Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Female Protagonist X is a Dirty Whore! Cosplay Harassment Comes in Many Forms

By Tali’Belle Cosplay

Cosplay harassment has had big reveal in the media lately with Cosplay is Not Consent, stories of con goers with hidden cams asking for hugs to get breast shots, interviews with female cosplayers becoming solely about their bodies or pop quizzing them to prove their geek cred. All you need to do is look up the Cosplay is Not Consent movement to see the demeaning things cosplayers have said to them and it isn’t just to female cosplayers either. The unfortunate truth is that this is another case of objectification.
Let’s first look from a few neutral perspectives, one of each gender. Then I will get on my soap box about personal experiences and things I’ve actually seen happen to others.

Jamie and Mark

We will follow two theoretical cosplayers for these next two paragraphs and we will call them Jaime, who is a twenty-something female Cosplaying as Morrigan from the Dragon
Morrigan from Dragon Age
Age franchise, Jaime is a girl with toned figure and is a busty girl, her face fits a generally accepted standard of attractiveness and she knows how to put on makeup, Jaime makes her own costumes and has four years of fashion and costume design schooling under her belt with fifteen years of sewing experience.

Her counterpart will be Mark. Mark is also a twenty-something and is somewhat of a fitness enthusiast. He also has made his own costume and has years of experience in sewing and crafting. His features are general standard of attractiveness for a man and he has a toned, fit form. Mark is excited to be Cosplaying as Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones for this convention and even grew his hair and beard out for the occasion. Say hi to Mark and Jaime, everyone, aren’t their cosplays lovely?

So let’s start with Jaime’s day. Jaime walks into the con, attends the Dragon Age photoshoot, then the general Bioware photoshoot and is having a wonderful time. A majority of the people she meets tell her how excellent her cosplay is and what a lovely Morrigan she makes. Until they arrive. They are a group of men in T-shirts that mark them as working for a website catering to the sort of guy who watches Tosh.0 on a regular basis. They have recording equipment and are approaching her, so against her better judgment, Jaime politely stops and smiles as they ask if they can ask her a few questions. Getting right in character, Jaime replies in a perfect rendition of Morrigan’s accent that they just have and might as well continue to do so. And that’s when they ask her breast size. If her breasts are real, if she even knows who she’s Cosplaying as, pointless trivia about Dragon Age. And all the while, their camera is zoomed on Jaime’s cleavage. Jaime gets tired of their crap and walks off, which they then use in editing to paint her as a rude ‘bitch’ with no idea what she’s talking about.

Nevermind that Jaime’s contribution to the Dragon Age fandom was a beautifully done, screen accurate rendition of Morrigan’s outfit, hair, and weapon, while their sole contribution was bullying a fellow fan and treating her like a piece of meat, thus making it frightening for other girls who enjoy the game to cosplay from it.


And now we visit Mark as he goes throughout his day. Mark is pretty proud of the paint job he did to portray Drogo. He knows nothing about makeup and his girlfriend usually helps
Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones
him with that, but because she’s expecting a baby this year, she has stayed home from the convention in interest of her health and Mark has been forced to do it himself with her guiding him via Skype. With her help, though, he’s proud of his accomplishment in something he isn’t familiar with or very good at. His work pays off as many people stop him for pictures on the way to Emilia Clarke’s Q&A panel, where Emilia herself takes a picture with him and proclaims him her Sun and Stars on video because she enjoys his portrayal so much.

Mark, like Jaime, is having a wonderful day….Until a hand presses to his chest, smearing the paint that took so long, that he literally had no idea how to do himself until this morning. A much younger girl is running her hands all over his chest and cooing about how big and strong he is. She refers to him as Drogo and makes lewd suggestions to him as her friends rush over and begin to touch his costume and his person without permission. Mark feels uncomfortable and asks them to please stop but they simply chastise him for not speaking in Drogo’s voice and using Westerosi common as opposed to speaking Dothraki. They harass him for a good five minutes until he finally manages to get away (it took him so long because Mark does not hit girls and worries he’d hurt them if he were too rough in his struggling) and find con security, but instead of helping Mark and dealing with his assailants, they laugh at him and don’t believe a strong man like him could be harassed by a group of teenage girls.

Mark doesn’t feel much like a Khal anymore, in fact he feels like he might retire this costume and go back home for the remainder of the con. So as you can see, all cosplayers, regardless of gender deal with this sort of harassment.

Izzy and Evan

Now let’s look at another kind of harassment and meet two brand new cosplayers. The first one is Izzy, Izzy is a pretty young girl in her twenties, she’s a bit on the heavier side but takes great pride in her appearance, has good hygiene, and is a nice person. She isn’t a good actress, but she just loves her fandoms and this prompts her to cosplay, but not choose to be in character.

Ever since she was a little girl, she has loved Full Metal Alchemist, it is her very favorite
Winry Rockbell from Full Metal Alchemist
anime and she is eager to cosplay as Winry Rockbell, the love interest of Edward Elric. She’s got a perfect wig, picked an outfit of Winry’s that she knows flatters her, and practiced smiling beautifully for pictures in the mirror. Izzy is new to cosplay and sewing, but her outfit looks great and as a beginner, that is a point of pride for her.









 Now let’s meet Izzy’s counterpart, his name is Evan. Evan is new to Cosplaying as well and his favorite character in the webcomic Homestuck is Eridan. Evan learned to style wigs just so that he could properly pull off Eridan and he's practiced may in character poses for photos. 
Eridan from Homestuck
He doesn’t really want to be in character, though, because while he enjoys Eridan’s character, he knows others find him creepy and Evan would hate to upset someone and have them get the wrong idea.


Now, let’s see how these two go about their days. Izzy has just had lunch with her sister Jaime and heard about her awful experience earlier. Izzy feels for Jaime, but is very glad that she herself didn’t choose a skimpy costume for fear the same would happen to her. Izzy so far has had a lovely day. Her favorite VA has signed her DVD case, she was complimented on her costume and told a few times that she made a very pretty Winry, she even really clicked with a cute Edward Elric cosplayer and is meeting her for dinner later after having exchanged phone numbers…until they appear. In this case, they are a group of girls in their early teens glaring at her angrily.

They tell her that Winry is a useless slut who doesn’t deserve Edward and is stealing him from more worthy girls. Despite Izzy’s gentle protest that she is not Winry, she just likes the character, these girls continue to scream at her. One rips off her wig and stomps on it while another snatches her wrench prop out of her hand and snaps the foam piece that poor Izzy worked so hard to sand and cure and paint right in half! Izzy is crying by now, begging to be left alone and one of the girls actually hits her and spits on her before they leave. Izzy was not even acting in character and this was her very first cosplay. Now a quarter of it is ruined and she’s so shaken she doesn’t want to leave her hotel room for a while once she returns.

Now how is Evan faring? This is Evan’s very first convention and the Homestuck meet up went wonderfully. Everyone has complimented his wig and his poses will look wonderful when the pics hit the internet. He even got some cute funny pictures with some of the female trolls either kissing and cuddling or pretending to kick him, just funny, in character shots. He is just thinking about checking out the dealer’s room to buy a prop for the next photoshoot…and that’s when it happens, he’s shoved to the ground roughly and glaring down at him is a girl and her boyfriend.
They chastise him for being a creep, scoff that no one likes Eridan and he’d better not come near them or he’ll be sorry. Besides, his cosplay is bad anyway and his glasses make him look like a hipster. The girl actually kicks him before they leave. And now his wig is ruined, his glasses have broken in the fall and while he’ll shrug this off and report it on the internet as a convention horror story, he is still out the money he spent on these things and his experience has still been soured.

Stepping Into My Shoes

Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect
So that’s touching on two basic sorts of cosplay related harassment, but let me explain some personal experiences I’ve had with it and, in doing so, bring up something deeply personal about myself. I’m a sexual assault survivor. As other survivors will understand, things that some people view as harmless or mild are incredibly triggering and frightening for me. It also magnifies things that are already unpleasant and degrading. Add in bad anxiety and something that would make another person angry becomes for me spending the rest of my day nauseous, extra sensitive, and panicked.

With that said, as I mentioned in my last article, the characters I cosplay often result in things like me getting my ass grabbed during photos, being creeped on in comments on my pictures, even having my breasts groped more than a couple times in the past. All those things in and of themselves are horrible and degrading. They almost make being called ‘Jaina Proudwhore’ and ‘Titty’Zorah Vas Boobies’ not all that bad (infact I took Proudwhore back and used it as my username a couple of places for a while, it helped that it also referenced a popular machinima).

But the one experience that really stands out for me is this: I cosplay as Tali and my boyfriend cosplays as Garrus Vakarian. Now people who play Mass Effect may be aware
Tali from Mass Effect
that if you don’t choose either of those two as your romance option, Garrus and Tali become a couple in the third game. It’s a cute little thing that literally has no bearing on Shepard being with either of them considering it only happens if you don’t romance them.

That didn’t stop a few ‘Garrusmancers’ from going off the deep end about it, though. I actually turned anon asks off on my Tumblr because when I announced our couples cosplay for last year, I got replies like  ‘
‘Fuck you, you suit-rat slut, I’m going to punch your fucking helmet in’ 'Tali should get space aids and die, you’re a skanky whore’ and my personal favorite, the only comment to make me cry since I lost weight: ‘You’re a dumb slut who doesn’t deserve Garrus. Someone should rip up your envirosuit and you should be gang raped and die in an alley.’ 

It’s not a well worded hate comment, nor is it really poignant or well thought out, however given my own past experiences and the very real seriousness of sexual assault and all of what’s been going on in the media lately, I was scared. I was scared and I was upset. I shut my computer, curled up in a hot bath and cried.

That. Is not. Okay. NO ONE should be told they deserve to be raped because they interfere with your imaginary pairing. You know what? I hate a lot of pairings, but I’ve never told someone who cosplays within the pairings that sort of thing. No sane, functioning person has. While the last thing I spoke about can be chalked up to ignorance, harassment takes someone who genuinely has a mean streak and perhaps isn’t all there. A mean comment behind someone’s back? Thinking a mean comment in your head? Okay, we’re all human. It isn’t nice, but it really doesn’t hurt anyone. But to physically hurt someone? To ruin their time at an even they paid for? To threaten them or tell them they deserve to be harmed? That is sick and that needs to stop.  


 
Tali'Belle is a fashion and costume design student with twelve years of cosplay experience. She operates Fleet and Flotilla: Dextro Couture and Salvage on Etsy. Her main cosplay is Tali'Zorah Vas Normandy and her current preferred convention is Dragon Con. You can keep up with her on DeviantArt  or Twitter. And of course, you can find her posts here on I Feel Delicious!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us know what you think!!



There was an error in this gadget