Sexism, objectification and harassment of the Cosplay girl
Let me take you back to the late eighties / early nineties, computing and the ability to play video games without the need for an arcade machine was breaking into our homes. The 80’s gave us a taste for video games with the release of Tetris and that little yellow bugger Pac-man, both of which reman some of the most addictive games ever created even by todays standards. 1991 saw Sonic the Hedgehog in full swing with his first outing and Mario had been jumping all over the shop for some years already. It was a simpler time but with the inevitable advances in technology our video game characters soon became more and more life like along with the backing of bigger budgets and much bigger ideas. The games industry has grown fast, picking up momentum with each passing year and all of a sudden we are in 2013. Video games are no longer just for geeks, bashing the same button over and over again after school trying to deny the fact they have a load of homework to do. I wouldn’t say that video games are a staple of our everyday life, like movies are, just yet but they are certainly not too far off. So with each year that passes and the thousands of new games that get released ‘Cosplay‘ has become a big part of this for girls and guys. At E3 or Eurogamer and pretty much every other video game expo out there, the problem of objectifying and harassment of cosplayers, mostly girls, is becoming larger and more commonplace.
So what is Cosplay? It’s basically shortened version of the words costume play. Guys and girls wear costumes to represent a fantasy character from things such as anime, comic books, films and video games. More so with the female caricature which tend to be developed and designed by males, and that’s not to say designed just for males, a cosplayer will dress up and become the character. Trying to imitate the look, hairstyle, clothes and personality of each character is the ultimate goal.
There is also a side of the cosplay culture based around sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and revealing costumes. A lot of these caricatures have been styled by a man who wants a certain look for his character, body shape, eyes, hair, lips etc. a designed vision of his perfect fantasy. I wouldn’t ever say that all men design characters to look slutty or like whores, that is simply not true. I will say a lot of characters are designed with a sexy appearance… why? well there is no real reason why, its just how males have decided to design some of their characters. This is where it gets tricky, when you take a fantasy character and put them into a real life situation sometimes problems arise.
Recently the topic of harassment has become more frequent with the issue of grabbing Cosplay girls, or them being objectified, at certain expo events. I in no way condone these actions, it is their choice to dress in cosplay and if thats what they wish to do then more power to them, BUT I see a problem with it just being accepted in society. Just because they have stepped into the guise of a character that was designed to have sex appeal doesn’t mean they want to be harassed. Lets be honest these characters are going to appeal to guys and it works, that is the bottom line. You can Google most female game characters and I would say right now 75% of the cosplayers you will find are half naked with a very prominent chest. When you take fantastical ideas of women, bring them into the real world for everyone to see, these types of problems will continue to arise. Until there are more women developing games with a different vision in mind things may be slow to change. Women need to get into the scene and start their own game development with characters they want to see being imitated. For some men out there seeing one of their favourite characters in real life will be too much for them to handle. They will act or say something inappropriate, this is unacceptable but that doesn’t mean it will stop. I think there has been some amazing cosplay outfits made, but there will also be people that will ruin it and do something stupid.
I think this shows us that gamers as a group are still maturing. The way we look at cosplayers, even avatars and being able to see some of the more ‘risky’ efforts in real life shows that maturity for SOME still hasn’t quite hit home yet. I would like to add that I feel no one has the right to tell another person how to dress or appear in public. I personally feel that any girl or guy that is willing to put themselves out there and do that kind of thing is good and more power to them!
- The Lowdown on Japan’s Cosplay Industry (en.rocketnews24.com)
- C O S P L a Y (everythingisanime.wordpress.com)
- Photographer Stirs Up Controversy with Cosplay Community over ‘Body Pillows’ (resourcemagonline.com)
- The Perils of being a Cosplayer (awkwardgeekygirl.wordpress.com)
- Cosplay and Carnality: Gender, Sexuality, and Geek Subculture (paulmullins.wordpress.com)