It’s Actually Not Okay to Sexually Harass a Woman in a Costume

Every year, we congregate in San Diego to celebrate the amazing world of comics and cultural phenomena, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Celebrities waltz through the crowds dressed as superheroes, and fans get a sneak peek at what is to come this year: generous trailers are released (Mockingjay! The Walking Dead season five!), announcements about films are fashionably unveiled by celebrities and directors, and new TV show characters are introduced. Best of all, fans get to wear whatever they want to Comic-Con. But apparently, this can come with a price.

Women, who come dressed as superheroes, villains, and other cosplay characters, are being ruthlessly, sexually harassed during the four-day event. According to an AP report, these women are being “groped, followed and unwillingly photographed.” One Comic-Con panel moderator said that some of these women in costumes are just “vaguely slutty.” Seriously? Is that supposed to be justification?

The sexual harassment at Comic-Con is not just an acute issue; this type of gross, completely unacceptable behavior happens all the time. Women have been objectified for what seems like forever, and while we keep fighting this, it keeps happening. However, not much attention has been accrued for what goes on at Comic-Con until recently. We knew that people dress up, they have fun, they get to hang out with the comic community, but we didn’t know that some fans are being sexually targeted for their costumes.

A group of women from Philadelphia decided they had enough. They created an online petition called Geeks for CONsent that calls for a formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con. They’ve gotten around 2,600 signatures so far. While Comic-Con supposedly enforces a code of conduct (according to the AP, it is available to attendees online and at the convention), clearly not enough is being done. Perhaps Comic-Con staff and security should be trained more thoroughly, so they can properly and effectively deal with sexual harassment complaints.

Obviously, it’s really sad that we need a formal rule to stop people from touching women inappropriately, cat-calling them, or taking their photograph without their knowledge. People should know that this behavior isn’t okay, yet people do it anyway. Why?

The same kind of behavior happens on a day-to-day basis. When we are walking down the street to grab a cup of coffee, when we’re wearing a skirt, when we’re alone. Women are howled and whistled at daily, and blatantly ogled at. It’s enough to make us feel like we’re in a zoo.

Rochelle Keyhan, the director of Geeks of CONsent, stated, “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.”

The ladies who started the movement to making Comic-Con a safer place for women were carrying signs and handing out temporary tattoos that said, “Cosplay does not equal consent.” Hopefully someday we won’t need an obvious equation like that.

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