Harassment of Cosplayers: A PSA From Your Friendly Neighborhood Craft Blogger

Awesome Rubix Cube cosplay.
I love this idea!
By Jaqen (Niccolò Caranti)
(Own work by uploader (also on Flickr))
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via
Wikimedia Commons

Tomorrow is July 4th and the first day of CONvergence. First, I’d like to say Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans, and Happy Thursday to every one else. Now, on to the guts of the entry.

Something that not many outside of the cosplaying community know about is the amount of harassment some cosplayers experience. There are horror stories out there of these folks dealing from anything from street harassment-like treatment to drugging and rape. This problem is unique to this group because although they put so much work and attention into some truly impressive costumes, some people think it’s ok to treat them poorly.

Why People Behave Badly Around Costumes
Beyond the simple fact that we live in a culture where hyper-sexualization of just about everything, rape and poor treatment of women (trans, cis and any female representing identities) is still prevalent, costumes add another, somewhat strange, layer of anonymity to the event.

For those not in the know, cosplaying is simply another way to celebrate characters or genres fans enjoy. It can be seen as a homage to characters and fictional worlds countless people have come to love. In addition, it’s a great way to hone crafting skills, exercise creativity and an outlet to celebrate something we wouldn’t otherwise be able to in day to day life.

Unfortunately, while the vast majority of people enjoy it for just that, a minority seem to see it as an excuse to try acting out darker fantasies. Many of the costumes are rather scanty, for both women and men, and too many people still see that as an invitation to take advantage of an otherwise fun event.

Regardless of the why, the fact is, no matter what a person is wearing, sexual comments, unwanted touching and any other undesired advances are flat out wrong. It doesn’t matter what a person is wearing; they deserve to be respected.

What to Do If It Happens
It can be a little tricky to figure out how to react, especially if it’s happening to you. I’ve found that putting distance between myself and the harasser is a good first step. Then let them know that no, you are not interested in what they’re trying to force on you. If possible, remove yourself from their presence, ignore further attempts at getting your attention and get to a safe space if there is one available.

Some beautifully ornate Final Fantasy inspired cosplays.
According to a comment at the source (linked below in the
source credits), the character names are Van,
Ashe and Fran.
by Michael Mol, [CC BY-2.0], via Flickr

If they won’t leave you alone, convention staff should be available to help you out, especially if the convention has a Cosplay is Not Consent program going on. Staff should back you up and call the venue’s security if necessary. If the harasser is behaving badly enough, the police may get involved.

If you see it happening to someone else, you can get involved by doing something as simple as asking the victim if they’re ok. I’ve seen suggestions to pretend to know them if you don’t, too.

I’ve broken up a couple of cases of domestic violence simply by standing at a distance and yelling for the aggressor to stop from a safe distance. If anything, it breaks their concentration, and the threat of the authorities being called never hurts. However, each situation is different, and most harassment situations don’t involve that kind of violence. Often, telling whoever’s doing the harassing that it’s wrong will stop it long enough for the victim to find some sort of respite from the onslaught.

Generally, harassers would rather avoid dealing with more than one person, and they’ll back off. If you don’t feel safe or confident enough to do that, point out what’s going on to a convention staffer or volunteer. They can take over from there.

As tempting as violence may be, that’s something to avoid if at all possible. You don’t want to get booted from the event for trying to help. By using peaceful means, however, that shouldn’t happen.

This activity and these types of events are meant to celebrate the contributions a genre gives to society as well as our personal lives. Abuse of any kind is unwelcome and should not be tolerated. The only ones who can change that pattern is each and every one of us.

Treat each other with respect.

Stand up for yourself.

And stand up for those who may not be able to otherwise.

Leave a Reply