Warning: There will be strong language in this post. Read no further if some f-bombs are not to your taste.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people on the Internet can take a positive project and stomp all over it.
Two days ago, Sushi Killer over at 16-Bit Sirens started a new photo project. Inspired by the #INeedFeminismBecause project, it is titled “CONsent: The Importance of Treating Cosplayers with Respect.” The premise is simple: costumers take pictures holding a sign that says ‘Cosplay=/= Consent’ and their own additional message if they are so inclined. I, like many other people, thought it was a great campaign that spread a very positive message.
Guess how long it took some people to ruin it and make it all about them. Let’s start with an example. Think it was limited to just that shared Facebook thread? Look at some of the comments on the article that cosplayer Ana Aesthetic wrote.
Disgusted yet? Me too. According to these people, any woman who dresses up like her favorite superheroine or her favorite video game character or in any costume for a convention is asking for all of the disgusting comments and actions that she might receive. Because, to quote one commenter, “Dress like a whore, get treated like a whore.” Really dude? I was under the impression that we were all dressing like fictional characters and I’m fairly sure that 99% of them are not whores.
Another commenter goes as far as to say…
“Y’know, you ladies out there may not like that reasoning, but you actually are bringing it on yourselves. If your boobs are hanging halfway out of your bustier, and you’re dressed like one of the characters in these sex-sells anime’s or shows you love so much, then do you actually have a reasonable expectation that some sexist, chauvenist piece of dirt is NOT going to do these things to you? […] You DO NOT have a right to complain, or take up ANY case, nor a reasonable expectation as to your physical safety or personal rights to NOT have images of you, from ANY angle, taken if you dress up like this and then submit yourself to the horny male-dominated crowd at a convention. What is WRONG with your head that you could even think that you’re right to think this way?”
To put things mildly, fuck you. We are not here for yoru entertainment. None of us agreed to “submit” to someone trying to take a shot up our skirts when we’re not paying attention for their own private collection. To top things off? Take a better look around the next time you’re at a convention. The gender split is edging close to even nowadays. That excuse is stale and can go away.
When costumers dress up, they are not doing so for you and for you to make disgusting comments about what you’d like to do to them. When a costumer wears a more revealing or a traditionally sexy costume, it’s likely that he or she is probably expecting to get more attention on the convention floor by means of comments and picture requests. It’s important to differentiate between figuring that it is more likely you will receive attention and supposedly asking for harassment. No one is asking for a complete stranger to walk up and tell them five ways that he’d like to fuck them or grope them.
This isn’t a problem that’s limited to conventions. Obviously the costumes apply to conventions but the mindset is much broader than that. This is rape culture. This is victim blaming. This is a clear unwillingness by people to take responsibility for their own actions. I say again: This. Is. Rape. Culture. These are the same people who say that because a rape victim was wearing a short skirt that she deserved what she got. These are the same people who say that because a rape victim was wearing a shirt that showed off her cleavage that she was asking for it. Victim blaming is not okay and it will never be okay.
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that we should police people’s thoughts or that people can’t go up to a costumer and tell them that they like their costume or that they look pretty. There is a definite line of appropriateness and far too many people cross it. Personally, if a guy were to come up and tell me that I looked sexy in my Psylocke costume? That’s fine and I would personally take it as a compliment although I cannot speak for every costumer. If that same guy were to come up and grab my ass and then tell me how much he’d like to fuck me? Now we have a problem. It is not that difficult to keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself and to top it off, both of those things fall under DECENT HUMAN BEHAVIOR. If you think you are incapable of either of those, perhaps you should rethink attending conventions.
Conventions are supposed to be a safe space for geeks. Many of us were bullied for our love of fandoms and conventions are where we can express that love without having to worry. This past year has felt like some factions within the community are trying to take away that security. (Remember the Fake Geek Girl crap from the fall?) It needs to stop. All of it. Because it’s not a safe space anymore when I beg a male friend to walk around the convention with me when I’m in certain costumes because I’m worried about con-goers sexually harassing me. It’s not a safe space anymore where each major convention ends with yet another story of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment emerging. It’s not a safe space anymore when friends have to protect each other by physically putting themselves in the way when creepers try to sneak an ass short or an up-skirt shot.
I am visibly shaking from anger right now which is a good sign that I need to wrap this up so I’ll just say this once more: Cosplay is NOT Consent. You do not have the right to make lewd remarks or proposition or touch any costumer simply because they are wearing a costume. It does not matter how skimpy it is or is not. You do not have the right and the costume does not automatically gave you permission. Do not blame the costumers for your inability to keep your crass comments and your hands to yourself. If you take part in this, then you are the one in the wrong. If you condone this sort of behavior, then you are wrong and also a part of the problem.
That said, I encourage everyone to take part in the Cosplay=/=CONsent project and maybe one day, we can wipe out this horrid behaviour and make conventions a safe space for all of us again.