Cosplay is not consent – Manila Standard

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posted July 16, 2017 at 12:01 am

By Alex Alcasid

COSPLAYERS (“costume players”) are everywhere nowadays. They are the people you see at the mall dressed as anime characters or superheroes. While it may be a surprise to run into someone looking like they jumped out of a cartoon into real life, cosplayers are just people enjoying their hobby. 

There are several anime and pop culture conventions held in the country every year. Some focus on showcasing toys and collectibles, others celebrate Japanese culture or video games. These conventions are attended by cosplayers who wear costumes and wield props to represent their favorite characters. Cosplay is different from dressing up in a costume for Halloween, as conventions and cosplay events are not limited to one day a year.

With the rise and exposure of the “Pastor Hokage” culture, wherein a number of Facebook groups share photos of women without their consent and trade pornography with each other, cosplayers have come forward with their own tales of sexual harassment. 

A July 7 post on the Facebook page “Catcalled in the Philippines” shared the experience of a female cosplayer during the Philippine Toys, Hobbies, and Collectibles Convention (Toycon) held last June 30 to July 2.

The cosplayer said that a man dressed as Mario from the Nintendo games and his friends asked for a picture with her. They took close-up pictures of her breasts, and “Mario” hugged and touched the cosplayer and her friend without permission. According to cosplay etiquette, while asking cosplayers for pictures is accepted, touching them without consent is not okay. 

There are those who bashed the cosplayer for wearing revealing costumes. As in all cases of sexual harassment, the clothes have nothing to do with it. The clothes the victim wears are not responsible for a pervert sliding their hands up the victim’s thigh. 

One of my friends, dressed as the courtesan Ran Mao from the anime Kuroshitsuji, wore a mini skirt with a slit to the hip and high stockings. Since that was the character’s costume, my friend dressed the same way to represent her. While she and her boyfriend were resting, a group of teenage boys came up to them and asked for a picture with only the girl. It is bad etiquette in the cosplay community to take pictures of cosplayers without their permission, or to bother them for pictures while they are resting and eating, but the two relented since the group of boys were rowdy and wouldn’t leave them alone. 

As my friend posed for a picture with the group crowded around her, she felt a hand slide up her thigh and squeeze her behind twice. Her boyfriend saw her becoming uncomfortable and told the boys that they were done. The group left, calling both of them rude and selfish, as if they were entitled to do whatever they wanted.

In another instance, a male cosplayer dressed in a leather suit and helmet was posing for pictures when he felt someone slap him on the behind and run away into the crowd. Even if it was meant as a joke, the act was unwanted. The man was left defenseless, confused, and upset.

“Cosplay is not consent.” These are words repeated on signs at conventions in an effort to stem sexual harassment of the cosplayers. 

Sexual harassment in the cosplay community is not that different from the Pastor Hokage culture. The perpetrators believe they are free to do whatever they want, say whatever they like, because their victims are a captive audience. 

In the case of cosplayers, because they are in public, they don’t want to make a scene and cause more trouble and draw negative attention. The people being shamed and objectified in the Pastor Hokage Facebook groups aren’t even aware of the “pastors’” actions until they start receiving solicitations for sex in their Facebook private messages. 

Just because cosplayers decide to go out in public dressed as fictional characters, whether skimpily or otherwise, does not mean they can be taken advantage of. Just because someone takes a liking to a woman does not mean the woman’s pictures are free to be reposted and sexualized. Everyone deserves respect. 

Alex Alcasid, 25, is a writer and animation student who cosplays in her free time.

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