XpatGirls: Can you please tell us something about the cosyplayers community?
Miriam & Ioana: Let’s start with what is cosplaying. It involves men and women who create costumes inspired by a character they like from a movie, TV-show, comic book, game; they wear those costumes together with make-up and hair-due and take part at a comic-con events. They can keep a bit of their character persona in day-to-day life, adapting an outfit, make-up and attitude – that’s how passionate they are about it.
In comic-cons, they can participate either as simple guests – walking around in the costume and interacting with the other participants – or put on a show and compete for a prize. They act like the character they chose to costume themselves in and they can also present a scene with the said character. To put it a simple way, they are actors.
There’s a lot of time and money invested in the creation of the costume and that comes on top of learning choreographies and putting together a show. It’s a way of living and what we need to stress out is that they deserve respect for their passion. After all, they bring the childhood heroes to life, offering us the chance to see them in front of our eyes.
We know and work closely with some international cosplayers, who lead perfectly normal lives, interlaced with their passion for cosplay. Before any big event or convention, their chosen character takes over and they focus mainly on it. We also know a great German cosplayer who tends from time to time to “stay in character” also during day-to-day life. And that’s one hell of an experience to witness!
This is the party that cosplaying played in the lives of some people: “I had been ill for many years and the Internet was my lifeline in many ways. I played games, learned new skills in crafting and even made new friends, despite being quite isolated. Cosplay gave me a whole new creative outlet and a route into being more sociable again. [..]For the most part it’s been a very affirming, positive journey – I can’t count the number of compliments and messages of encouragement I’ve received over the last year from people of all ages and experiences within the community.” Will, Scotland
XpatGirls : Among the cosplayers community, how many women are there?
Miriam & Ioana From what we could tell, there are quite a few talented women who, against all odds and critics, go forth and cosplay. We love to see some kick-ass ladies in action. They’re also incredible artists who write books and draw comic strips.
Some of the members are also involved in other activities such as charities or fighting against child pornography, the best example being Fahr Sindram https://www.facebook.com/fahrlightloki
XpatGirls: What triggered you to start this project?
Miriam & Ioana: As our PR agency is centered on the geek community, we keep contact with cosplayers on their Facebook pages or on their websites and we’ve read their stories, their statuses. How they’re attacked on Facebook through comments or, how they’re picked upon at conventions. Instead of simply reading, we decided to do something. GeekSHEroes is a campaign targeted on the international segment of cosplayers and geeks and we wish to raise awareness of the struggles of this community.
It all started in the eve of this years edition of East European Comic Con after pondering on the many tales of cosplayers who have been subjected to slander, verbal and physical abuse.
We can all relate to stories of being bullied at school, for no other reason than wearing glasses, being smart or having uncommon hobbies. It still happens once you grow up. Cosplayers are easy targets and subjected to ridicule and groped if wearing a provocative costume. If a girl comes to a convention wearing a Lara Croft costume, that doesn’t mean you have to grab her ass and try to score a date. If a cosplayer doesn’t fit in the 90-60-90 look that doesn’t give anyone the right to make fun of him/her, take picture, write offensive materials or stalk her/him and invade her/his privacy with offensive and abusive materials.
XpatGirls: Does it address only women?
Miriam & Ioana: Being a company and a website put together by two women, we began receiving the stories form the ladies first, but the abuse does not only happen to women; men are also targeted and subjected to slander and bullying. If a man wears a sexy costume, the response from some members of the audience is the same.
A difference might be spotted on the age groups: the younger cosplayers being targeted as easy victims while the older ones are ridiculed for holding on to this hobby.
We really want to make a difference and create an echo, as we have already gathered some testimonials from men and women and they were extremely relevant to our cause.
“Sadly there are still people out there who will forever be more interested in belittling others efforts, even going so far as name-calling and childish rumor-mongering both online and in the real world. I won’t lie; it’s out there, it’s despicable and it’s crushing.” Will, Scotland
“Of course, you can say: if you put everything out, then why you are surprised? Cosplay DOES NOT mean consent! There are people who like to portray „sexy” characters, but this does not meant they have to endure unwanted physical contacts – who feels comfortable when random individuals touch your butt just because they can? Abuse can come in various ways, but I strongly believe that the first thing to do is not just run away shrieking, but to tell people this is not what cosplay is meant to be. You can be a male or female, young or not that young, but being the victim of abuse is not something we can joke with or about.” Zoltan, Hungary
XpatGirls: What kind of abuses are you referring to?
Miriam & Ioana: First it’s the verbal abuse during conventions for example.
Then it’s the virtual abuse. It’s very easy to approach a cosplayer on his Facebook page and attack him. It’s also very easy to pick up a fight on Tumblr, creating an unhealthy environment.
And of course we are talking about both men and women who are the victims of sexual innuendos and groped around conventions. Mainly when they walk towards conventions when some are wearing the character clothes, they see fingers pointed at them and people shouting ”hey, look at that weirdo”. For people who do such things it is normal behavior to come and treat the cosplayer like a “whore” or like a “hunk”.
As women, we found ourselves occasionally staring at “lesser dressed” cosplayers (aka half naked) because being curious is part of human nature. But it’s all about how you express your curiosity. We try not to be very obvious as I we find it disrespectful and we know how uncomfortable it can make someone.
Although at conventions this type of ridicule is mostly encountered, it also happens in their day-to-day life. It’s sometimes generated by articles posted by journalists who don’t research what it means to be a cosplayer and write a piece after an event just to raise the numbers of visitors on the website and hide behind the freedom of speech notion.
Unfortunately, there are as many abuses from the outside as from the inside, and by the latter we mean all those nasty remarks and jealousy between cosplayers.
Many times cosplayers are bashed for not sewing their own costumes and thus being discredited by the community and feeling that their works are less valuable than others.
XpatGirls: What do you plan to accomplish with this project?
Miriam & Ioana: We really love working with artists and cosplayers and sometimes we need to be their voice when they can only whisper. We’ve given ourselves a deadline – end of September – to gather testimonials from cosplayers and geek artists, get their stories, present them, be present at social events and record any type of abuse, collaborate with the organizers of comic con related events and make sure the cosplayers and not only them are having fun in a safe environment.
We need to scream it loud and clear: bullying is really serious and should be treated as such. Step one in solving a problem is admitting there is one. And so we will take it from there….
For more details on the initiative, please visit Fort Knox’s website.