It has become increasingly apparent that bullying in the cosplay community is getting worse. I have been witness to some truly despicable behaviour at various Cons and it needs to stop. I've heard stories recently of cosplay newcomers being hounded out of the community by bullies insisting that their costumes are 'not accurate enough', and it needs to stop. As geek culture becomes ever more popular, the cosplaying community is getting bigger, which is great. Having been a giant nerd since birth, the fact that the things I love are getting more recognition is fantastic. It also means I get to meet even more amazing people than I would have done previously as conventions get bigger and better. Over the past couple of years, I have met some wonderful people that I am proud to call my friends, all due to cosplay and conventions.
Growing up, I often had to hide how much of a geek I am to avoid being bullied, which is unfortunately a sad fact of life. On top of being a huge geek, I'm also a girl, which was just the double whammy when it came to being picked on. It's not easy growing up being a geek, but it was even harder being a girl. Geek back then was an even more male dominated community than it is now and I had to fight extra hard to get into the 'club house'.
Once I was in though, I could not have asked for a better bunch of friends, some of whom I'm still in touch with now. My past experience just makes me even angrier when I see people being bullied for doing what they love. And at conventions no less, which just doesn't make any sense at all. Cons are supposed to be the one safe place for the geek orientated, a place for us to be amongst like minded people and to get excited about all things nerdy. There has always been a sense of shared camaraderie at Cons, but that now seems to be tainted by the sting of bullying. Surely the people doing the bullying have experienced it themselves so why on earth do it to other people?
All of this makes me extremely sad. Having been a cosplayer since I was a child, the current levels of bullying make my blood boil. It never used to be this bad. Sure, there would be the odd snide comment mentioned in passing, but with social media exploding in popularity, bullying has become much more prevalent. I have seen someone be reduced to tears at a convention, but platforms like Twitter and Facebook seem to have taken that to an entirely new level. As people are able to hide behind their laptops, the comments seem to be 100 times worse. I've seen newbie cosplayers abandon the hobby altogether because of a hurtful and downright rude comment made on one of their Facebook costume photos. When someone has spent time, blood, sweat and tears on a costume only to have it torn to pieces by a passing snide comment.
I have been on the receiving end of a few snide comments, but being 6 feet tall and built like the proverbial brick outhouse, it never escalates to anything past just that, a childish comment made in passing. I have, however, been witness to some absolutely vile behaviour at conventions. I've seen people in tears because of fat shaming, seen people actually cut their day short and go home because they were being hounded by people jeering due to their costume was the 'wrong shade of blue'. As a female cosplayer, it's bad enough that I have to put up with men trying to take pictures up my skirt with their camera phones when they think I can't see them, but on top of that I now have to contend with being able to hear people whispering that my bum looks enormous in my cat suit, or that my boobs are too big for that character. Thankfully, I have a very positive body image so comments on my size don't upset me; they're more of an irritation than anything else. And honestly, even I know that Spanx has its limitations, you don't need to point it out.
One of the worst forms of bullying are those that chose to 'Accuracy Shame' other people's costumes. They will berate people for the colour being the wrong shade, the sewn on badges being incorrect or the hair being wrong. I've even seen someone picked on because they had purchased their costume rather than hand-make it so they "can't be a real fan if you didn't make it yourself." Look, I understand that certain people are perfectionists and that spills over into their cosplay lives, but please stop being so judgemental of other cosplayers just because they're wearing the 'wrong type' of hat for that particular character. And please stop shaming people that don't make their own costumes from scratch. Not everyone has the time or the money to build from scratch, let alone the skill. I know I certainly don't. And who cares? Ultimately, who cares? The person wearing the costume certainly doesn't so why voice your opinion out loud? If you have some helpful advice for someone when it comes to their costume, fantastic. Just don't start the conversation with "Well, that's all wrong for a start. What you really need to do is...." NO. STOP. Did they ask for your opinion? No, they didn't so please don't push it on them. You may think that you're being helpful, but if you don't know the person at all, they will more than likely perceive your advice as hurtful and quite possibly a personal attack on their abilities. Not everyone has the ways or the means to have a costume that is 100% accurate.
There is currently a fantastic cosplay anti-bullying campaign that is growing in recognition called i-cosplay. I thoroughly recommend visiting the website: i-cosplay and liking their Facebook page: i-cosplay Go and show your support and help stamp out this sadly growing trend.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fantastic Cosplay Is Not Consent campaign. They focus on the frankly revolting behaviours that some people think is acceptable at conventions. I have seen first hand men trying to take up-skirt shots of female cosplayers when their backs are turned. It happened to a friend of mine at San Diego last year and resulted in me having to walk behind her so that no-one could get a hand up her skirt. A skirt that wasn't even particularly short i might add. Cosplay is NOT Consent FB page: Cosplay Is Not Consent and their Tumblr blog: Cosplay Is Not Consent
Lastly, it's been brilliant to see Marvel addressing bullying on the larger scale. With several recent comic covers showing their support of the Stomp Out Bullying campaign, it's really good to see such an influential part of my childhood doing something about bullying: Marvel & Stomp Out Bullying. As a bullied teen, I turned to Marvel comics as an escape so teaming up with Stomp Out Bullying is a great thing to see. You can visit the website here for more info: Stomp Out Bullying.
Whatever happened to cosplay being fun? Since when has it been about your body being the right size, your skin the right colour or your costume being the right shade of red? When did it get so bad? It doesn't and shouldn't matter if you can or can't afford the best or most accurate props, or the most precise sew on badges. It doesn't matter what size you are, what ethnicity you are, how much you spent on your costume or how accurate it is. What matters in Cosplay is that you have fun and that you love a character that much that you want to cosplay them. Cosplay is all about fun and showing appreciation for our favourite characters. Cosplay is for EVERYONE, regardless of all those things.
Stop fat shaming in cosplay. Stop sexual harassment in cosplay. Stop singling out ethnicity in cosplay. Stop costume shaming in cosplay. Just STOP.
And for those of you that do cosplay, you go for it. You cosplay the crap out of your favourite character and ignore those who try to tell you that you're the wrong shape, size, colour or aren't accurate enough. Cosplay is all about having fun so go out there and make it fun. Cosplaying is for you, no-one else.
If Captain America won't stand for bullying, then neither should you.
This first appeared on Geek Syndicate