New Comic Convention Harassment Policies Are a Step in the Right Direction
Harassment of costumed fans at comic conventions has gotten a lot of press over the past year. The Mary Sue chronicled their quest for a copy of San Diego Comic-Con's harassment policy, and author John Scalzi announced in July that he would no longer attend conventions that do not have a published harassment policy. Fans who have been the victim of harassment have organized the Cosplay is Not Consent movement to bring attention to the problem.
DragonCon, held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, is one of the largest fan conventions in the United States. This year, over 57,000 people attended. As with any crowd that large, there will always be creeps. However, this year, the convention organizers went out of their way to address the problem. (Previously, the rule about behavior at DragonCon basically came down to, "Don't be a jerk.") Convention organizers explained their official harassment policy, and summed it up as: "'No' means no. 'Stop' means stop. 'Go away' means go away. Costuming is not consent." A video explaining the policy was broadcast on screens before large panels.
Having seen some creepy behavior firsthand at DragonCon last year, I wanted to see if efforts to bring convention harassment to light had an impact. I, personally, did not experience or see any creepy harassing behavior this year. Everyone I met while cosplaying at DragonCon was nice, and the only comments I got were on the quality of my costumes, not how my body looked in them.
However, a revised policy and better trained volunteers were not enough to keep all attendees safe from harassment. Twitter user @SgtHotpants had her butt grabbed at one of the host hotels. At the time, she had not seen the new harassment policy, and as such, didn't know how to identify the people who were trained to help her. Tumblr user ChelseaHeckaGaming wrote a post about how her first trip to DragonCon was marred by an attendee telling her, "As a guy, I like tits. Just like I’ll be seeing yours in about an hour," and seeing a cosplaying friend have her butt slapped.
Harassment of cosplayers is not limited to in-person abuse. Cosplayers spend untold hours and lots of money creating costumes because they love their favorite characters. They are proud to share their creations, but once the photos make it onto the internet, they are often subjected to intensely sexual remarks. The comments on the photos on this Facebook page are a great example (be warned, while some comments are benign, others are extremely graphic). Women are not, of course, the only ones who have been victims of abuse at conventions. YouTube user FanServiceRenji detailed his experiences with harassment, including being drugged while attending a convention, in a candid video.
It's great to see conventions making serious efforts to end harassment, but just having a policy isn't enough. Those policies need to be widely announced and enforced. Convention-goers must do their part by stepping in when they see harassment occurring. Between the cost of transportation, lodging, and entrance fees, going to a convention can be an expensive endeavor for fans. The experience should be filled with fun, instead of leers and uninvited touching.
If you were harassed at DragonCon this year, or if you have experienced harassment at any convention, and feel comfortable talking about it, please comment below, or tweet me @Fallmark18. Let's keep the conversation going. Maybe if we make enough noise praising those who stand up against con harassment, we can drown out the abusers.