July 22, 2013

CosPlay is Not Consent: Mindfulness Amidst the Madness of Comic Con. ~ Kristina Peterson

Don’t harass them because they’re sexy, they can’t help it—they’re drawn that way.

Comic Con San Diego 2013 is a zoo. About 150,000 people descend on the downtown area for four days to attend one of the largest, wildest and craziest entertainment conventions in the world. It used to be about comic books, but now it is about toys, movies, television and marketing.

I’ve always loved comics; since I was a kid, I’ve read different genres from scary comics to superheros. Comics or graphic novels have the ability to impart complex ideas in a visual, easy to understand form that I find infectious and amazing.

But Comic Con is something else. It is a wild, rollicking horde of humanity intent on consuming mass quantities of toys, products, celebrity worship, cheap food and free stuff. Personally, I try not to aquire anything I have no immediate use for and I especially try to avoid anything I’m gonna have to dust later. But that is me and I’m definitely in the minority here.

I have spent my time so far looking for mindfulness at Comic Con—we were tasked during our apprenticeship to challenge ourselves by writing about things we didn’t know about in unfamiliar situations. We were asked to look outside of our comfort zones.

I found mindfulness in the form of skin tight bodysuits accented with armor and chainmail.


CosPlay is the generic term for “Costume Play.”People who enjoy cosplay dress up and go to expos and conventions. They happily pose for pictures with other fans and help promote their favorite characters. Some are paid performers but the majority of CosPlayers do it simply for fun.

Yep, “those people,” the ones with the capes and the corsets and the boots and the swords. Most CosPlayers spend a lot of time and money on their outfits. They are masters with sewing machines, glue guns, soldering irons and occasionally, arc welders. Some make their own armor and shoes. And while they happily enjoy the admiration their masterpieces garner, they will also tell you there is a distinctly dark aspect to some of the attention they receive.

CosPlay is NOT Consent

The last year or so has seen a movement emerge to educate people that a person in a costume is still a person.

At Anime Expo 2013, a couple of jerks walked around with go pro cameras strategically mounted on their backpacks. They would con a hug from female cosplayers so the cameras would video tape their breasts. The videos were posted on YouTube and going viral but were taken down after the outraged cosplayer community banded together to remove them.

I find people brave enough to dress in costume at a public event amazing and beautiful; to find out that they also have to endure the ugliness of harassment, insults and violence really hurt my heart.

I naively thought that their superhero costumes would protect them from the everyday pain many people experience because of the way they dress. From that old prejudice that “He/She was asking for it ’cause of how they looked.”

A lot of CosPlayers dress sexy. Why? Because the characters they are portraying are drawn that way.

YaYa Han is a very well known CosPlayer. She designs and manufactures her own costumes and spends a lot of time making them perfect interpretations of the characters she’s emulating. You see her and feel like she’s really The Baroness from G.I. Joe or Jessica Rabbit, live and in person. She has had incidences of inappropriate touches and lewd comments—but she does her best to kindly and compassionately inform people that she is an entertainer, not an object.

Her hope is that CosPlayers will continue to stand up as a community and educate the convention going fans. Sushi Killer posted a great photo essay and blog about CosPlay is Not Consent; and Meagan-Marie bravely wrote about her experiences in the gaming world as a CosPlayer in a post titled “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Men Get it Too

There’s a rule in comic mythology: Rule 68. It basically states that there is a polar opposite for each character, somewhere out there. So men dress skimpy too because their characters are drawn that way.

I met Captain Lucky, Olivier Lebourg and Michelle Prenez dressed in some amazing costumes. Turning tradition on its head, they had exchanged gender roles and were making the rounds of the Con as Emma Frost, Scarlet Witch and Wolverine. And they each had harrowing tales to tell about inappropriate grabbing and uncomfortable comments.

But they don’t let those things deter them—they’ve been coming to Comic Con for 7 years, and always in costume.

The Wider World

Being a yogi, I wander around in skintight clothes. After class, my classmates and I frequently stop for juice and coffee at a local cafe and we’ve been approached more than once in a less than polite way when we’re out and about.

Judith Andersson recently wrote about unwanted incidents bordering on stalking and much of what she described rang true for me and my yogi friends, girls and guys.

When does admiration turn to abuse? When someone ceases to see the person and only sees an object, be it “Jessica Rabbit” or “Yoga Girl.”

See Something, Say Something

Once my eyes were opened to the world of CosPlayers, I started watching. And I saw some pretty reprehensible behavior on the part of a few people. Both men and women. And I started to say things. Humor helps. “Excuse me, but that angle of her butt is gonna look terrible. Try getting her from the front, her makeup is amazing.”

Sometimes, the simple act of witnessing and letting people know that they have been identified serves as enough of a deterrent to keep the ugliness away.

After all, we’re all connected—and it’s pretty cool that little old me in my boring yoga clothes can help out Wonder Woman and Wolverine.

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{photos courtesy of: 2013 FirstGlance Photography- William Ostroff}

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