There’s been a lot of talk lately about feminism + cosplay lately. In recent news, Megan Marie posted about speaking up against creepers on her tumblr and my colleague from University of San Francisco started her project, “Cosplay =/= Consent.” Much discussion and debate has been passed around the news feed grapevine; some engaging and some eyerolling. However, one image that stuck out during this heated time is this image that has had over 900 shares on Facebook. The art depicts a scantily clad cosplayer being stared at by neck beard fanboys as she’s mozying her business getting and autograph. She has a shock look on her face as she bends over as the creepers stare at her.
According to the artist, it’s a tribute to how brave skimpy cosplayers are. While I have no problem with skimpy cosplayers – male or female – crossplay or not – there are a few things about the image that bug me. I do not see this as female empowerment and it’s sad that this is being passed off as a pro-feminist image. It’s still very degrading in nature and not some way I would portray a cosplayer having confidence.
If I were to portray a scantily clad cosplayer at a comic con showing some sort of empowerment, it would have the subject standing fiercely against creepy fanboys or blasting an oncoming glomper to the wall. She would be standing tall and she would not be leaning against her table like a sub (seriously, who asks for autographs that way?) in public. She would be standing bold in her costume with confidence in her eyes – you can tell she’s happy and comfortable in her choice of costume, but will not take crap from creepers. Now, that’s pretty and powerful. Girl Power!
On my morning commute, I was thinking about examples of feats of bravery in cosplay. These examples are not often adulated by the cosplay community. They may seem small, but these are accomplishments that my colleagues and I share.
1. Entering and Competing in Masquerade
It takes a very long time to figure out the perfect masquerade act. Rounding up cosplayers and communicating with them is really hard to pull. I admire cosplayers that have placed some really awesome acts in the past. I could only wish I could be a part of some of these masquerade mega groups. Getting people together for a two minute skit is not as easy as it sounds. While I have been a perpetrator of the “last minute skit,” it still requires time and creativity to think on your toes to figure out what to do for an entertaining stage act. Getting people to rehearse at a con or even before is a difficult feat. It’s sad to say that masquerade is not what it used to be – at least from what I observed the last time I was on the West Coast. If you pulled off an amazing skit with awesome costumes, that’s an achievement right there. Hell, just getting on stage and performing in front of people is an achievement in itself!
And if you organized a masquerade after years and years of competing and perfecting your craft, that’s even double respect points.
2. Stepping Up Your Game, Leveling Up Your Skills
It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone. I’ve known cosplayers who whine that no one will commission props for them for free. Welcome to the real world where nothing is free. For the cosplayers that want to learn or advancing their skills to be better, that’s an achievement right there. It takes a lot of confidence to go from buying a commissioned outfit on ebay to learning how to sew your own stuff. Even if your first project is simple or a modification of an everyday outfit found at Forever 21, the fact that you want to up your skills and be better at your craft is an amazing feat. Never stop learning and find projects out of your comfort zone.
3. Avoiding to Gossip, Even When It’s Thrown At You
As a lady in the cosplay / convention scene, there a lot of girls – mean girls. I love my girlfriends, but there is a difference between venting and idle gossip. I’ve been with Lolitas and cosplayers long enough that it’s hard to escape conversations along the lines of “Did you hear about so and so and what happened at Anime Expo?” For the longest time, I’ve been an information banker and it had to stop. The convention community is already too much like high school and it’s really hard to be caught up with trainwrecks and other people’s business. The next time a friend tries to be all like, “Like oh my God, did you see her Sailor Venus cosplay?! She did everything wrong!” Don’t even respond to it; change the subject and move on with life.
4. Despite the Drama, We’ve Been in Cosplay for Over a Decade
In any eccentric and artistic communities, the artists can be a little crazy and be a little bit out of line at times. If you’ve been in cosplay and had to deal with drama, but still stuck with it no matter what, it’s almost worthy of a medal of honor. Even if you haven’t won any masquerade acts, for staying as long as you have and remembering the love of the game, it’s a real challenge to keep on playing dress up.