This post can also be known as “What we have learned from Cherry City Comic Con and the Steampunk World’s Fair”. Many have already written about either situation, but I wanted to reach out to those who may not be aware. This ties in to what I was trying to achieve through my “Beneath the Layers” interviews, which were halted not because the conversation was finished but because cosplayers and con-goers were now speaking out on their own. The events that happened emphasize the fact that we still need to raise awareness about harassment at conventions and speak out against the negative attitudes that create an unsafe space.
Here are two sites recapping what happened with Cherry City Comic Con: Sideshow Housewife and The Escapist. In a nutshell, a con-goer named Chana noticed a disproportionately greater number photos of female cosplayers were posted (without permission) in the event page and made a comment. Snarky replies followed, and she privately messaged the con to ask for a refund. The organizer, Mark, quoted her in a friends-only facebook status, calling her crazy. Black Mariah of Fangirls: Dames of the Round Table screencapped it and initially shared it on a private forum. However, when Mark deleted her comment on his status and blocked her, she made the screencaps public. Fellow Fangirl Taffeta Darling also shared it and was subsequently called sexist by Mark. There is more to the story, but Mark’s unprofessionalism and the others who chimed in on calling Chana “crazy” is the crux of this debacle.
A convention organizer who laughs at someone’s concern about the treatment of women and then silences voices of dissent when he publicly shames her does not actually care about the safety of its attendees. Even if there’s an anti-harassment policy, nothing will be done when people don’t enforce it. That’s not to say Mark is all of Cherry City Comic Con, but the fact that there are toxic individuals like him in positions of power brings attention to a problem in fandom.
On the flipside, when an event has very explicit rules which were written in response to voices of concern, we get the situation with Steampunk World’s Fair. Personally I think Jeff Mach Events Harassment Policy is fantastic. It has been revised to address issues people had with it, which just shows how much the organizers are listening. However, the backlash to both the initial draft and the revised version, which can be seen in their facebook group, indicates that there problem is not just with the conventions or at the conventions. The community still contains attitudes that blame the victim, worry more about false accusations than perpetrators wandering free, and who see an attempt to make a con more safe as an attack on their freedoms.
Much more work needs to be done by con organizers, cosplayers, photographers, and fans. Call me a pessimist, but I get frustrated when nearly every week, I hear about harassment, bullying, and other issues that we face while trying to do something we love. I get pissed at the lewd comments people think they can get away with posting on a female cosplayer’s page and the defense of bullies in the community. I know the problems will not go away until society itself can change. Thankfully we do have wonderful people like the Fangirls and Jeff Mach Events leading the way to making conventions and fandoms a safer, friendlier place in whatever way possible. Let’s keep the ball rolling and continue the conversations.
Listening to: “Fushicho -FENNIX-“ by WING WORKS