Thursday, February 21, 2013

Misogyny and Size Discrimination in Cosplay

Link Cosplay; Lumpy Space Princess Cosplay; Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy Cosplay
        Seeing as I attended Katsucon from the 15th until the 17th, it is only fitting to write about this topic now. A fairly new hobby of mine is cosplaying. Cosplaying is a portmanteau for costume player. Cosplayers wear costumes of their favorite characters from comic books, web comics, animes, and TV shows. Their costumes are often self-made or put together from found clothing. Rarely do cosplayers just purchase costumes that can be found at any party store. Cosplayers may also have costumes custom made. Cosplaying is a major part of comic and anime conventions were people wear their cosplays, have photo shoots, and may compete for awards for best cosplays. But something that should be fun for everyone has people trying to exclude others who they deem unworthy.

        Misogyny is an unfortunate part of cosplaying. Women are often ridiculed for even attending conventions and/or participating in cosplaying. With the recent release of the blockbuster, The Avengers, there has been a wave of men calling female fans “fake geek girls.” A fake geek girl is a female who only likes comics or certain TV shows because it is what is popular at the moment. There really is no such thing as a fake geek girl. No one should be told they are not allowed to like something or participate in an activity because they do not have encyclopedic knowledge about that subject.

        On November 12, 2012, comic book illustrator Tony Harris wrote a long rant on his Facebook claiming that any woman cosplaying at a convention is not a true fan, but an attention seeker trying to lure men. What Harris does not realize is that not everything a woman does revolve around men. Cosplaying is not done just to look attractive for men and going to conventions is not done just because women want to go hunting for guys. Tony Harris’ slut-shaming of women in the cosplay community is similar to what all women face. Buzzfeed summarizes Harris’ thoughts perfectly; “Ladies, you are clearly here only for our amusement but we loathe you for it, you whores. How dare you expose your skin to portray a character?... You owe us your time. If you are going to dress like a whore, you OWE US. You are not a person, you are a thing, and by God, you will speak to us or we will slut-shame you right out of our world.” No woman should be ashamed of the way she wants to dress. Whether it is for cosplay or for everyday life. And she certainly does not owe anyone anything.

Photo Source
        Females have a hard enough battle to fight when it comes to wanting to cosplay. And they have an even harder time when their character has a costume that shows some skin. It seems some men only tolerate women cosplaying if they have a sexy outfit with plenty of cleavage for them to look at. But God forbid a plus-sized woman should want to participate and not live up to a man’s standard of beautiful. I would be willing to guess that at least 90 percent of the people cosplaying do not have the exact body type of their character. Most men do not have the muscles of a super hero, yet they dress as popular heroes all the time. Most women do not have the large breasts, tiny waist, and long muscular legs of female characters but that does not have to stop them from enjoying cosplaying as them. Larger women do not have to be limited to larger characters either. The reality is that almost everyone cosplays outside of their body type and there is nothing wrong with that.

Cosplaying is an art form and should be an enjoyable experience for all who want dedicate their time to participating. No one should have to justify how well they know their character to anyone and they do not have to look exactly like a character to want to cosplay as them. If someone is having fun with what they are doing; no one should make them feel bad for doing that because they do not satisfy their standards.

To finish off this post, I thought I should share some photos of my cosplays. I unfortunately do not have photos of all my finished costumes. I guess I was just having too much fun running around in them. 
Ode to the Bouncer Cherry; Eros and Apollo Cherry; Hawkeye

I have cosplayed as:
·       Cherry from the Studio Killers (both her Ode to the Bouncer and Eros and Apollo outfits)
·       A female version of Eric Cartman from South Park
·       A female version of Hawkeye (his outfit from the 2012 Aja/ Fraction comic
·       Anderson from BBC Sherlock (This was a crossplay)
I absolutely love cosplaying. So far most of my costumes have been put together from found clothing but I have done some DIY. I got a sewing machine recently and am hoping to make a cosplay from scratch. I have cosplayed as a character (Cherry) who has a body almost exactly like mine as well as characters with a body nothing like mine. This did not stop me from enjoying myself and feeling good about my cosplay.


  1. Great post! I love the angle, the experience, and the research you bring to the topic to layer the discussion. I am fascinated with Tony Harris's Facebook post, and I wonder: do you think the misogyny aimed at Cosplay is just carried over from the misogyny inherent in entertainment and comics? Think about who the basic images are of women on comics: How are they portrayed? What's the balance between positive, normal body images and oversexualized, infantalized women characters? And is any one publisher/comic/group coming out with characters that are against this norm?

  2. You can have sexy women all through art, drawn that by men and women. Of course a percentage of it is some form of misogyny, but the more likely explanation is the much stronger more motivating one - Tony's rant is just the usual butthurt angry anti-social male stuff, spinning a "sour grapes" type tale to make himself feel better about the fact that he has no chance with these women.