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Body Shaming IS Bullying. Period. by Raven

I’m fairly new to
cosplay – I’ve been to only four cons so far.  I’ve done costumes for both
Denver cons, and the Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con. Because my self image isn’t the greatest, I’ve been really nervous about doing cosplay for conventions – and my experiences in the past haven’t helped with that.

 

When
I did costumes for the first Denver con that I went to, I did a Lady
Joker on the first day, and my Crow costume on the second day. I got a
lot of positive comments – James O’Barr (the creator of The Crow) had nice things to say about my
Crow costume, too, when I went to pick up some art I had  commissioned
from him. But I also heard some negative things – like, “Is that a
cross-gender Crow? Isn’t she a little out of shape for that? What would
Brandon Lee say?” and “What would O’Barr say?” I wanted to yell at them, “Hey! I’m right here!” And I knew what Mr. O’Barr would say, since he
had already said it to my face.  I tried to stop listening, but I couldn’t stop my heart from buying into
that crap and it ruined my con  experience.

 

A
similar thing happened the following year at the Denver comic con. My boyfriend, Matt,
and I did our  couples costume – Cobra Commander and Baroness. I was
nervous about it, because of what had happened the previous year. I saw a
woman who had my body type who was about my age, and she was
shamelessly wearing a slave Leia costume, and she looked really great! I
walked up to her and  complimented her on her costume – it was really
well done. I asked her a few questions about it, like how long it took
to make, what materials, and so on. She pleasantly answered all of my
questions, but as I started walking away she  said  “Aren’t you a
little… heavy… to be Baroness?” I just sighed  and kept walking.
There it was – body shaming. And yet, the thing that I was most
embarrassed about was my internal reaction to her comments – the urge to
say something equally rude back to her – I didn’t, but man, did I want to.

 

When
I started thinking about costumes for the San Antonio con, I was trying
to think about costumes that would be fun, but then I started playing
that whole “you’re too fat for that” loop in my head. Matt encouraged me
to cosplay whatever I wanted to cosplay. He reminded me that it’s not
about what other people think – it’s about having fun and being whatever
I wanted to be. He also reminded me about one of my favorite
cosplayers, Ivy Doomkitty.

 

The
Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con turned out to be a much better
experience for me. I met some really great people, saw some really
well-done costumes, and had a great time. This time around, I had no
issues like I did in Denver. I also got a chance to talk with Ivy Doomkitty herself
at her table about the issue of body shaming. She told me about some of
the stuff she’s gone through as a professional cosplayer. She had also shared the same experiences on
her facebook page, which I’ll link to here for brevity’s sake:

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Post

by Ivy Doomkitty.

I highly recommend reading her full post, because
it’s very encouraging. But if it’s tl;dr for you, here’s what she said
to me in person:
“I had issues with low
self-esteem when I was little. When I first got into cosplay, my first
costume was a Star Trek Red Shirt costume. People were for the most part
really great and supportive – but there were those who would call me
names – ‘fat-ass,’ ‘cow.’ and even ‘she-male.’ Really mean. But for
every one bad comment, there were 20 good comments. The best advice that
I got was to not let the bad ruin the good. Don’t listen to the
negativity – focus on the  positivity, and don’t live for them. Live for
yourself.” She says that she moderates her fans on her social media as
best she can, and has zero tolerance for bullying and body shaming.

 

Matt
has been doing cosplay off and on for a long time. His first costume
was for Halloween in 1982, and that was when he decided that he wanted
to do more cosplay. Here’s his view on the issue:
“Body shaming is bullying. Plain and simple. And I
know what it feels like to be bullied – picked on, made fun of… I can
relate to that. I spent a lot of years being picked on and bullied
growing up. I was never bullied for cosplay personally. I’ve been lucky
enough that I never really had any bad experiences personally with
regard to cosplay.  But I know that it does happen, and calling it
body-shaming is just putting a different name on the same problem. It’s
still bullying. And it still hurts. It’s the same type of judgemental
behavior that we all try so hard to overcome outside of the cosplay
world, and it’s sad that it happens in a community where we are all here
for the same thing – to celebrate the things we love.”

 

Mailekalani (Second from the right, above)
has been doing costuming and props since 2001, when a friend of hers
asked for help with a Middle-Earth themed wedding. I asked her if she
had ever been bullied or body shamed. She said it started for her in
elementary school when a girl called her fat. When she was in gymnastics
class, she noticed the differences between her size and the other
girls’ sizes. “When everyone is in a leotard, it’s kind of hard not to
notice.” Her goal is to be able to create props and costumes on a more
regular basis. She said that since she started doing cosplay, she hasn’t
really ever had any experiences with being body-shamed. She says that
it’s largely due to the social culture in Hawaii. There really aren’t
many events in Hawaii but she has gone to costume parties and small
events and is always complimented.

 

Sara (Hope Summers, above) was in theatre in high school and
college, and she’s been doing cosplay for a long time.  Earlier this
year, she was commissioned to do some costume work for an X-Men group
cosplay for a con in Dallas.”I had some issues with that group  cosplay
when we first got started. One of the guys heading up the group said he
just wanted me to sew costumes, not be in the group. My friends stood up
for me and worked me in anyway. He said he didn’t want the people
commissioned to make the costumes to cosplay with the group, but some of
the other members were making commissioned costumes too. I just don’t
think I fit in his ideal of the ‘look’ he wanted.” I asked her if she
thought that was discriminatory. “I think so. He said there was no more
room in the group when I asked at first then he kept adding other
people.” I asked her how the situation was resolved. “I just stopped
talking to him in general and when the con came around, I was just
there. Apparently there are some photos of him looking pretty pissed.
BUT – after the con, he gave me credit for costumes and made sure I was
included in the cosplay group page on Facebook. I think he made it good
so it was forgive and forget. I doubt he’ll ask me to help with anything
in the future, though.” I asked her how this affected her feelings
about cosplay. She said that having been involved in theatre, she’s used
to rejection. She just tries to stay positive and enjoy herself. Her advice for cosplayers was, “Just do it! If you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what other
people think.”

Body-shaming IS bullying. It is discriminatory. And
it sucks. I let the issue ruin my experiences in Denver. However, I’m done letting the bullies win. I had a
really great time at the San Antonio con, and I’m not going to let bad
memories of the Denver experience ruin any more experiences I will have
in the future. Cosplaying is for everyone, and we can’t let other people’s prejudices shut us out.
 
*Thanks to Ivy Doomkitty for permission to link to
her Facebook post and for the interview at her table! And thanks to
everyone I talked to for sharing their experiences!
Raven
Knighte is addicted to cheese and popsicles, and is being slowly
indoctrinated to cosplaying and learning the art of staying in
character. Her favorite pastime is proving that it actually
can’t rain all the time, by refusing to believe that rain exists.

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Mike Fatum
at
Referred to as a God Among Men, the Greatest Man that Ever Lived, and That Dude Over There…No, The Dude with the Long Hair and the Goatee…Yes, That Guy, Mike has grown up being known and loved around his apartment. In addition to being a successful film director and editor, he loves video games, movies, comic books, board games, and his wife and cat. He’s been friends with Jarys for over a decade now, and they started hosting a radio show together on college that became the genesis for the Ace of Geeks Podcast. When he realized he had so many talented friends who could write, the Podcast became an entertainment website, and here we are.

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