Anyone who has any interest in the nerd/geek world is well aware of how awful many people who have interest in the nerd/geek world are. Racism and sexism are rampant among the fans of a medium that has been celebrated for its ability to have a frank conversation about societal boundaries. Territorialism in male fans has particularly been the bane of women who seek to express their love of the culture. Any woman who shows an interest are either quizzed on their comic knowledge, or treated like invading tourists who have set out to destroy all the comics with their lady bits. Female Cosplayers seem to have it the worst. They are both ridiculed and feared by socially awkward men that are both attracted by their costumes, and terrified by the aforementioned lady bits.
So, let me make this clear right now. I am 100% in support of female cosplayers. I respect anyone who takes that much time to put together those amazingly detailed costumes. These ladies love those characters so much, they want to bring them to life in all their scantily clad glory. And they have a right to do that with out being objectified and ridiculed for it. I don’t care how little clothing they have on, no one has the right to make them feel like they’re little more than wank-off material. Their sexuality is exact that, theirs. They can give it, show it off, or not give it and show it off as they please.
Okay, now that I’ve made my general position on cosplaying clear, I now need to address the thing that really bothers me about female cosplay and the entire idea of “sex-positive female empowerment”, and the need for powerful women to be dressed in almost nothing. Allow me to contextualize.
I just finished reading an article from a cosplayer where she rants about not wanting to be treated like a piece of meat just because she’s wearing a thonged leotard. And, for the most part, I agreed with her. But, she said something that kind of got to me:
“It’s not my FAULT that the character that I love so much and wanted to portray was drawn as wearing a thong — that is not a decision I had a hand in.” (http://www.xojane.com/issues/cosplay-is-not-a-permission-slip-a-rant)
Now, this didn’t bother me because I thought she was wrong. Again, this woman has every right to don her thong leotard and bring her favorite character to life. But, what bothered me was this kind of tacit approval that the female character who “kicks so much ass” be dressed in that way. This is a sticky subject, because it’s not like these women who cosplay are thinking “Awesome! Every female character should have their ass hanging out!”. But, they’re also kind of unintentionally supporting the idea that it’s okay to fetishize females characters as long as they “kick ass”.
And there’s my problem. For however far comics have come, there’s still the need to dress female characters (with a few exceptions of course) in absurdly sexually demeaning clothing- because that’s still what so many of these men who read comics think of women. They think it’s okay to objectify female characters, because, hey! At least they’re shooting guns too! Progress! When really they want their female characters to be brought down a few notches so that they’re less intimidating (I know I’m generalizing here. There are always exceptions. That goes without saying).
Right, this is nothing new. There are thousands of other blogs about this exact topic. So let me say this. Ladies. Seriously. I want you to cosplay. I do. I want you to feel sexy, and I want you to feel empowered, and I want you to be respected and have fun with it all. But, I also want you to consider the larger contexts of those costumes. I want you to remember who drew those costumes for what audience. And I’m not saying that you have to “wear a burqa”. Covering up your sexuality doesn’t help anything either. But, I want you to consider the people who create and consume the “sex positive female empowerment” version of female characters. Because, by and large, it’s not women.
That’s all I’m asking. Carry on.