Sewing, crafting, and painting are all challenges the average cosplayer will face on their road to a Con or event. However, for many cosplayers, the stress goes far past the accuracy and quality of their costume. Harassment has been an issue at conventions for quite some time now, with female cosplayers bearing the brunt of it.
Cosplay is a fast-expanding art form, with more and more people participating every year and more media exposure. Cameras are ever flashing at conventions, trying to take in all of the exciting sights. But when lines are blurred between the character and the cosplayer, boundaries often get crossed. “I just heard a few camera flashes go off, so I turned my head. That’s when I noticed a man and his friend pointing a camera at me from about ten feet away.” Recounted a cosplayer who didn’t wish to have her name printed. “When I asked him why he didn’t ask me for the picture, he got angry. I don’t understand, I would’ve been happy to pose for him, or with him. Sneaking pictures like that makes your motives look really bad.” Issues of consent seem to abound at these conventions, both through pictures and unwanted hands from admirers.
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In light of more women drawing attention to this harassment, BuzzFeed went to New York Comic Con and asked women “What’s the weirdest thing someone has said to you while cosplaying?” and gathered some truly shocking results. It seems as if every woman who has dared to portray one of their favorite characters has received this kind of pestering at the Cons.
“I was dressed as Starfire from Teen Titans, the cartoon, not the comic book version. And this guy asked me for my number, and I was like, no.” says Alice Hastings, 18, of New York, discussing an incident at Katsucon 2013. She goes on to say, “He followed me around the con and whenever I stopped at a booth or a panel or something, he’d be there still asking me for my number. In comparison to what other people have had it’s really…mild.”
Alice also talked about the scrutiny cosplayers bodies come under when they choose to don a costume. While cosplaying Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender, a decidedly tall, slim, and acrobatic character at New York Comic Con 2013, she said, “I heard several comments that vaguely resembled ‘Yeah, see, you have to be fit like her to pull that off. Fat people shouldn’t cosplay some things’ throughout the day.”
And it’s not just body type that gets called into question. Matthaeus Choo-Tung, 19, of Brooklyn, New York was cosplaying Marshall Lee, a grey-skinned character, at New York Comic Con when a man approached him and questioned his skin tone.
“He told me I’m supposed to be wearing face paint…I told him so far everyone has gotten the point and could tell who I am, even you. And he didn’t mention face paint to my white friend, who was cosplaying Marceline. He just shook his head and walked away.” Strangers passing judgment on people’s bodies have become accepted as a commonplace occurrence for cosplayers.
Conventions, which are usually seen as a type of nerd heaven, have become less than a safe space for some cosplayers, particularly women. Women have fought, and are still fighting, to be truly accepted into the nerd community, and the harassment that is so unfortunately linked to cosplaying may end up further driving women away from the community. However, with more people coming out with their tales of creepy comments, secret photographers, and unwanted touching, more and more people are starting to name the problem, and stand up to try and eradicate it from conventions.