*This is an opinion editorial by Site Editor, Dark Angel; any and all views reflected in this piece are his, and his alone.*
*Updated 6-6-13, podcast segment (link below)
“If you didn’t already know, cosplay’s a really big deal…” (pg 36, How To Avoid Hara-Kiri)
In the last few weeks we’ve seen an unprecedented push for a cosplay respect & dignity PSA called, “Cosplay Is Not Consent”. There’s way more video and blog posts than we have time to review right now, but do a quick search to get up to speed if you’re unfamiliar.
I support the few and the brave who have taken the time to address this issue and raise the fandom’s attention of it. As our scene continues to grow, our internal and external issues will no doubt continue to complicate. The cons of now are not the cons of then, and will continue to change with each passing anime season.
That said, this ‘movement’, and I use that word loosely, doesn’t sit completely well with my stomach. I’ve examined the very valid, very real complaints. Here’s my issue, and it’s 5-fold.
1) This argument (guy leers, approaches, or says wrong thing (wrong thing?) to cosplayer (primarily female), unequivocally equals he’s a pervert. Not a “Haha! ‘Miroku’! or ‘Pedobear’ in-character/cosplayer/fan acting, but full-on creep) assumes all guys who go to cons act the same; and if you’re a girl (albeit, it focuses on female cosplayers; because its a gender argument one could argue it is a mindset that may be taken as applying to all females.), this is what you HAVE to expect, because by default, it’s gonna happen.
2) This issue fails to take into account, that many of these fans (guys and girls) are new to social situations like this, and may not be best prepared for them. Be it age, or their hobby (anime is going mainstream, but still not excepted like comics or videogames), a lot of these otaku are loners, or isolated, or stigmatized by a larger portion of society. This is the same growing period that many of us writing/talking about this issue seem to forget that we went through. Not everyone can articulate social settings as well as those who don’t have to try.
3) As much as cosplayers love to flaunt their freedom, and overall ability to be awesome, let’s not forget cosplay is a choice. There are some cosplayers that are genuinely right to make these complaints. They’ve been put in positions and scenarios that no one is comfortable in, and more importantly situations that the fandom overwhelmingly rejects. This happens, and it shouldn’t be swept away. However, when a really famous, and possibly attractive, cosplayer wears a costume that’s meant to draw a reaction, they know what they’re getting into, or they should. If you wear scandalous outfits you wouldn’t wear in public and complain because you get catcalls, or walk around with nothing but cleavage (even if it’s a prop) and get upset that non-cosplayers have no sense of bubble, awe, respect, or boundary because skin grabs attention and illicits a very specific reaction, or gripe about having to share space that you feel entitled to cosplay in despite the fact that your onlookers paid the exact amount of financial guarantee to enjoy the exact same space, or get pissed because you feel objectified because you’re being photographed wearing a perfect (or custom) version of some teenage boy’s cartoon fantasy, you don’t get to complain. Not once. Harm and hazard are two different things. A creep that makes threatening comments should be taken care of; this I agree with the ‘movement’ on. But a creep that drools, and gawks? NO anime convention is beholden to your preferences as a condition of you attending. I’ll say it again, cosplay is a choice.
4) This point would’ve had more fire if I’d actually wrote this when the issue was hotter, but this cause, of and amongst the many issues in the fandom, ranks as one of the most potent teachable moments, not only for the fandom as a whole, but countless outsiders. Anyone who’s been doing this long enough knows that this is an issue, and no one refutes it should’ve been talked about or taken care of sooner. So kudos to that. The fact that a campaign to improve the scene can be built this fast, in a world where everyone wants to know what’s the newest anime, or what they’ll be cosplaying next year, before the con season is even over, is astounding. However, we’re not going to learn anything if we assume this issue is always going to have the same villains or causes, and we’re certainly not going to move forward fear-mongering all the noobs. Here’s a real chance to work with the scene and the officials to make the cons safer and more efficient, and instead we’re running around with a whiteboard and DEMANDING respect; all this hubbub and not one partly concession. In terms of building sustainable change, that’s exceedingly immature.
5) Last point, which may be the biggest. This issue, in a way, kinda divides us. It circulates and circlejerks, in all the big cosplaying/photography communities. It’s on everyone’s radar if you dress up, or know someone who does. But how many people who raise this issue have talked to their local con staffs? How many have talked to other sub-cultures, like the gamers or ravers or L.A.R.P.ers or dealers? How many have volunteered on Staff to try to help with this issue? How many realize that someone who’s never been to a con, may be less apt because of seeing this now; thus shrinking the scene? How many care, that good, honest, solid guys who’ve been in, and helped build the scene will now be seen with an absolute lens of suspicion? Because if he’s staring at your costume a little too hard, even for legitimate reasons, then he’s a creep; Am I right? How many are more than happy to cry wolf, but charge right into a double-standard when it’s somehow okay to randomly glomp, stalk, or grope some hot male cosplayer they’ve never met? How many, still, in that regard, are silent or indifferent (to the guy hunt)? And how many, the victims, the perps, and those inbetween, have any idea what effect this (and other problems, we’ve yet to solve) are having on the media outlets that are starting to cover us, and take the scene increasingly seriously, with growing interest?
This issue highlights a serious convention problem, but it singles out the biggest, easiest targets from the biggest cons and offers, what is seemingly, an all-but absolute answer, to a question that is more than a little complicated. I say that’s wrong. Attacking the symptom does not fix the problem, and the holes that this PSA calls to action are too gaping to ignore.
I’m more than willing to get my hands dirty and help fix this, but if you feel the same way, you can’t just scapegoat the easiest target. The fandom is made up of a diverse bunch of awesome, and this is one issue in which we need to stand together.
Update 6-6-13: I did a podcast segment with Anime3000.com that overviewed all these issues. If you’re interested, feel free to check it out here.