Every summer, thousands upon thousands of people pack their suitcases to head to San Diego, California, for Comic-Con.
Sometimes that's a challenge: Many of those suitcases contain a costume packed underneath their daytime clothing (or, perhaps the costume IS their daytime clothing).
Convention costumes can be an all-year endeavor - some attendees have a different costume for every day of the con. And even as cosplayers walk the show floor, they may already be thinking of how to assemble the fantastic costumes they will wear next year.
Why do people cosplay? Well, it's simple. Everyone needs a hobby. And yet, it seems like there can be so many other explanations. Like, it's fun (and yes, it is). Or, there's the theory that cosplayers are just attention junkies (and yes, sometimes, we are). But just like every other human habit, there's something a bit more complex beneath the surface.
It's my experience that when a cosplayer puts on a costume, we capture a moment. In costume, we are all children again. We are joyful, open, excited, able to let go of responsibility. We also wear what makes us happy. By becoming a character that we love for a day, we transcend our own reality and enter one that we often dream of inhabiting.
Yes, it's wish fulfillment, real-life role play. We lose and find ourselves in those costumes. We stand in a sea of other people who are drawn to the same things that we are. We fit in, and at the same time, we don't. But we want to.
Underneath our costumes, we dare to reveal ourselves to the world, bit by bit. By wearing a mask, we reveal who we really are.
Editor's note: Genevieve Dempre is a self-described feminist killjoy whose past work includes contributions to Ms. Magazine Online. She loves Joss Whedon and loves to mock Sweet Valley High. She can generally be found moderating at Fark.com, sometimes in a Rainbow Brite outfit, or on twitter @Genevieve_Marie.
Geek culture has a bit of a misogyny problem. That’s not news to anyone who’s been paying attention.
From the abuse heaped on Anita Sarkeesian to the criticism of Felicia Day, it’s become obvious that women who identify as geeks and who are vocal about their opinions on the culture are probably going to face some backlash. Fortunately, that’s becoming recognized as fact by most of the people who pay attention, but the conversation around why it happens and who’s to blame for it isn’t always particularly positive.
Case in point: the recent discussion of Booth Babes and their effect on geek culture started by Joe Peacock.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as opposed to the concept of companies using women’s bodies as marketing tools as the next feminist. I think criticism of the practice that points out how this marginalizes women and treats us as the product instead of as potential consumers is necessary and important.
What I object to in the current discussion is the idea that the professional models who are paid for their work are somehow deeply broken human beings who are willfully exploiting men. I also object to the conflation of women who model professionally at conventions with women who genuinely love geek culture and who happen to be attractive and enjoy some occasional cosplay.
Geek girls, even the ones who are conventionally attractive, come to the culture for the same reason men do: we’re looking for our people. Almost everyone who finds a home in it is someone who has experienced alienation in another part of their lives. For many of us, finding the other weirdoes who love the same things we love is fantastic and life changing.
It truly sucks when you find those people and realize that they don’t believe you’re one of them and when they make it clear that you’re going to have to jump through some hoops to prove you’re worthy of being included. It especially stings when it comes to one particular element of being a female geek: the part where you are simultaneously appreciated and denigrated for your sexuality. FULL POST