It is no secret that current events have ignited some serious talks about sexual harassment and assault. I have decided that it’s finally time for me to weigh in on this topic.
The cosplay community has been dealing with this subject for a long time and you’ve probably heard the phrase “cosplay is NOT consent”. Yes, I realize that many female characters are dressed sexily…or sometimes not dressed in much at all. Cosplay is about representing a character that you admire in some way. I have a tend to cosplay female characters who are bold and exhibit strength. I don’t see myself as a strong person. I struggle daily with panic attacks and agoraphobia. For me, cosplay is an outlet. Somehow, when I put on a costume, I take on a bit of the character. When I’m cosplaying a character that I see as being strong, I end up feeling a little stronger, myself. My anxiety improves, because for the moment, I’m not Allison. There is also a sense of pride that comes with cosplaying. When I put a costume together, I see something that I know I can be proud of. I may not be the best cosplayer or have the experience of others, but my sewing and crafting skills are servable, and even the costumes I’ve been least happy with have turned out well overall.
However, my costumes are not for you. Sure, I hope that other people can get some enjoyment from them. I love seeing children’s faces light up when they see me in costume. I love having photos taken with people who are fans of the characters I cosplay. But ultimately, I do this because it’s something that I love to do. It is a wonderful creative outlet and if it helps with the anxiety, all the better. I can only assume that other cosplayers feel the same way. No one should ever have their feelings of pride and excitement stifled by crude come-ons and unwanted advancements. I don’t care what he or she is wearing. Simply put, it is NEVER acceptable.
Yesterday I heard a conversation where a gentleman spoke to an older woman, and her response to him was, “What, hon?” He replied with, “Excuse me while I update my Facebook status. Me too, guys. Me, too.” I cannot even type this a day later without feeling physically ill and getting emotional about it. In that moment, I felt like the floor fell out from beneath me. It was clear that this man had never experienced any kind of real harassment. I thought, “This is exactly why we don’t say anything when it happens, or share our stories later. You all seem to think that our pain and embarrassment is a joke or some sort of cry for attention.”
Just the night before, I had been sharing with a friend my own stories of harassment and assault. Let’s reexamine that sentence. I said STORIES. This is not a one-time deal. This happens FAR too frequently. While telling my stories, I realized that I had always made excuses for these men. Sometimes it was that I had just started at a job and was afraid of losing it or making people angry, or I had somehow convinced myself that it was my own fault. Sometimes I knew it was someone I’d be seeing relatively regularly and I would have felt badly for making things uncomfortable FOR THEM. What is wrong with this picture? Are women (and some men) really raised to be this non-confrontational that we shove down our own feelings just so that we don’t stir the pot? Are we wrong for wanting our bodies to be our own, to share with only those whom we choose?
What I’m realizing from all of the #MeToo posts is that harassment and assault are silent epidemics that go past the Cosplay world. It goes way past office buildings or the food service industry. It goes past models and actresses. These posts are coming from women of every color, social status, size, and religion. And yes, while not as frequent, they’re coming from men, too. Why do people feel that this kind of behavior is acceptable? Last week I wrote about how we need to love each other, and part of loving others is respecting them. Speak out. Tell your story. Respect: Join the movement.
Share your own story in the comments below, or tweet me at @amlehr.