Even Superheroes Need A Reminder Sometimes
Superheroes, villains and pop culture icons alike all make their way to an Exhibition Centre for Oz ComicCon mid last year. Spanning over three days, ComicCon has only grown in popularity since being introduced in Australia. A common feature of Comic conventions are the hordes of cosplayers, coming to show off their craft. Cosplay by definition is costumed role play, people dressing up and acting like a character.
Just like any other event where there are thousands of people in attendance, there are certain guidelines that must be adhered to at Comic Con; one of those being their “Cosplay is not Consent” campaign. The “Cosplay is not Consent” campaign was introduced this year, in response to another comic convention, “Supanova”, running their own campaign earlier this year, “Stay Supa at Supanova.” The campaign comes after collaboration between ‘Oz ComicCon’ and cosplayers, says a well known cosplay icon*,“(‘Oz ComicCon) made a point of speaking to cosplayers about, a) what we go through and b) methods of dealing with it.”
This specific Cosplayer, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has close to 500,000 followers online and is no stranger to harassment at conventions. She says, “last year I had to leave a [convention] early because I got assaulted.” Comparing her experience between this year and last year, she stated a noticeable difference, saying that this year she “hadn’t had any creeps at all so far.” She supports the decision of the convention to introduce this policy, saying “(we) forget how lucky we are over here to be looked after.”
While that certain cosplayer hadn’t experienced any harassment that day, I encountered another Cosplayer who had. “Catherine”*, in a group with 8 other women, were dressed as characters from ‘Love, Live’, a Japanese anime.
Whilst getting photographs taken, some of the women in the group were informed that it appeared that a man had been taking ‘up skirt’ photos of them. The same man had been following them from a distance throughout the day, “…never said hi back to us, didn’t really do much to engage us, just followed us. I’ve encountered shy people at conventions before and figured he was likely harmless.” Despite the fact that several people told them that he was acting suspiciously, and appearing to take photos of them, they felt like that wasn’t enough evidence to incriminate him, therefore didn’t report him to security. “Certainly, it was still taking photos without our permission, which is another issue entirely.”
While those women chose not to exercise their right to call security upon feeling violated, some women have been criticised for doing just that. Once the event had commenced, I found a man posting in the Facebook group, ‘Cosplay in Action’ claiming that he had been treated unfairly at the hands of security. In comments lifted from those Facebook posts, he says, “instead of being a person and saying they might be bothered, you get warned and threatened with security and avoided.” When asked to elaborate further he summarised that, “I went to give a Cosplayer a book, they went away. Thought they were going to event, followed. Then they had security. Waited to speak to someone else who was busy, felt stressed, and intimidated and left scene.”
The Oz ComicCon harassment policy clearly states, “If someone’s behaviour has made you uncomfortable, or if you witness the same happening to someone else, you should immediately contact OCC Staff, Security Team or a Crew Member.” The man also chose to comment, “I’m guilty of being naïve and ignorant, but they’re guilty of being heavy-handed and reactionary.”
I was unable to find a volunteer or staff member able to give me any opinions on the policy; they merely stated the facts of the policy when asked.
It was definitely essential that this zero tolerance policy of “Cosplay is not Consent” was implemented; even if there are no serious incidents reported to security, everyone deserves to feel safe at public events. It is always best to report incidents of harassment to security so their policies can effectively be carried out.
So relax, while there may be the occasional uncomfortable situation or creepy lurker there ARE policies in place to deal with such awkward moments. Just seek out the nearest volunteer, security guard or staff member and they will bend over backwards to help you out!
*names have been changed or removed for privacy reasons
Specific information on harassment policy
https://⦁ www.ozcomiccon.com⦁ /en/info/code-of-conduct/
General code of conduct all attendees have to adhere to