Encourage your local convention to adopt a thorough anti harassment policy and procedures for enforcing that policy. We have resources for sample policy language and publicity, sample enforcement procedures, and a training manual to train their volunteers. Also – New York Comic Con’s policy and approach is a great model!
For more about our San Diego Comic Con 2014 effort and next steps. visit our SDCC page.
Comic book conventions are loud and crowded. For the most part, it’s a whole bunch of booths selling merch. But a favorite thing to do for many con-goers, is to dress in costume and walk around and interact with others. People of all ages are present, many dressed in cosplaying and many not. But everyone is EXCITED.
So it is important to be:
Everyone there, most especially the cosplayers, have put a lot of time, energy, and money into their comic con experience. More than that, they are there because they care deeply about certain characters/books/movies/tv shows and comic con is a safe place to express that. It’s a beautiful thing!
But what is cosplaying??:
Cosplay stands for “costume play”. It’s basically when you dress up as somebody from something. Most cosplayers will sort of adopt the personality or other traits of that character while in costume. So you’re not just a lady in a Wonder Woman outfit. You ARE Wonder Woman. Cosplayers are usually shooting for a high level of authenticity, creativity, and ingenuity. Many will sew or build their own outfits. Some of them are insanely impressive! For a ton of examples of cosplay, check out Comics Alliance Best Cosplay Ever (This Week).
There’s been a lot of focus, as of late, about harassment at conventions. And it’s all been online. Please read 16 bit Sirens blog post on Cosplay =/= Consent. Most cosplayers are women and there’s been a lot of problems with men taking pictures up their skirts, touching them inappropriately, kissing them against their will, stalking them online, etc. Unfortunately, some con-goers see women in costumes as just a part of the convention scenery and believe they are dressed up solely to attract male attention. As an anti-street harassment organization, it is important we continue the conversation about existing safely in public places into environments such as this. Like I said earlier, comic book conventions are supposed to be a safe place for geeks to be their geekiest and that should apply to both men and women.
A panel at the most recent San Diego Comic Con, with some of the most prolific comic creators, basically said women and gender justice have no place in comic, convention, or geek culture. And people are up in arms about it! Here are a few articles on the topic:
- The Week’s Article “How Sexism is Destroying the Comic Book Industry”
- Initial ThinkProgress.org post
- From ScienceFiction.Com
There can also be racist layers to the harassment. People who aren’t white are limited in the characters available to them, and get a lot of flack when they dress as white characters. For more information, read an article about that experience, and the Cosplaying While Black tumblr.
It seems simple enough: adopt an anti-harassment policy, and spend an hour training your volunteers to respond appropriately if harassment is reported at the convention. Unfortunately, most conventions do not have formal, publicized anti-harassment policies, they don’t have internal procedures for recording and responding to reports of harassment, and they hardly have enough volunteers for crowd control, let alone those trained to adequately handle incidents of harassment. In response, fans have been speaking up all over the country, asking their conventions to recognize that harassment limits people’s ability to fully enjoy their local conventions, and to do something about it. GeeksForCONsent has developed training for convention volunteers and staff, and has been collecting testimony from people about their experiences with harassment at conventions.
If you host a convention and are interested in creating an inclusive anti harassent policy, we are here to help! Let us train your volunteers and brainstorm ways to help advertise your convention as a safe, inclusive space! Email us at GeeksForCONsent@gmail.com (formerly HollabackPHILLY).