NYC-based freelance fashion and costume designer and illustrator Mandy Caruso (pictured above), who also happens to like cosplaying, went to New York Comic Con last weekend as Black Cat, and what happened to her shines a less than positive light on how many men act toward ladies at cons. I also see many such comments on galleries that I post on [GAS], and I make sure to nuke those comments out of existence as soon as I see them. Full text of her tumblr post below:
At Comic Con today, I went as Black Cat. This is a shitty picture and there will be better ones of my whole costume coming up but I just want to say something.
Black Cat’s costume has a fair amount of cleavage (conservative compared to many other female comic characters but a good amount as far as what I’ve ever shown). I guess I was not surprised to have a couple men ask to pose with me and then do some doofy “WHOA LOOK AT THOSE KNOCKERS” poses. I just make a really ugly face when I see they’re doing it. One guy with the social graces of a lemur said to me “I was this close to wearing that same outfit. My breasts are large and supple and I think it would have been nice.” Nope. Stop talking.
But aside from guys being doofy and awkward (but clearly not foul-intentioned), I did have my first truly skeezy experience at Comic Con today.
And my first truly empowering moment as well.
This group of men from some kind of Stan Lee fan club blah blah internet video channel blah blah asked to interview with them on camera about Comic Con. I said well okay, sure. Camera is rolling. The “host” is a middle aged, rotund dude. It’s an all-male crew and lots of people (mostly guys) were beginning to crowd around. The following is the interview as burned in my mind. Keep in mind that I expected this to be about Comic Con in general.
- Him: I’m here with…
- Me: Mandy, aka Felicia Hardy aka Black Cat
- Him: ..And she is HOT. Do you think I’m hot enough to pull that off?
- Me: Uh, I’m not sure, I’ve never seen you in drag.
- Him: I’ve got a great ass. Go on, spank me.
- Me: (look at his large ass, popped up mere inches away from me then look into the camera like are you kidding me . No thanks. I may hurt you, I’m a lot stronger than I look.
- Him: Aw come on!
- Me: No, seriously. Stop.
- Him: Damn, alright! Well let me ask you an important question then…what is your cup size?
- Me: (big talk show smile) That is actually none of your fucking business.
- Him: Oh! I think that means to say she’s a C.
- Me: I actually have no breasts at all, what you see is just all of the fat from my midsection pulled up to my chest and carefully held in place with this corset. It’s really uncomfortable, I don’t know why I do it.
- Him: (to the male crowd) Aw, come on what do you guys think? C cup?
- —a few males start to shout out cup sizes as I stand there looking at this guy like this has to be a fucking joke, then look at the crowd and see that no amount of witty banter or fiestiness will stop making this whole thing fucking dumb. It was clearly a ploy to single out cosplaying women to get them to talk sexual innuendos and flirt with this asshole and let him talk down to them simply because they were in costume and were attractive. Whether I’m in a skintight catsuit or not, I’m a fucking professional in everything I do and I don’t need to play nice for this idiot.
- Me: This is not an interview, this is degrading. I’m done. (I walk away)
- Him: (clearly dumbfounded and surprised) ..Come on, it’s all in good fun!
- Me: Being degraded is fun? That was unprofessional and I hope that isn’t your day job because you can’t interview for shit, my man.
And the entire crew and the crowd were SILENT. NOTHING. SHOCK, HONEY. It felt like I was in a heated fog, full of rage and pride and I sashayed away feeling like the most badass motherfucker in the whole damn room, but kind of also on the verge of tears. A slow build of applause would have been appropriate, but from the looks on people’s faces, they were just completely not expecting me to do what I just did- which was really nothing more than speaking up for myself. It wasn’t something one should feel brave for doing but crazy for not doing when necessary.
It’s because many people at these cons expect women cosplaying as vixens (or even just wearing particularly flattering costumes) to be open/ welcoming to crude male commentary and lecherous ogling, like our presence comes with subtitles that say “I represent your fantasy thus you may treat me like a fantasy and not a human in a costume”. And maybe that will always be how the majority of people see us. But that does not mean we have to put up with shit that crosses the line, it does not mean we owe them a fantasy, it does not mean we dress up to have guys drooling over us and letting us know that we turn them on. It is not all about your dicks, gentlemen. So I encourage cosplaying women everywhere to be blunt and vocal with their rights, their personal boundaries, and their comfort level at conventions. I actually encourage girls to be brashly shameless about these things, to not be afraid to speak up if you feel uncomfortable and to let the person doing it know that they are crossing the line. Don’t keep quiet because you’re scared of what they might say or think- because if you say nothing they will continue to see what they’re doing as OK.
Since I’m not based in the U.S. and have a big family (3 kids is a lot these days), I cannot attend all of the cons I’d like to, but while taking pics for Geeks are Sexy at Montreal Comic Con, I noticed a few guys who were really rude to ladies. I’m glad to say that these ladies handled the situation really well. My personal opinion is that regardless if you’re a guy or a girl, and decide to attend a con wearing a more or less “revealing” costume because you feel “empowered” by it, just go ahead and do it. You know wearing the outfit will make you feel good about yourself. But once you’re there, don’t take bullshit from anyone and let your thoughts known to people who disrespect you, in a polite manner, of course. An intelligent, polite retort always hit harder than spewing obscenities! :)
So what do you guys think about Mandy’s bad experience? Have you ever been victim of comments like those? What is the best way to handle rude, degrading remarks? Let us know in the comments section below!