Apparently there are still people out there who think that a woman dressing in a revealing cosplay outfit is tantamount to her giving permission to be a sexist jerk. Not surprising, but it’s no less disgusting for being so common.
Professional fashion designer and artist Mandy Caruso found herself the subject of such harassment when she cosplayed at New York Comic Con as Marvel’s Black Cat. It’s a revealing costume, but that’s no excuse for what happened when she was interviewed by a group of men for their video channel. As Caruso related on her Tumblr:
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 f***ing 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 f***ing joke, then look at the crowd and see that no amount of witty banter or fiestiness will stop making this whole thing f***ing dumb. It was clearly a ploy to single out cosplaying women to get them to talk sexual innuendos and flirt with this a**hole 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 f***ing 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 s**t, my man.
Though the reaction of the NYCC crowd to the host’s sleazy behavior was a big dose of silence, Caruso’s story has sparked outrage on Tumblr, where it’s generated praise for Caruso’s attitude toward con scumbags and discussion about harassment at comic cons. (The discussion has continued at Jezebel and The Daily Dot.)
For me to say that the way Caruso was treated is reprehensible and that this sort of thing happens all too often is preaching to the choir. What this story left me wondering is how the attention it’s generated online can be translated to have a real world effect. 41,000+ notes on Tumblr for Caruso’s story is great, and the first step toward changing any problem is talking about it… but this sort of sexist behavior is so obviously messed up that I just can’t understand why the guys who act this way don’t realize what they’re doing is unacceptable.
So. Readers. Restore my faith in humanity. How can the geek community take the reins and stop sexual harassment at cons? Aside from calling out individuals who act like this (which is necessary, as Caruso points out in her post; be sure to give the whole thing a read if you haven’t already), there’s got to be something we can do to make it so this stops happening in the first place. Is talking about it online the only tactic, or is there something more we can do? Posters at cons? Awareness campaigns that target comic book shops? Let’s workshop this thing!