asking for it." But I figured, "If you didn't want attention, then you shouldn't have dressed up as Power Girl in the first place". In short, I was a fucking hypocrite. How dare these people spend their time, money and effort into a creative activity that they want to display at an event, solely created to celebrate the comic, movies, anime, and video games that so inspired them, and to allow people to look at them too? They must like Hitler, a nazi Hitler! Because it can't be anything wrong with my outlook on the situation, can there?
I guess being so entrenched in geek culture for so long, I wasn't able to step back and see things more objectively with an outsider's view. And it was the viewpoint of someone heavily connected to geek culture, yet kept a outsider's perspective on it that made me realise what I hypocrite I was. That viewpoint belonged to Bruce Campbell. Yes, that Bruce Campbell from Burn Notice, The Evil Dead, Xena: Warrior Princess, and that bloke who told Peter Parker to fuck off in Spider-Man 2.
|"We have Andrew Garfield now. Go home."|
I was watching a Q&A video, with Bruce Campbell, when he pointed out the, seemingly de rigueur, anime cat ears a girl was wearing, when she said, "I don't want to be one of "those" anime fans, but I had the ears lying around." To which groovy Bruce replied, "Those anime fans keep the lights on in this building."
It suddenly hit me, that I had let my own prejudices against a section of fandom turn a blind eye to a line of thinking I already thought abhorrent. Look how she was dressed. She was asking for it" Because if you think that any of the women and girls- yes, girls,because not every cosplayer is over 18- speaking out over being harassed, stalked or groped are just making mountains out of mole hills and it's all harmless fun, then your indifference is just as harmful as those boys, or grown males who should fucking know better, who think that female wearing revealing clothing is purely for their sexual kicks and whatever they say or do them is fair game. At best, it ignorance. At worst, victim blaming.
A convention is not a nightclub, and someone isn't purely dressed in a costume, of any description, isn't wearing it to attract a date, build a modelling career or feed off of the attention of horny males. As if male attention was some kind of quantifiable, valuable substance that must be protected at all costs, like that stuff everyone is fighting over in Avatar.
|"They must not take our planets attention. DON'T LOOK AT THEIR TITS!"|
For those guys out there, especially the younger ones, seconds away from jumping on their MRA-shaped soap box. Let me put it to you straight...No, there's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. It's a perfectly normal, biological instinct. But, if you weren't aware, that girl you like is a human being, who didn't turn up for the sole purpose to be your future girlfriend. Which, by the way, is NOT a female conspiracy to deny you sex because she won't give you her number. And you'll do well to throw out those assumptions and maybe try talking to them like a person, not a sentient love-pillow? Instead of thinking the confines of the convention hall gives you a free pass to act like you're on a building site and you can cat-call any passing woman with gay abandon. Or follow her around because, just by speaking to you, she actually means, "Book the wedding!" Or taking pervy photos without her knowledge. They have just as much right right to be there as you, and such have the right to dress up and creatively express themselves without fear of harassment. No matter how annoying or attention seeking they appear to be to you. I woke up to my hypocrisy, it's time you did too.