Apr 072013
 

Heya folks, Fenrir here with yet another exciting edition of Food for Thought! With the summer-months fast approaching, it’s time for con-season to roll around once again! (YAY!) But,while everyone is excited for all the upcoming big name events like say Otakon or SDCC — there’s a sobering issue that’s been raised around the cosplay community, which is a must for con-goers to consider.

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In light of PAX East’s cosplay harassment story, there’s been a more significant push to get out a positive message to support the community, especially the emotional and physical well-being of cosplayers. And that’s where the organizers of CONsent come in to make the push for community outreach. They debuted at Wondercon 2013 armed with a white-board and a message that really, should be a no-brainer from the average con-goer to handsy journalists:

Cosplay is not consent.

 CONsent is the brainchild of Sushi Killer of 16bitsirens.com — and it is a project aimed at raising awareness and support for cosplayers who have experienced harassment at conventions. She herself was inspired by recent events at PAX East — where several Tomb Raider cosplayers who ranegd from ages 15 to 31 were pretty much asked how they felt about being at a convention “where no men could please them in bed”. Yeah, some journalist attempted to pull a Seth McFarlane — it’s sadly nothing new in the world of geekdom. But, one Tomb Raider staffer (And professional cosplayer), Meagan Marie, would not stand for this nonsense.

Defending her volunteer cosplayers, she outed the journalist for being a creep, who in return retaliated with this “gem”:

He proceeded to tell me that “I was one of those oversensitive feminists” and that “the girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.” Yes, he pulled the “cosplay is consent” card.

No words can eloquently articulate how this entire exchange and thought process is all kinds of fail. And while this may seem to be the “normal” (Ugh) occupational hazard of being a cosplayer and putting oneself out there in the public eye — that in of itself is a weak excuse. Because sexual harassment should not be the norm — no matter the situation. No matter if there’s a cosplayer who happens to be wearing a “skimpy” outfit or who is baring “too much skin” — that is no excuse, whatsoever, to treat cosplayers with such utter disrespect.

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Thanks to the blog-o-sphere, and hashtag campaigns, though, these tensions between the cosplay community and the sleazier con-goers may find an outlet through CONsent.

CONsent founder Sushi Killer set off to work on her photo essay and hashtag campaign this past Wondercon 2013. With a camera and a white-board in hand, she interviewed several cosplayers to collect their experiences with skeevey and handsy convention-goers; both female and male cosplayers had their horror stories to share. Stories ranged from instances that seem “innocent” enough to definitely unwanted and inappropriate touching or “up-skirt” shots or worse. What is also disheartening is the fact that when these cosplayers retaliate they are called out on it for being a “bitch” — which again drives back to the fact that some con-goers have this self-entitled outlook on cosplayers (IE. They’re just meat — ugh) which needs to change.

And change is what CONsent hopes to accomplish through an image-and-story collection campaign from con-goers and cosplay enthusiasts standing together to reiterate that: cosplay is not consent.

And yes, not everyone at a con is a creep, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. From what CONsent has observed, many cosplayers are actually afraid to speak up, or don’t have the support of other con-goers to turn back creepers who are getting too handsy — and that is an attitude that must, and can be changed. The “creeper photographer” seems to be a distinct and constant trope around my cosplayer friends, but that does not mean it should be a tolerated trope. Honestly, if you see something, say something, or if anyone makes an uncomfortable pass it’s time to say “No” and call security.

Yes, even guys can be creeped on at cons -- any kind of creeping is just a no.

Yes, even guys can be creeped on at cons — any kind of creeping is just a no.

And, in regards to those members of the convention community who assume they are entitled to touch or harass anyone in costume?

Yeah no. Stop, look at your life, look at your choices, and kindly proceed to reevaluate what you’re doing.

And unfortunately the problem persists because of that very “Well there’s always creeps at cons” trope. It’s that belief that: because I am choosing to cosplay, therefore I must be creeped on at some point in my career. It’s as if saying that it’s the cosplayer’s fault for being creeped on, which is far from the truth.

Yes, the cosplayer chooses to cosplay knowing that they are putting themselves out in the spotlight — but that does not mean common courtesy is thrown out the window. A cosplayer is a person and for the few seconds that you interact with a cosplayer who may be dressed as the latest fanservice character you are still dealing with a person — a person that deserves respect.

Because as Meagan Marie so poignantly states:

“I want to feel safe and valued as a member of this industry, whether I’m conducting an interview, talking to fans on a convention floor, or cosplaying. And I have a right to that.”

And the supporters of CONsent firmly believe that all con-goers have a right to respect and basic human decency. In the months to come CONsent hopes to become more visible and pick up steam; something that I wholeheartedly endorse as the cosplay community becomes more vocal against harassment.  Currently, the project is accepting submissions of stories or supporting pictures (Think the Cosplay =/= Consent slogan), which can be sent via their Facebook page, email, Twitter, tumblr, or Instagram via the hashtag: #CONsent!

Hopefully in the months to come — especially with big summer cons — CONsent can garner the support they need to become a visible, maybe even standard feature at every con. Because sure, not every con creep will be eliminated or banished from conventions, but what the cosplay community needs is support from the con-going community at large.

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Fenrir

A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

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  2 Responses to “Food for Thought: The CONsent Project”

  1. I think it's a reallllly good idea for con culture to give itself a long look in a mirror. Beyond the inequality in characterization that happens in today's entertainment, the way the communities function (no doubt thanks to the anonymity of the internet) is so atrocious.

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