Emily S. Whitten: This $#!% Makes Me So Mad

Emily S. Whitten

Emily S. Whitten writes everything from news, reviews, and interviews to how-tos, con round-ups, and opinion pieces for ComicMix and others; as well as comics featured on ComicMix, MTV.com, and Reelz.com; and occasionally even award-winning poetry and fiction. When she's not writing for fun or profit, she’s sharing geeky thoughts on the Fantastic Forum radio show and podcast Made of Fail. Emily is a convention organizer and consultant, and co-chair of the fourth North American Discworld Convention, which she co-founded. She has been Program Coordinator for Awesome Con and staff for several genre cons. Emily is a program moderator for Awesome Con and Fan2Sea; and you might also recognize her from her days of answering questions online as her alter-ego, Ask Deadpool. In her copious spare time, Emily enjoys crafting and cosplay, and looking after the cutest three-legged dwarf hamster in the world, ElliePuff. Oh, and when she's not doing all that, Emily is an active member of The National Press Club and holds down a 9-to-5 as a senior attorney for the federal government - although that may just be her superheroine cover identity.

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11 Responses

  1. Russ Rogers says:

    Do you know of the group “HollaBack!”? It is an organization dedicated to confronting and defusing street harassment. https://www.facebook.com/ihollaback

    There is definite overlap and possible synergy in the messages here. And there may be overlap between the strategies that HollaBack uses and ones that might be employed to make CosPlaying a friendlier/safer pastime.

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      I think I once saw a video they produced, or one with a very similar message. It was fantastic. Great organization, thanks for the link!

  2. Seanna Lea says:

    As a gamer who used to do LARP (also involves costuming, but not always in the same vein as cosplay), I remember a GM that said one thing: The shyest person wins.

    Your discomfort trumps another person’s desire to go past boundaries or push buttons. I use this every day from things as simple as having my dog sit and act calm before approaching a new dog to making sure not to push the buttons of strangers and to be mindful of how many ways a simple phrase can be taken. It’s not hard, and it is easy to do once you realize that the point is fun for everyone, not just fun for you.

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      This is a great way to look at it. Another similar way of thinking about it is with John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, which essentially says that your liberty to act ends at the point where you’d hurt another.

  3. Ross says:

    Simple solution…wear CLOTHES instead of skimpy costumes! If your favorite character has a costume that a hooker would wear…well, what do you expect!?? o_O Someone wanting you to babysit their kids?

    • Nifar says:

      What I would expect is people to treat the woman like an actual human being, with the same amount of respect they show every other human being they interact with. I’d expect this even if the woman was dressed like that normally, but especially because it’s a costume.

      And honestly? All other things equal, I’m more likely to ask a geek to cosplay my kids than a non-geek. So yes, if I thought the girl was qualified, and she was actually looking for a position doing so, I would ask her to babysit my kids, whether or not she was dressed as Vampirella at the time.

      • Nifar says:

        Er. Babysit my kids. Not cosplay my kids. That’s one hell of a Spoonerism there.

        • Nifar says:

          Freudian slip. Not a Spoonerism.

          I should probably just give up now, and save myself further errors.

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      There are several things seriously wrong with this comment and attitude:

      1) Women should have just as much freedom to costume as their favorite comic book or genre characters without fear of harassment. If dudes can walk around safely in a skin-tight costume or a shirtless costume or whatever without women harassing them/behaving inappropriately, then there is no logical or fair reason for the opposite not to be true. If I can refrain from making sexual comments about, e.g., an attractive Ryan Reynolds-esque dude dressed in spandex as Green Lantern because I know that would be improper (and I did refrain) then men can refrain from acting that way towards women when the situation is reversed. It’s that simple.

      2) I’ve seen this behavior crop up even when the costume is not “skimpy” (whatever varying definitions of that there may be). So it’s not the clothes that are at fault; it’s the behavior of the people doing the harassing. (In a non-convention-related personal example of this, I’ve been harassed on the street in the middle of winter while wearing snow boots and a big long poofy down coat – I have no idea how the dudes even discerned that I was female under all of those clothes, but it didn’t stop them from hollering sexual comments out at me, and it didn’t stop me from feeling very uncomfortable about being shouted at. Would you say this experience was somehow my fault, rather than that of men who think it’s okay to behave as they did? Then you’re a world-class idiot.) In a convention-related example, Lara Croft can be done as a costume without being any “skimpier” than if you were, say, going hiking in the summer – a tank top and shorts or pants, with boots and socks. I’ve seen Lara Croft costumes, both in the pictures from the PAX East incident and elsewhere, that are just that – hiking clothes with character-related accessories. There is simply no excuse for someone harassing someone else who’s dressed like that, even if they’re being a “character” by adding fake guns or whatever. Again, it’s not the costume that’s at fault here, or the woman’s choice to wear it. It is the behavior of the harassers.

      3) This is essentially the “she was asking for it” argument (also used by rapists and rape apologists! Well done!). What’s wrong with this? Well, a) frequently, as stated above, whatever was being worn wasn’t even “skimpy” (whatever varying definition of that you or others may have), or was just the female equivalent of what male cosplayers wear at cons, so this excuse/justification doesn’t even make objective sense; and b) it doesn’t matter WHAT a woman is wearing, there is ZERO excuse for approaching her sexually (by uninvited comments or touching) without permission or clear invitation. Just to be crystal clear about this: a choice of outfit is NOT an invitation or permission. It’s just not.

      As Nifar said above, what is being outlined here is that women must be treated as equal human beings, and with as much respect as men receive. If that’s something you disagree with, then you’ve got more issues than can be discussed in a comments section.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Wow, Ross! You just encapsulated everything that is WRONG with Men’s (and some women’s) attitudes. Because as soon as a cosplayer covers up. Then men will say, “sure, she was covered, but I could see the shape of her ass through those clothes, she was ASKING to be harassed!” Or, “did you see how much cleavage she was showing?” Or, “did you see how much ANKLE that dress showed?” It’s the kind of mentality that puts women in burqas.

      You can’t blame the WOMAN or what she is wearing for a man’s poor behavior. Control YOUR-damn-SELF!

      No matter what a woman wears, how much she has had to drink, what side of town she is on, or how late at night she is out, a woman is NEVER “asking” to get raped! That is a LIE! That is a myth that gives rapists and excuse to go out and do the forever inexcusable.

      If a cosplayer is inappropriately dressed, you have a right to say, “There are kids at this convention. Could your costume be less revealing next time?” You are allowed to have appropriate, respectful reactions, even to costumes to you don’t like.

      But, that is NOT your opening to shout, “Nice TITS! Can I get me some of that Emma Frost action on the Human Torch in my pants?”

      In general, if you have nothing nice to say (and harassment falls into the category of “nothing nice”), don’t say anything.

      Appropriate reactions: “Nice costume.” “You look great!”

      Inappropriate reactions: “Hey sexy!” “You’re fugly.” (Those are both bullying.)

  1. April 23, 2013

    […] From The Editor: Today, Emily S. Whitten of ComicMix.com posted a column on sexual harassment she experienced at last week’s Awesome Con. We also recommend this great piece that made the rounds this fall, in which Mandy Caruso blogged […]