Another San Diego Comic Con is a memory. Panels, previews, cosplay, good times… well, not for everyone. Not for some women cosplayers. For them, the weekend was ruined by sexual harassment. This “creeping at a con” and its ugly cousin, “upskirting,” have been a contentious topic for all Cons.
Maybe it’s the costumes or the anonymity which some of those provide in the way of masks. Maybe it’s the crazy atmosphere, with excitement in the air. Whatever it is that causes it, “creeping” is being challenged by women cosplayers the world over. The groping, the stalking, the upskirting, the unwanted attention and photographs are all part of the misbehavior and women want it stopped.
Geeks for CONsent was formed by three women who love to cosplay. Rochelle, Erin and Anna saw the “creeping” and knew that it had to be addressed.
All three of us love it when smart people kick butt and stand up for each other. Our three years of experience with HollabackPHILLY involved planing events and projects that raise awareness of the problem of street harassment. When we had the opportunity to combine our love for fantasy and comics with our outspoken advocacy against gender-based harassment in public by strangers – our passions aligned and we started Geeks for CONsent.
Their website provides a place where women can tell their stories safely. Harassment stories range from grabbing and groping to rape. Most conventions are aware of the problem but many don’t treat it seriously. Last fall, AkiCon, a Seattle Convention, blew off warnings about a guest who was a convicted sex offender and a girl was raped by him. That, of course, is an extreme example. But a lack of harassment policy and con staff not taking the problem seriously, has brought the issue to a head.
The organizers of both conventions — mindful of the AkiCon fiasco –took a firm stance on harassment. They had a plan to deal with it, both through policy and enforcement. The signs were one aspect. Training and empowering staff to deal with the problem was another. Unfortunately, there were still incidents at both Cons. It’s a great start but there is definitely room for improvement.
One cosplayer, who was at both Seattle Cons says that she saw several incidents and, when she could, stepped in to help. She was cosplaying The Onceler (from “The Lorax”) and had a wooden guitar as a prop. She says that she “was ready to use it if I had to.” This is how women cosplayers — and bystanders, too — look out for each other. But the convention staff must get involved.
San Diego Comic Con has some catching up to do. While they did include an anti-harassment policy this year, they need to be more proactive. Sci-fi author John Scalzi , a critic of SDCC’s lax policies, held his book signing in a different venue because:
I found Comic-Con’s policy to be deficient. Every section of culture and society goes through this, where a group who has put up with a lot of harassment says, ‘No, we don’t want that anymore,’” he said recently. “There’s always that moment where the world shifts. Nerd culture is in the middle of that now.”
As if to illustrate the problem, a female cosplayer was assaulted and left unconscious on the side of the road. How she got there was a mystery. The San Diego Harbor Police released a statement after they found the perpetrator:
“Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27th in a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 am on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of minor. The victim, a juvenile female, was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit is handling the incident. This investigation is ongoing.”
Nerd culture, geeks, fanboys and fangirls have come a long way. We (yes, I’m a nerd/geek) have come out of the basements and are now viewed as cool. Comic Con and other Cons have become huge events, with big names and massive attendance and press. Under the spotlight, problems like “creeping” are coming to light. It’s a problem that each Con will have to take seriously and deal with properly. Because women won’t put up with it any longer. And they have props.
h/t Washington Post