Cosplay is a hobby that takes a huge investment of time, money and skill. Cosplayers spend days or sometimes even months to put together a perfectly crafted and accurately detailed costume. So when you venture out onto a con floor to show off your talent and bring some entertainment to fans, it tends to ruin everything when other people harass you.
With the prevalence of the hashtag #MeToo on social media, I think it’s time to talk about Cosplay and Consent. If you weren’t aware, #MeToo is a campaign to let any survivors of sexual harassment or assault (no matter their gender) to speak up about their experiences, or to just add their voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who have gone through it. The number of people who have responded to this campaign is staggering, so before it becomes just a blur of overwhelming tweets in numbers impossible to count, I’ll give you my own experience.
Over rAge weekend, there were a few reports of some seriously gross behaviour by expo attendees. Though the cosplay organisers, GES SA, had the safe space for the cosplayers with a separate chill area, going out onto the floor was a minefield. Multiple cosplayers were inappropriately harassed and/or touched by attendees. They were cat-called, man-handled, had photographs taken of them without permission and in compromising uncomfortable situations. I was on the receiving end of some of this behaviour and honestly, it was pretty shocking. It sucks that one of my #MeToo experiences had to happen over my favourite expo.
I’ve attended FanCon, ICON and multiple other events, both in costume and out, and I’ve never experienced this kind of behaviour before. So what made rAge different?
The main issue I can point out is that the “Cosplay is not Consent” signage wasn’t very visible, or prolific. There were some small posters around the Blue Wing, but no large or noticeable banners to educate attendees on how to approach cosplayers or behave around them. If you hadn’t gone into the Blue Wing or walked up to the poster to read it, you probably wouldn’t know that it was there at all. I didn’t notice it the first time until it was pointed out to me.
Some of the photographers that were at the event could have also done with some better education. Taking photos of cosplayers while they’re getting in and out of costume is reprehensible, and taking photos without permission is even worse. This is not a new issue either, and I really thought that our community was better than this.
I know that policing people’s behaviour is basically impossible, but better education goes a long way. I don’t want to have to start walking around rAge with a freaking bodyguard! I’m honestly sad that I have to tell people “don’t sexually harass other individuals” but it remains an issue.
So, to all the attendees of these cons and expos, please remember: Cosplay Is Not Consent. Always ask before taking a photograph or posing with a cosplayer and do not touch them unless they give the OK. If they say no to any of your requests, move on. If they look uncomfortable, stop. These are really simple rules to remember.
To rAge Expo and GES SA, please take a long, hard look at what can be done to protect your cosplayers for future events. I don’t want anyone to go through this again next year, we’re counting on you.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: October 17, 2017