As the popularity of cosplay has risen, so have the number of assaults and insults that cosplayers suffer at large events. San Diego Comic-Con 2014 just passed, and some of the biggest stories to come out of the event were about an underage cosplayer who was found bloodied and unconscious in costume, and a famous cosplayer chasing down a man who groped her friend.
Unfortunately, many cosplayers unwittingly contribute to the very convention culture that endangers them. They contribute, not with the costumes they wear, but by trying to be polite or by not knowing what to do when incidents happen. It can be a very distressing and embarrassing to be objectified or assaulted at a convention, and knowing exactly what to do can be hard. So here are three basic rules of how to react in these horrible situations:
1. Don’t be Polite!
Every convention has huge numbers of bloggers, vloggers, press, internet personalities, and regular patrons who are combing the floor for cosplayers to put on the spot. Many of these jerks ask inappropriate sexual questions or try to touch you in ways that make you uneasy (hugs, leering at specific body parts, filming/photographing specific body parts, etc). If you are uncomfortable DO NOT FEEL OBLIGATED TO PLAY ALONG! Regardless of how witty your response is, questions and behavior of this nature is disrespectful to you and contributes to the convention culture that objectifies cosplayers. Tell them that they are being inappropriate, and end the interview. Tell them that you are not comfortable with them putting their arm around your waist, and step away. Tell them that your “eyes are up here” and walk away. No amount of Facebook likes or Twitter followers are worth encouraging these disgusting convention parasites.
2. Be Loud!
If something inappropriate happens, BE LOUD ABOUT IT! I know this can be hard because it is an embarrassing situation, but acting fast and getting people to notice what is happening is the best way to insure that predators are caught. Shout at the person to STOP and state what they are doing. For example, “STOP TOUCHING MY BREASTS! THAT IS NOT OK! THIS GUY/GIRL IS TOUCHING ME INAPPROPRIATELY!” and POINT THEM OUT! The more people who see the person, the better the chance of them being held responsible for their behavior. Hopefully someone will even snap a picture of the asswipe.
(Although I agree that they deserve it, I do NOT recommend physically striking the person since that can get you into legal trouble down the line.)
Do NOT just move on with your day after an incident happens. Report it to the convention staff (and make sure they really take note of it!) or the police if the incident is serious enough. We want predators removed from the convention, so we need those in charge to know that they are there! Even if you didn’t get a great look at the person, TELL AN OFFICIAL and let them know what you do remember. Often, these creeps bother/assault multiple people in a day. DON’T HELP THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! The truth is that we really don’t have dependable statistics on convention harassment, because so many victims don’t report their assaults. We need to start making officials take notice of this problem, and the only way to do that is to inform them EVERY time it happens
4. BE A WITNESS!
Help yourself and other cosplayers by being aware of your surroundings and looking out for trouble. I realize that we shouldn’t HAVE to do this, but unfortunately, the reality is that this is a necessary precaution to help protect ourselves. If you see something happen BE LOUD and REPORT! Stick around to tell officials what happened, or take the initiative if nobody else has the guts to report what happened. We can’t wait for white knights to save us. Cosplayers have to stand up for ourselves.
Assholes and predators are in geek culture, just like every other community. It is NOT your fault if someone is insulting or assaulting you. It doesn’t matter what you wear to a convention, EVERYONE deserves respect. If we are going to change this culture we need to band together and send the message loud and clear that we are NOT going to put up with this. We cannot wait around for other people to step up, we have to start stepping up and speaking up for ourselves!