I've been debating for the past couple of hours whether or not to talk about this, but I think it's important enough of an issue, albeit a controversial one, to share.
From every single photo post I make, I know there is a huge percentage of folks out there who believe that female cosplayers often bring unwanted attention onto themselves by the costume and appearance choices they make. As in - if you don't want to be disrespected, don't dress that way. Stop showing boobs, put that shit away etc.!
I have never agreed with that mindset, but given some of the cleavage-bearing costumes I wear, my opinion usually gets discredited and I'm labeled as a hypocrite.
But, what people forget is that women get disrespected and objectified on a daily bases, across the globe, no matter what they're wearing, online, and in person. Costume or no costume.
I was consecutively touched by strangers in NYC yesterday and tonight. Not within the convention center. Not while sporting cleavage. Not on my shoulders. Not as a hug... but a firm grab of a handful of my body while walking by, accompanied with something like "Damn, sexy".
Yesterday it happened less than a block from the Javits Center, when I was walking back to change out of costume, amidst a strung of people. I was wearing my superhero costume, but had thrown the cape over my front - read: no cleavage or skin showing, just the black bodysuit & purple cape over it.
I was so surprised that I just said "Excuse me." and kept walking. I immediately felt like an idiot - why the fuck am I excusing myself for a stranger groping me?!
Tonight, on a very crowded intersection, 40th and 8th Ave, on my way back from Aladdin, I was again firmly grasped by a man walking past me, accompanied by an exclamation of intimate nature.
This time, I was wearing a poncho (!), that covered me from neck to knee. Again, no cleavage, not even any shape showing. Tonight's groper actually missed my bikini area because of the poncho.
Unlike yesterday, I was immediately on the defensive and yelled loudly "HEY!!", followed by an even louder "Fuck you!!". Granted, that propelled the entire group of 6 men to yell obscenities at me while I was walking away, such as "I fucking love your filthy mouth, baby!".
Both times, someone was with me, but it happened so fast that they did not notice. After tonight's encounter, I was told that I should have considered just staying silent, as in this city aggression could lead to violence and make the situation worse.
I am not disagreeing. I felt scared in the moment, and as I was walking away, I dared not to look back or even breathe. I also admit that "Hey fuck you" is not the most eloquent answer to bring grabbed, and now I could think of a million smarter things to have said. But, as I have thought about it non-stop since... I do not regret speaking up. Because physical contact is the point where I draw the line.
I can't speak for all women, but I know that as the short little girl I am, I used to freeze up when I was scared or uncomfortable. I avoided confrontations and ignored all cat-calls and creepy encounters. I personally see it as a sign of self-improvement and growth to have trained my instincts over the years to react more aggressively to a violation of my personal space. Because no matter what my screamed objection would have yielded, at least I did not freeze up.
If you have no experienced harassment, you will not understand the lingering negative feelings a short moment can leave. There is not much worse than regretting that you should have done something in hindsight.
So, as reckless as I was tonight, riling up a group of men by cursing at them... I was a woman, and I spoke up.
I share this story, knowing that I will receive all kinds of comments, from reprimanding my recklessness to accusal of playing victim or fishing for compliments. I was dissuaded multiple times to write this on my public page.
But, I meet too many cosplayers who tell me their harassment stories and ask for my advice on how to deal with them. I have heard of too many incidences where a cosplayer regretted wearing a certain costume because of the reactions they got. There are too many girls who have told me that they are scared of dressing up as their favorite character because it bares some skin.
I'm sharing this story because I was groped while wearing a poncho, on the street, away from the con. I was not cosplaying. I did not ask for it. I had my Resting Bitch face on. But it still happened.
Harassment and groping happens everywhere. Anywhere. Anytime. It can happen to everyone. It has no correlation to what you are wearing or even how you are behaving. So stop blaming the victims and start making noise about changing the cultural conception that a little cat-calling or touching is flattering and a compliment. It is not ok. I sincerely give major props to women who live and work in large metropolitan areas and have to deal with cat-calling and grabbing on a daily basis. Such as the creator of http://www.cardsagainstharassment.com, who bravely confronts her cat-callers and explains why that is not cool.
My advice to cosplayers wanting to dress up at a busy convention is:
Don't let anyone discourage you from doing what you love. Use common sense. Safety in numbers. Modesty-fly the costume if it's too revealing, wear 3 pairs of hose. Choose the time and place for the costume carefully. Have a cover-up for walking if need be. And most importantly: Speak. Up.
If something happens, say something! Tell security, tell your friends, tell anyone around you. Conventions are by far safer than many streets in a city, and many cons have policies in place with Cosplayers in mind. Don't judge others for what they are wearing, and don't write someone off because of their appearance. In the end, we're all human beings put on this earth to hopefully do something awesome and leave an impact. So don't left anyone disrespect you, and don't disrespect someone else. Especially not over cosplay. We are all in this together. Let's support each other and look out for each other.
I love you guys as my Nerd Family and I feel safe with you all. Lots of hugs at New York Comic Con tomorrow???
As a man, I am utterly disgusted by this and many other stories from cosplayers alike, some of them even in my own country. People should know better, people should be raised better. Since it would take many paragraphs to explain it and often on the Internet it's quite useless to do so, I will keep this short:
Underneath the costume, underneath the make-up there is a person in there. Man or woman deserves to be respected as an individual, not objectified because of what society and the media tells you.