Women of Comic-Con protest sexual harassment: a cute costume isn’t the same as consent
July 27, 2014
Amid the costumes and fantasy of this weekend’s Comic-Con convention, a group of young women drew widespread attention to a very real issue — sexual harassment at the annual comic book convention.
Geeks for CONsent, founded by three women from Philadelphia, gathered nearly 2,600 signatures on an online petition supporting a formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con.
Conventioneers told Geeks for CONsent they’d been groped, followed and unwillingly photographed during the four-day festival.
Meanwhile, what Geeks for CONsent and others regarded as blatant objectification continued at this year’s convention. Scantily clad women were still used as decoration for some presentations, and costumed women were described as “vaguely slutty” by panel moderator Craig Ferguson. When Dwayne Johnson made a surprise appearance to promote “Hercules,” 10 women in belly-baring outfits stood silently in front of the stage for no apparent reason.
Groping, cat-calling and other forms of sexual harassment are a larger social issue, not just a Comic-Con problem. And many comics and movies still portray women as damsels in distress. But Geeks for CONsent says things are amplified at the pop-culture convention where fantasy and character costumes play such a large role.
"It’s a separate, more specific issue within the convention space," said Rochelle Keyhan, 29, director of Geeks for CONsent. "It’s very much connected (to the larger problem) and it’s the same phenomena, but manifesting a little more sexually vulgar in the comic space."
Keyhan’s focus on Comic-Con began with a movement launched in her hometown called HollabackPhilly, to help end public harassment against women and members of the LGBT community. She and her colleagues developed a comic book on the subject in hopes of engaging middle- and high-school students, which is what brought them to Comic-Con.
Costuming, or cosplay, is a big part of the popular convention, with male and female fans dressing as their favorite characters, regardless of gender. A man might wear a Wonder Woman outfit, and a woman could dress as Wolverine. Keyhan and her colleagues — all in costume — carried signs and passed out temporary tattoos during the convention that read, “Cosplay does not equal consent.”
Gross sexual harassment at Comic Con.
From my experience as a volunteer and attendant, women who are not in costume face similar harassment from male attendees AND staff. The costumes get a lot of focus because harassers use them as excuses, but the overall misogynist culture of cons belies that justification.