Culture

New York ComicCon: ‘Cosplay Is Not Consent’

CREDIT: Alex Nagler

Year after year, stories emerge about sexism at comic conventions: Groping, upskirt photos, and sexual harassment of all stripes. But at New York ComicCon this weekend, respect for women is on the agenda.

“Please keep your hands to yourself,” reads a sign spotted by a conference-goer there. It goes on to explain how and when to ask for consent before taking someone’s picture, referencing specifically Cosplayers, people dressed up in costume. On the back of the sign is listed a full explanation of NYCC’s zero-tolerance policy for harassment including “stalking,” “bathroom policing,” and “unwelcome physical attention. It also explains how to report harassment at the event, as one photo from a Redditor shows.

At ComicCon, “be nice, be respectful, be cool, and be kind to each other,” the sign reads:

ComicCon full

CREDIT: Alex Nagler

Women have been demanding policies exactly like this for a while. In a survey conducted this summer and published in Bitch Magazine, Janelle Asselin reports that, “59 percent [of respondents of both sexes] said they felt sexual harassment was a problem in comics and 25 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the industry.” Some comic conventions have responded with policies of their own, like New York’s, but others have been slow to respond to the demand for better sexual harassment policies from the growing female contingent of convention-goers.

“Geek culture” — like comic fans and gamers — has become a microcosm of larger conversations about sexual harassment and respect for women. While female ComicCon attendees struggle with harassment, female gamers are similarly finding themselves repeated targets of abuse from men in the subculture. One woman trying to shed light on this problem, Anita Sarkeesian, has found herself the target of misogynistic attacks for trying to expose sexism among gamers. She has reported receiving death and rape threats that forced her from her home. Someone even called in a bomb threat to an event she attended.