The New York Comic Con enforced a harassment policy this year, including the motto "Cosplay is Not Consent." The new rules stated that permission is needed to take a picture or in anyway interact with a cosplayer. Any harassment experienced can be immediately reported to any staff member through the office or the Comic Con App.
I spent a good part of my day interviewing attendees, mostly women, about how they feel about these rules, the Con this year, and about women in the industry and fan base. All of these fierce feminists are working hard in the industry, are die-hard fans, and are staying awesome. I really appreciate everyone who agreed to let me take their pictures, and who spoke to me in some way about how they feel.
There were instances, however few, where someone refused to answer any question for whatever reason. I respect and understand that sometimes approaching the subject of feminism and harassment in the comic book industry can be a complicated and loaded subject. Some people were able to speak for a long time about their experiences and others were put off by the questions or just unable to fully answer them.
From a simple “no" to “I don’t want to give an uninformed response,” I recognize that speaking on one's experiences isn’t always easy, and that harassment or judgment may not be a subject everyone knows how to approach.
To me, this shows the growing need to speak out as feminists in difficult situations. Also that some places and groups of people are becoming allies, especially more and more at conventions. I appreciate that this particular Comic Con was able to provide such a safe atmosphere and bring awareness to attendees that harassment should not happen anywhere and that there will be consequences.
Regardless if NYCC took harassment more seriously than the outside world sometimes does, I am turning the microphone over to the lovely humans I spoke to:
Paige Pumphrey (left): I represent the Art of Paige, my pinup work…I think feminism in comics is very important because we should be accepting of all fans regardless of gender... I grew up a hardcore comic nerd myself, so even the new fans should be accepting…So yeah feminism! Yeah female comic book readers! Go go go! Read read read!
I have been loving the way it's been handled I’ve been loving the way people have been responding to it, and I’ve noticed NYCC has had signs up all over the place, and in the panel rooms…and they have an app for it. I love that idea! It is taking control over the situation and it is giving us a way to handle it without putting us in ganger in different ways…
I really love the policy that is going around. It’s really awesome that more girls are getting involved in this whole thing!
Ireland Reid (left): I think for people who are new to Comic Con, and for the experience over all, it is a very good guideline for them. I feel that for people who are veterans and have done it for a while sometimes it can be a little aggravating, "No, it’s not harassment it’s just how people are." But you know, it is just definitely a safety thing….
As far as being accepted being a female, it’s hard to be accepted in this world already…it’s more acceptable for a social media society in general. If you told me twenty years ago that it would turn into all of this and I would be able to express all of my geek and nerdiness, I would have told you that you’re crazy and that you need to go check yourself, and it feels more and more every year [women are] getting more and more accepted.
Also pictured: Jeni Summers (right) of NerdGlam. Woman center did not give name.
Irene Straychalski: [Being a female in the industry] is not an issue for me because I am not aiming to work for the big two [DC and Marvel]. Although I do think that the portrayal of women in comics is still marginalized and there are a lot of problems with that, but I think that the voice against that – to include women as actual real characters, that is fun for everyone to read – is growing.
*There were two or three more friends in this group that agreed to talk to me but did not want to be pictured. I therefore did not distinguish who in this group made these comments.
SuperFriends: The question is where to start… I have written essays about this… The way that [women] are drawn gives such a negative image to work with for young girls and any women, period. It’s not even that, even the superheroes...
SA: As in even the female superheroes are seen as weaker than the male ones?
SuperFriends: Sometimes yes, and a lot of the leading writers for female superheroes are males …and the fact that their body image is so unrealistic, men are expecting that now, and that’s impossible. That’s never going to happen, unless plastic surgery happens but...
SA: It shouldn’t have to, right.
SuperFriends: You should never have to consider it to make yourself feel human. A lot of insecurity issues are happening with females and more teens.
SA: Do you think in this industry in particular?
SuperFriends: Everywhere, most media.
Sarah Wilkinson: Last year was my first year at the show, and I felt like I was being targeted in some ways – not targeted, but I did get a lot of comments at the show about being a women. This is not across the board, but there were comments about my appearance rather than what I was doing professionally and it kind of bothered me.
This year has been so much better...There is Kelly Sue Deconnick and there are all these writers and amazing artists that are women and it feels like it is mattering less and less what gender the person is…
I am wildly supportive of women creators. I feel like we have a camaraderie. We all support each other, we all stick up for each other, and I love that I feel like I have a support structure at every show I go to because these women... we hang out, we look out for each other, and if there are dudes that are being weird at the table, I’ve had neighbors that will shoo them away…
I feel, in general, it is starting to get better, but very slowly. I feel like the whole video game industry needs some overhaul, but overall, at least feminism has become more accepted and more pertinent. I think that’s fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing, hopefully in the next five years, that the whole landscape will be completely changed. It is kind of sad that it has taken this long, but soon, I really hope so!
Catwoman: I like how with the application that there is a harassment button. I find that that is really useful, just in case, you never know.
Black Canary: Everything is good here. I haven’t been harassed in here, it’s just …in the city, but here I feel safe.
Catwoman: I mean every so often I will get some people who will take some candid shots and they think that I don’t notice. Especially with these goggles, it is much easier to see because no one can see my eyes. I followed the "Cosplay Does Not Mean Consent" blog for a while. I like them, I approve seeing the signs around Comic Con.
Black Canary: I have felt comfortable here. Obviously I would never wear this on Halloween, only at Comic Con.
Ramona Flowers: I have noticed that they are doing the whole Cosplay is Not Consent thing, and that is definitely true. I’m all about that, I understand that, but I think that also if you put yourself in terrible situations, if you are literally wearing a bra and panties... I mean if you’re doing a private photo shoot that’s fine, but I don’t think it is something that you should be doing even in a convention setting. That can be uncomfortable for everyone and place you in a dangerous situation because there are stupid people out there, unfortunately.
SA: Do you think it will change, do you think eventually it will be accepted or that women will be less objectified?
Ramona: I think they are working on it, but I just don’t think it is going to happen. It’s something that girls have been dreaming about forever, but I really don’t see it happening. I really wish, I really wish it would. I wish I could walk around in a bra and panties and be like "Yo, I feel free!"
I think the New York Comic Con did a really good job outlining their policy at this particular Con. It makes me feel more comfortable, to be able to be an open cosplayer, so Kudos to them!
Storm: I definitely think there should be more diversity for sure, more women of color, and I can only be Storm, I mean…
SA: You can be whatever you want!
Storm: I can be whatever I want, I mean, but I feel it is more acceptable for me to be, you know, the black girl, right?
Friend: At least storm is badass!
Storm: At least she is badass, yeah.
SA: Do you think it might change anytime soon?
Storm: Maybe, I’m not sure, I don’t think so.
SA: Do you think you might try to be someone else next time?
Storm: Yeah, I will, I will be Princess Bubblegum or I might be Madolche, who is an anime character, but definitely more diversity, not just race wise, but LGBT, disabled characters... I think more of that needs to happen.
Elsa: I do something called crossplay or gender-bending…however you look at it, so it’s interesting you’ve got to take a female character or a male character and then switch it and then people are like, "it’s very weird..."
Anna: Last year I had an issue. I was wearing a bodices and it was kind of like the girls were hanging out and a lot of people were like "Hey, hey, hey," but this year I haven’t noticed any at all.
Elsa: Yeah, not so bad. They have been really good.
Anna: I know they have the thing were you just find anybody and you write your harassment issue and they find the person. So I mean, from what I’ve noticed is that it is better than last year, but that’s all I can say. I haven’t had any issues this year, but last year...
Elsa: Luckily it is a very accepting community.
*Ashley had a lot to say to me and spent a great deal of time outlining my questions, and her thoughts on them. I could honestly make an entire separate post about them. I have tried to include most of the important points she made:
I am working with another female writer illustrating her autobiography, and she specifically wanted to work with a female illustrator because she doesn’t feel like a man can tell her story…so if anything it might have opened up a few more opportunities… I think on the whole we are moving towards positive things…
I have been cosplaying for about thirteen years and when I started I was really young…I was not really aware of perverts, I didn’t do very sexy costumes but I would dress up as my favorite video game characters… I was never really thinking about whether the costume was revealing or not… but it should not be something that is objectified, in my mind it was just I want to be fun, and I would get unwanted attention, some leering some comments and I would be surprised like, why are they saying this to me? I don’t understand.
Just because I am in a costume does not mean I want sexualized comments, but if someone says, "Oh you look very sexy in that costume," someone might say that, they might not know better, there are people where this is their first Con. It might be a little socially awkward and they are just impressed by your costume, or they like it….so we need to learn to understand each other, but I do think on the whole [the policy] is very positive and will make younger girls feel more safe.
I also want to encourage, if you do like a character, do it, don’t be scared. You should feel safe to do whatever you want based on character and I don’t think it's cool for anyone to judge anyone else….she just really likes that character, you have to get to know the person, how do you know that they are not really just a fan of the character?
Alitha F. Martinez (pictured with her son)
SA: So do you think there is anything that needs to change in the industry? Are you looking forward to any changes that might happen?
Alitha: Of course. [We need] more unity as artists, equal pay as artists, hopefully getting a real place in comic books. Meaning people who have fought their way in and who stay long enough to contribute properly, and to be respected. They need to make the change from within, not shouting from the fringes..
[On Cosplay is Not Consent:] Women need to be smart, if you won’t wear it out in the street, why are you wearing it here? Maybe I am old fashioned about that…. But interacting with Neanderthals, at the end of the day your feelings are getting hurt…and they don’t care
Friend, Jamal Peppers (not pictured): I think it is a shame that they have to put up signs outlining these things.
Alitha: Sometimes people need reminders because they are not so bright and need there to be someone from the inside shouting so there is less shouting from the outside.
Honestly I think people should be able to do what they want, wear what they want, they just need to make intelligent safe choices, and I think more women should be more proud to come to their Con and show up with what they have!
Note: We posted previously about Geeks For Consent. Read it here!
Photos via Nycc.com and the author's iPhone.