Well, after having a lot of really thought-provoking conversations last week about that article on "How to Choose What Character to Cosplay," which turned out to be something far different, I wanted to both revisit some topics as well as add a few new voices to the discussion. Apologies if this is a little more scattered, but I'll do my best to have a good flow of ideas.
The first few points stem directly from the previous post.
In addressing the issues with "MAKE SURE NO ONE ELSE PICKED THE SAME COSTUME" I referenced a quote I found on twitter. Let's take another look at that quote: "cosplay isn't acompetition - cosplay who you want and enjoy when others do the same (Bee via Twitter)." Trickssi brings up a good point that "cosplay competitions ARE competitions and they’re separate from the typical cosplayer’s lifestyle. We should differentiate, I think." This is absolutely correct, cosplay competitions are a thing but should be taken wholly separately from a more generalized view of cosplay culture. In my reference to Bee's tweet, the heart of what I'm getting at is that we shouldn't be judging other people's cosplay, or limiting our own options because other people might be cosplaying the same character.
Trickssi also had a lot to say about "6: Make Sure The Costume Fits Perfectly." In addition to having a similar reaction (i.e. seething) to the notion of a "perfect cosplay," I love what she has to say about interacting with cosplayers:
"The rule I’ve stuck to most is 'don’t give criticism (constructive or otherwise) to something about a person that they can’t change'—race, height/weight, shape, ability, sexuality, the gender they appear to present as to you, etc. etc. etc."
This rule is something I wholeheartedly agree with, and I would even go so far as to make an addendum: don't give criticism (constructive or otherwise) to someone's cosplay unless they are specifically looking for it. Think about how you'd feel if you'd spent hours working on a cosplay, and someone makes a comment about some detail to the tone of "if you'd have done it this way, it would have been better."
While we're here, Trickssi makes another great point:
"Don’t do “revenge cosplay.” That is, doing it to outdo someone else, whether they’re a frenemy or stranger. It’s not fulfilling. It’s demeaning and rude. If a friend suggests that you do it for any reason, question how that person treats others and how they would treat you if you weren’t their friend."
With that, I want to segway into something that's really important and was never addressed in the initial article, and as such I unfortunately failed to address it either: harassment. Harassment is something we need to talk about, because it is a big problem in our community. There's a lot to say regarding this issue and I know that I can't adequately cover it all myself, but I would like to refer you all to the Cosplay Survivor Support Network (CSSN). The CSSN has a lot of resources for those who have experienced harassment, articles on a variety of related issues, ways to help as a bystander when witnessing harassment, and information about harassment laws by state. As a primer, they can do a whole lot better than I can to give you the information you need about harassment in the cosplay community so please please please visit their site.
Let's Talk About Gender Some More
So one of the longest sections in my last post revolved around the issues in the article section titled "13. Say No to Cross-Gender Costumes." And even after posting the conversations didn't end. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the other responses I got that weren't included in the first post.
A few of the responses spoke to the fact that exploring gender through cosplay can be very helpful to those exploring their own gender and sexual identities. With the ability to essentially "transform" yourself through cosplaying, you can step into the shoes of a character and connect with them in ways that can potentially help you come to understand yourself better. And the community surrounding cosplay, while it does have it's problem spots, can help and support people who are exploring those aspects of their identity:
"People can come to cosplay to explore their own gender, different genders, etc. I don't think people need to be trans or genderfluid to explore gender through cosplay - rather, I'd like to see it happen! Cispeople can better connect with their own gender identity by understanding or even performing (through cosplay) as another one. To forbid that, I worry, limits a lot of people from coming to terms with the fact that there's nothing wrong with exploring gender. It's actually healthy to allow people to do that. I'd rather see people educated; we can deal with the assholes who use cosplay to demean on a case-by-case basis. And if we have allies in cis people who are comfortable with gender and their own gender identity, all the better!"
To which, another friend adds:
"Gender is performative. But it’s a performance we do for ourselves, because it’s through performance that we come to create a self identity. Identity performance and identity creation are inseparable."
As always, I am in awe of the eloquence and insight my friends possess, and am truly thankful to all those who offered their thoughts on these matters. I hope this has continued to provide some helpful perspectives for all of you, and again I encourage you to add to the conversation!
Next week is Colossalcon so there may or may not be any posts but if you want to see continued progress at I finish Con Crunching, Instagram is the place to do it. Thanks for joining, as always!