SF Tony Avatar

 Life Skills for Fanboys:  The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014, a Proposal

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The Problem Again

Sexual harassment is still an issue at Comic Con.  These ladies aim to turn the tide.  Good for them, I say.  But before the pendulum swings too far the other way and behavior starts being constantly scrutinized at the cons, cosplayers, we need to talk.  The idea of completely stamping out leering and comments on the street, well that’s not going to happen unless you move to say, Saudi Arabia, where religious cops enforce a code of behavior.  (And no, I’m not implying these ladies are anywhere near to that organization, but people do tend to overreact sometimes.)

A Proposed Solution

As I stated in my previous column on the subject and again just two weeks ago, people need to feel safe and be safe at cons.  But let’s not confuse feelings with actions.  Some guy checking out a cosplayer or whistling can be cheeky and fun under the right circumstances, conversely, a seemingly innocent remark can actually be a quite devastating putdown or creepy remark.  So let’s come together with some common sense rules for people outside the costumes and in.  Here’s a few I propose:

For those of you not in a costume (I covered a lot of this in my previous column, but to review):

1.  If you’re taking pictures, you have to get permission from your subject, unless they’re already standing in the middle of the con floor posing for others.  If the cosplayer says no, move on.

2.  No touching.  If you’re posing in a picture with the cosplayer, wait for them to invite you closer.  Don’t automatically assume you can wrap your grubby mitts around Wonder Woman.

3.  No inappropriate pictures.  You know what that means.  No upskirt nonsense or snapping pics in an attempt to capture nipple while someone adjusts her costumes.  You do it by accident, you immediately delete it and apologize.  If someone suspects you of taking an inappropriate picture, you delete it anyways upon their request.

4.  If you like a costume, say so.  If you don’t, please STFU.  No one wants to hear your opinion unless it’s positive.

5.  Be polite.  That means, don’t make vulgar comments and don’t be a dick.

For Cosplayers

1.  If you don’t want to be constantly stared at in public and if attention makes you shrink like a violet, then perhaps you should reconsider attending the con in costume.  You don’t have to be the one to wear it to enter it into a contest.  If you are shy, maybe let your friend, the attention getter, wear it for you.  Otherwise, please understand that people will look at you and that they may or may not be intentionally creepy.  Some guys are just naturally creepy no matter what they do.  Nerds often suffer from crippling shyness, especially around women with their goodies hanging out.  The best way to test for creepiness is to say, “Hello,” to someone that’s staring at you.  Typically, shy guys will turn red and look away, creeps will see it as an opening to say something stupid.  Normal people usually say, “Hi.  Great costume!”

2.  Lady Cosplayers:  You do not have to dress exactly as the characters do in comics.  You do not have to hang your goodies out for all to see.  It is absolutely not mandatory.  However, if you do show massive cleavage, expect a much bigger reaction.  That doesn’t mean you should expect to be sexually harassed, but you should expect guys’ eyes to go wide and then mutter something like “God damn.  That’s hot.”  Understand, that comment is not really directed at you.

You see, I was standing at my table, selling my comics, minding my own business, when blam!  Some half-naked young thang wandered into my field of vision.  I am processing the image of her tits bouncing everywhere.  The process nearly overwhelmed my brain.  She seemed blissfully unaware of the effect she was having.  So when I muttered, “God damn, that’s hot.”  I was trying to focus and get a grip so I didn’t say something much more stupid.

Now, you might say, “You sexist pig!” as that errant cosplayer did to me.  That’s fine.  She’s entitled to her opinion, but she’s not entitled to walk around half-naked in an invisible protected shield of criticism.  Here’s why:

I’m an overweight, 48 year-old comics writer.  I could get myself a skin tight Spiderman costume and parade around the con with my wang and nutsack pressed against the bottom of my stomach.  I’ll bet that same cosplayer wouldn’t want to see that and would good reason.  And it wouldn’t matter if I was an 18 year-old with a 6-pack again.  It’s inappropriate for me or anyone else to walk around a comic book convention half-naked.  Whether that person is a man or woman.  If I can’t tuck my junk appropriately, then I shouldn’t be allowed in the con.  If you can’t hide your nipples through the Lycra, same thing.

And if you can’t wear a costume without showing us your ass crack and deep cleavage, get lost.  I didn’t ask to have your goodies waved in my face, especially if you’re underage.  Comic conventions are also full of kids.  If you can’t make a costume that doesn’t make you look like a stripper, maybe you shouldn’t make a costume at all.  And while we’re at it, do not walk around the con using your cleavage to try to get favors.  (Yep, seen it happen more than once.)  That kind of behavior is just a different kind of sexual harassment.

So, in a nutshell, cover up.  Don’t whine to me the comics don’t give you enough “options”.  That’s total crap.  You can’t blame the comics because Power Girl’s costume looks like something out of a strip club.  No one put a gun to your head and insisted it look exactly like the comic.  If you want to look that ridiculous, then you’re going to have to deal with a lot of eyes going wide.  Because that kind of cleavage is not the normal dress code in the outside world.  If a topless or naked woman walks up to me, I’m not going to pretend like she’s not topless or naked.  I’m also not going to pretend you’re not half-naked in your skin tight Lady Deadpool costume.  There’s going to be some kind of natural reaction to that kind of blatant sexual costume from me.  So if I mutter, “Holy shit,” under my breath, it’s because I’m a human being, not a PC robot that can instantly process this extreme image.

And I’ve seen these costumes a million times, so more often than not, I bite my tongue.  (The cosplayer I described really caught me off guard that day.)  Imagine some teenager coming to a cosplay event for the first time.  His head is ready to explode.  So, at least consider modifying the costumes ladies and showing some decorum.  Especially if you’re a model or aspiring model, throw a shawl or something over your funbags, at least until the costume contest.  I’m sure the guys can tone down their remarks if you can tone down the cleavage a little.  C’mon, meet us halfway here.

3.  You should try and wear a costume that fits your body type.  Heavy-set people can still look good in costume.  Plenty of heavy guys and gals opt for a Klingon costume because it tends to look pretty good even if you’re overweight.  A long time ago, I dated a girl who resembled Rebel Wilson.  She was heavy, but pretty sexy.  So it’s not just about weight.  It’s about the kind of clothes you choose and whether or not the clothes fit.

Again, I went to a con where an obese woman (not just heavyset, but obese) wore a chain mail bikini.  She looked awful.  Folds of flab, a rash where the armor was rubbing—  She looked absolutely repulsive.  I have to hand it to her for ignoring the horrified gasps, but Jesus Christ, I wished a con organizer had pulled her aside and said politely, “Ma’am, your costume may be inappropriate for this event.  Would you be more comfortable in a robe?”

If you don’t wear a costume appropriate to your body type (like if you’re a fat, 48 year-old comics writer wearing a skin tight Spiderman costume) expect a reaction.  You might be wearing it for the reaction and that’s fine.  But again, don’t expect an air tight, magic bubble around you to make you immune from criticism.  No one put a gun to your head and said you had to try and mimic the distorted bodies inside of comic books exactly.  No one forced you to go out in public dressed in a way that anywhere else would get you stares and possibly thrown out.

4.  If you are sexually harassed, tell your harasser to stop.  If he doesn’t, tell the authorities.  Your harasser may not know where the line is.  To this day, I’ve had people walk up to my table at a con with no idea how it works.  Sometimes they think I work for the convention center or that the room is one big company that sells comics.  Sometimes a harasser just doesn’t know and does something really stupid.  Tell him or her to stop.  If they apologize profusely for making a mistake, it’s up to you whether or not it should slide.  You have to gauge.  But if the harasser doesn’t stop, by all means, call the authorities and make some noise.

Understand that words and leering are not illegal (unless maybe you start to get a stalker on your hands).  It may be annoying and even intimidating, but not illegal.  The best that can happen is that the con kicks the harasser out and bans him or her.  Touching without permission, however, is very illegal and you should probably file a report with the local cops.  If you’ve got a real creep on your hands, don’t let it slide.

5.  Don’t travel alone in costume.  If you’re in a super sexy costume, don’t travel by yourself.  Stick with your friends.  (This is good advice for anyone at the con, but especially someone in costume who may not be able to have a full field of vision due to  costume.)  Creeps generally pick on the weak looking loner, not a group.  Conventions are full of your friends, but they are also as public as the train station.  If you have to go back to your hotel room, don’t wander out of the con by yourself.  Take an escort of some kind.

Look, forgive the comparison, but there’s a reason why strip clubs have tight security and strippers often get walked to their cars by the bouncer.  There are creeps everywhere and they are going to be attracted to beautiful, scantily clad women.  Be smart.  Once you’re back in your jeans and Firefly t-shirt, you won’t be attracting so much attention.  You still should use common sense, but at least now they won’t see you coming from a mile away.

You don’t have to walk around the con afraid of everyone as a potential attacker, but you also can’t be naive to the dangers in any public space.

Finally, for all, let’s work together on this.  The geek community needs to come together.  The rules need to protect and keep people safe, not control their behavior.  There’s a fine line between con drama, someone overacting, someone that’s just a jerk and real sexual harassment.  To not prosecute a real creep is wrong, but it does an equal disservice to create onerous rules that try and control people’s behavior or to go after someone that made a mistake.  Use common sense, be safe and hopefully many instances can be avoided before they happen.

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age

Who Are the Creepers?