I hold a lot of passion about respecting people’s boundaries. I’m going to keep my post short and discuss a small part of respecting cosplayers. No one should need to defend their right to say “No” to photos or remove themselves from uncomfortable situations. We are not owned by con-goers and fans. We do not have a list of ‘rules’ saying we need to stick around for pictures. Our costumes do NOT equal consent. We are not your property.
The past several years I’ve been going to cons, I’ve had my small share of issues with fellow con-goers. I’ve had a couple people follow me around the con floor, trying to make conversation or even block my path when I’m on my way somewhere. After posing for a photo, I usually excuse myself to continue whatever I was doing. I don’t mind engaging in conversation but being followed is a whole other ordeal. It is not OK. Not letting someone leave an area or attacking a cosplayer for not staying for photos is harassment.
Early on in my con-going career I used to attend them alone. I met a vendor in the Dealers’ Hall at Realms Con in Corpus Christi, TX. We had some light conversation once at his booth about what he was selling and that’s all. During that con he continued to try to corner me for more conversation. Or ask more questions. I felt very uncomfortable and did my best to ignore him or stay away from him. I continued to see him at other conventions in which he would leave his booth and come find me if he saw me walking by. I’d do my best to hide around corners or behind taller people so he wouldn’t see me and approach me again. He’d make inappropriate comments about how my body looked in my costumes. A couple times he even referred to my characters as his “baby mama cosplays.” All of these interactions were unwanted. Every time he came to talk to me I tried to excuse myself, ask other cosplayers to act as if I was with them and even hide in a bathroom until I was sure he was gone.
Those experiences were huge eye-openers for me. I hate to admit it but I was scared of him. Every time I saw him my skin would crawl and I’d tell myself that I just needed to get away. I’d walk back to my car late at night by myself and just hope I’d be ok. These days I’m much more straightforward in those situations and have no trouble reporting that kind of harassment - but at the time I was too scared to even mention it. No person should feel scared in a space that is meant to be safe. Cons are wonderful gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people with a common interest. They’re fun, warm and inviting. People who take that away should not be ignored and shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it unnoticed.
At San Japan 2017, we had a situation where we were followed across the dealer hall because someone wanted a handshake. That person made us feel very uncomfortable, so we declined and excused ourselves. He made rude comments to us about how we were alienating him and that we promised to shake his hand and take a photo with him. We had taken a photo with him earlier and excused ourselves then too. We had places to be and panels we wanted to attend. He followed us, forcefully took our hands in a handshake and was rude during the whole ordeal. That kind of behavior shouldn’t have been allowed. When a cosplayer excuses themselves, the polite thing to do is let them be on their way. End of story. Following people is creepy. Trying to guilt people into uncomfortable situations is wrong.
I try to always say yes to taking photos. But when I’m tired, in a hurry or walking to a photoshoot location (sometimes with the photographer I paid for a shoot with) I decline. It’s my prerogative to decline and though I feel bad about it, I don’t like being shamed for it. I’ve had people make snarky comments after I decline a photo. “Well your cosplay isn’t that good anyway.” “I won’t bother finding you later.” and such. My choices as a cosplayer are NOT for anyone else to dictate. I do NOT have a set of rules to follow as a cosplayer outside of con rules. It’s childish to assume that every person will stop for a photo every single time, when one picture usually turns into a group taking photos (which is great!). But when we’re on a deadline to be somewhere, we need to be assertive and do what we need to do. We should be able to eat lunch or make our way to a panel without being scorned when we say a polite ‘I’m sorry, I need to be somewhere/I’m eating/I need a break.”
Along with that, taking sneaky photos of cosplayers without their permission is just as rude and inconsiderate. I’ve seen people filming me while eating lunch from a couple tables over. It’s a violation of privacy. Ask us for a photo or for a video clip. If we say yes, great! If we say no, leave us be and ask another cosplayer.
I’m grateful for anyone who takes the time to compliment my costumes, ask for a photo or spark conversation with me. I think I’m a friendly person, our whole MTA team is friendly! Being friendly doesn’t mean we should be expected to be pushovers. No cosplayer should be expected to reschedule their entire con day around a photograph. We aren’t dolls to be toyed with. I understand that people get excited to see characters they love – I do to! I fangirl a lot at conventions and ask for photos! It’s ok to stop someone and ask – if they decline, let them go.
People do not belong to other people. Our choice as cosplayers to roam in public wearing costumes does not mean anyone has the right to touch us, photograph us, film us or do anything without our consent. This article is a very small piece of a much larger narrative. There is so much we need to bring to the surface about stalker behavior, harassment, sexual abuse and so much more. I hope my little piece can start a discussion among people. The more we talk about it, the louder and stronger our voices become.