What’s with fan conventions and sexual harassment? Is it the general vibe of cosplay (short for costume play) that makes dudes animalistic in their horniness? They really just can’t control themselves around women with some cleavage and bodysuits?
When a female cosplayer publicly called out her sexual harasser as it happened on video at this year’s New York Comic Con, the crowd responded with silent disbelief. But when 23-year old fashion designer Mandy Caruso told her story on her Tumblr, beautilation, bloggers showed their support for her defense against such degradation, or so says the more than 40,000 reblogs her post received.
“This group of men from some kind of Stan Lee fan club blah blah internet video channel blah blah asked to interview with them on camera about Comic Con. I said well okay, sure. Camera is rolling. The ‘host’ is a middle aged, rotund dude. It’s an all-male crew and lots of people (mostly guys) were beginning to crowd around. The following is the interview as burned in my mind. Keep in mind that I expected this to be about Comic Con in general,” she explained on her Tumblr.
Then, she wrote out the transcription of the conversation she had with this asshole. He basically repeatedly asked her to give in to his objectification until she told him off, telling him, before walking away, “This is not an interview. This is degrading.”
Him: I’m here with…
Me: Mandy, aka Felicia Hardy aka Black Cat
Him: ..And she is HOT. Do you think I’m hot enough to pull that off?
Me: Uh, I’m not sure, I’ve never seen you in drag.
Him: I’ve got a great ass. Go on, spank me.
Me: (look at his large ass, popped up mere inches away from me then look into the camera like are you kidding me . No thanks. I may hurt you, I’m a lot stronger than I look.
Him: Aw come on!
Me: No, seriously. Stop.
Him: Damn, alright! Well let me ask you an important question then…what is your cup size?
Me: (big talk show smile) That is actually none of your fucking business.
Him: Oh! I think that means to say she’s a C.
Me: I actually have no breasts at all, what you see is just all of the fat from my midsection pulled up to my chest and carefully held in place with this corset. It’s really uncomfortable, I don’t know why I do it.
Him: (to the male crowd) Aw, come on what do you guys think? C cup?
—a few males start to shout out cup sizes as I stand there looking at this guy like this has to be a fucking joke, then look at the crowd and see that no amount of witty banter or fiestiness will stop making this whole thing fucking dumb. It was clearly a ploy to single out cosplaying women to get them to talk sexual innuendos and flirt with this asshole and let him talk down to them simply because they were in costume and were attractive. Whether I’m in a skintight catsuit or not, I’m a fucking professional in everything I do and I don’t need to play nice for this idiot.
Me: This is not an interview, this is degrading. I’m done. (I walk away)
Him: (clearly dumbfounded and surprised) ..Come on, it’s all in good fun!
Me: Being degraded is fun? That was unprofessional and I hope that isn’t your day job because you can’t interview for shit, my man.
Caruso told The Daily Dot that she didn’t want to reveal the identity of the sexist interviewer or the Internet video channel he worked for because she didn’t want to give them undeserved publicity. Instead, she reported that she was “proud of the community for stepping up and spreading the word and sharing their own stories.”
We recently covered the high number of reported sexual assault cases in recently years at DEFCON, a tech and hacker conference. Since then, sexual harassment at cons has been an increasing problem that sparked the creation of the Con Anti-Harassment Project, a database containing the names of all conventions and their policies on sexual harassment. According to this con database, New York Comic Con does not list its sexual assault policies online or at the event.
“It’s because many people at these cons expect women cosplaying as vixens (or even just wearing particularly flattering costumes) to be open/welcoming to crude male commentary and lecherous ogling, like our presence comes with subtitles that say ‘I represent your fantasy thus you may treat me like a fantasy and not a human in a costume,’” she wrote in her Tumblr post. “And maybe that will always be how the majority of people see us. But that does not mean we have to put up with shit that crosses the line, it does not mean we owe them a fantasy, it does not mean we dress up to have guys drooling over us and letting us know that we turn them on.”
If the Tumblr reactions to Caruso’s story tell us anything, it’s that there are most definitely people out there that can empathize with her experience, and want to see a change as well.
“A very similar thing happened to me at SDCC [San Diego Comic Con] back in 2006 when I was dressed as Red Sonja,” wrote one blogger, Strawberry Kimono. “I don’t remember the details, but what I though was an interview very fast turned out to be just an excuse to to [sic] hit on me in a very crude way. I wish I could rewind time and tell them off again, because 6 years later I’m a lot more comfortable as a person than I was then.”
Obviously, responding like that was a super amazingly brave move by Caruso, and one that many of us find it hard to do in similar situations. But, judging by her fashion line influenced by cool, dark, somewhat morbid people like Tim Burton and geeky comic and anime characters, and her awesome “Dear Mandy” Tumblr where she answers fan mail, that’s not too surprising. Caruso is a total badass, off-beat babe that just so happens to fit our society’s ideal of physical beauty. That does not give anyone the right to treat her like less of a human by acting like she’s a sex doll.
Images via beautilation.tumblr.com.