By Lindsey Addawoo
Image courtesy of Danny Choo via Flickr.
What started off as a status on Facebook last November ended up stirring mayhem in the cosplay world when video game artist Tony Harris stated the following on his public Facebook account:
As expected, Harris was met with harsh opposition from female cosplayers (people who dress up in costumes of their favourite fictional character, often for conventions) virtually across the board. But what sparked outrage in the hearts of the many heroines immersed in gaming life also opened up the floor for a more important dialogue.
Why is it that there is a general perception that women can’t possibly be true fans of video games/cosplay characters? Why is there this idea that they attend cosplay events in order to entice little boys – the true fans of nerdy gaming culture?
Most importantly, is this some kind of New Age victimization?
Many would agree that Harris’ portrayal of men as victims of “Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girls” is highly problematic, for a number of reasons. One being that it shifts the blame from the silent perpetrator onto the real victims of misogyny: women.
Another reason might be perpetuating the notion that these women come to cosplay events to “seduce” little innocent nerd boys. This is not only untrue, but presumptuous and even misogynistic. It almost sounds like a fantasy in itself: hot women willing to show off cleavage to lure their male-counterparts; it just seems all too tempting… Even for the girl dressed as Princess Mononoke.
The idea that women come to cosplay events simply for attention is embedded in the ideology that all women are attention-seekers, and cosplay events serve as the perfect avenue to explore that ‘innate desire’.
Lastly, it’s just plain sexist. Since when did conventions become an all-exclusive playground for men?
“There is an assumption that the majority of audiences are going to be male, and while [that] is a valid assumption, it’s not an excuse for men to belittle women and make them feel ashamed of being a part of a community that they’ve been a part of all along” says gamer and RTA student Chantille Hazineh.
And it is true. A lot of video games are catered to overly masculine RPGs (role-playing games) and racing games, and while women are represented in these games, they are often monolithic and overly-sexualized.
“You definitely get the feeling that women [aren’t] a huge demographic in video games” agrees gamer Amanda Barrios.
However, that isn’t an excuse. Just because game-developers have a specific “type” of woman in mind and how their characters should look, that in no way opens the doors for male cosplayers to act territorial over land that can be tread by anyone. Neither does it legitimize their creepiness.
Anime cosplayer Marissa Melnyk gave her experience at the MTAC (March Toronto Anime Con) last year when a man asked to take her picture.
“I noticed him aiming the camera closer and closer to my chest. He was positioned too close to me to get a full body shot, and at that distance and angle, it was clear what kind of picture he really wanted,” she says.
This is just one of many examples female gamers face both at events and even in their own social circles.
“When I would start talking about video games with some of my girlfriends they would [look] at me with this glazed-over look like ‘I don’t care’ or ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’” says Barrios.
Maybe Harris meant these type of girls? Surely, they wouldn’t bother spending money and time sewing hard-to-get fabrics or doing the research on characters if they didn’t care in the first place.
“It’s important for gamers to realize that it’s something so precious and endearing to all of us” continues Chantille Hazineh. “That regardless of whether or not you’re a male or female you’re going to show your love with the community [and] be involved in the community in varying degrees”.
Since then, comic writer Gail Simone has set up Cosplay Appreciation Dayin direct response to Harris’ comments. M