Sitting in the office of a director who I work with closely, we started talking about the San Diego Comicon. He lives nearby, and he had heard there were lawsuits about harassment of cosplayers at comic conventions. One of his direct reports scoffed at it – “well, if they dress up like that and go to the convention….” I immediately piped up “Look, that doesn’t matter – they get to attend without being groped.” The direct report is a woman of about 25 – very conservative in her upbringing given her culture. So correcting her was necessary – was important – because there is no reason to blame the women in this case – they were the victim.
“Look,” I said, “the problem is that whether it is a comicon or a computer convention – the idea of women in sexy outfits being used to lure in men has set a precedence that they should expect to be fondled and groped. It’s the truth sadly – that’s what they were hired to do – while the women who attend because they are geeks, they are treated not as geek but as people paid to be eye candy. Now that the situation shifted, the idea of the men have about them has not shifted away from the booth babe idea.”
Later when G got back from San Diego, we talked about this issue. He told me about the paid models. The Witchblade model, for example, was dressed in fewer clothes than a woman at a strip club. G wondered if he should show her respect by giving her money. It was that bad.
“If you are dressed in a cosplay costume and a man asks if he can take a picture with you, is it overstepping boundaries if he puts his arm around you?” G asked seriously based on his experience.
“Fuck no – he did not have consent – he asked for a photo not a grope.”
“That is the difference – if the cosplayer is a guy, they stand next to the person and respectfully get a photo taken. if the cosplayer is a woman, the guy wraps his arms around the woman and expects her to pretend they are together. Because she said yes to the photo, they think she said yes to the grope.”
What the fuck?!
My daughter DJ often goes to these events in cosplay. She loves the cosplay element when she goes into an event that she loves. I cannot imagine her getting groped by some geeky guy who believes he can because he wanted a photo. I would hope DJ would break his wrist or at least explain that is not okay.
At Emerald City Comicon last year, they posted signs like this:
I am incredibly glad they did that because I know it happens. I am also happy because this is the con that my daughters like to cosplay, so knowing they can do it in a place where these signs were openly posted was great. If boundaries are crossed, knowing they have people that will support them is reassuring.
I guess maybe because I am in the kink community, I am more conscious about consent. Not just consent about sex, but consent about touching and hugging and any physical contact.
Because no matter where you are or how women are dressed, no means no. You want a photo – you get a photo if she says yes. You don’t get a hug or physical contact. You don’t get to be pissy if she says no. A woman no matter how she is dressed gets to have her space and her body respected. And if you take more than you were consented to get, then you deserve public humiliation as a violator of consent.
So if they are getting sued in San Diego – sue away! The demographic of people attending comicon is changing. And the women deserve the respect of any other attendee – regardless of gender, costume, age or body type. And if people cannot respect that – if the space becomes dangerous for women – then the space deserves to be held accountable. Especially – and this is the key – if the space is not creating a safe space for the women to be in regardless of how they are dressed.
Too harsh? Nope. Women attending these cons are spending just as much money as men. They should get the same treatment – not even the booth babes should be treated that way. As a friend of mine used to say, would you do that to your mom? If not, you shouldn’t be doing that to any woman.
While I hate that harassment of women and violation of consent is happening at these events, I like that people are not standing for it – that they are standing up, saying that this is not okay, and trying hard to get it changed – getting the space to be a safe space.
I can only hope that it does change so that I don’t have to educate my girls on how to break a man’s hand if they violate their space. Until that date, my girls will be prepared.
Because things like this:
are interesting. They are not effective if they are not posted everywhere including the venue – if people are not instructed to enforce the rule. If women are not feeling safe.