When I asked Jessica Krose, who was attending Atlanta’s Dragon Con this past September dressed as Black Widow, about the most recent incident of harassment that she had been made to deal with, she didn’t have to think back too far. “It happened about five minutes ago,” said Krose. “A guy came up and tried to touch my face. He didn’t say ‘Hi,’ he didn’t introduce himself, he just came up and tried to touch my face. When I asked him what he was doing, he said ‘Oh, I saw you from up above and saw you dabbing your sweat, so I came down to wipe your face.’”
Cosplayers, like Krose, are the heart and soul of fan conventions, spending hours upon hours and considerable amounts of money perfecting their costumes. Done well, cosplay can be one of the most joyous expressions of fandom, and a huge part of fandom is feeling like something special belongs to you, that a specific part of pop culture spoke to you so deeply that you wanted to wrap yourself up in it, mentally and physically. It’s a harmless bit of escapism, one that can inspire creative, emotional, and physical expression that many can take part in and enjoy. But it’s not without that dark side that Krose experienced at Dragon-Con, one that prompts those in the vicinity of cosplayers to gain a boldness that can make those in costume uncomfortable or unsafe. Oftentimes people forget that there is a human being beneath the costume, leading to inappropriate situations that add an unfortunate, even frightening, element to the convention experience.
Sadly, this is another example of what it’s like to be a woman within geek culture. Even as women become more and more active at conventions, online, and in the industries that support the culture, many still create a feeling that women “don’t belong.” When comic book artist Tony Harris went on an unhinged rant in 2012, he shared a view that many men have expressed in more subtle ways: Outside of the enjoyment that they can provide men at conventions, women have no place there.
“I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC.”
Misogyny is, of course, nothing new, but it’s begun mutating into new, disturbing strains and cosplayers often find themselves on the front line even while trying to momentarily escape a world that seems, at times, to be unrelentingly fixated on pushing back against the notion of equality.