Body positivity is a big deal in “nerd culture”, and whenever someone posts a picture of themself being both overweight and in cosplay it’s sure to be followed by numerous comments “Good for you!” “Wear whatever you want!” “You go, girl.”
For what it’s worth, I think they’re right. You should wear whatever the heck you want whenever the heck you please, and nobody should be able to say a damned thing about it. I am positive, as someone who sews, that a lot of cosplays actually look better on bigger/bustier body types. I have been big, I have been small, and I know how a bustier looks with tiny boobs (weird) about as well as I know how a mini skirt looks with thunder thighs (also weird).
But that doesn’t change the main victims of this post: guys. Sorry, guys. I’m going to have to pick on you again.
Because there’s a reason I can wear anything the hell I want. I can wear anything the hell I want, because (guys) it’s not considered SEXY and because (GIRLS) I’m not any competition for you. I can wear whatever I want and nobody can say a damned thing…because nobody wants to.
This girl, dressed as Shiro, is going to catch hell. I don’t want my boyfriend looking at her, and guys are going to be drooling all over her. She won’t get a moment’s peace for the entire con, and it could be that she gets off on that kind of attention because, when she’s not Shiro, she’s just a normal girl…
Photo Credit: Pokemoncosplay.blogspot.com
Just as likely as the rest of us to be stuffing her bra in the bathroom and wondering if all that makeup is going to cause a rash this time. And we’re allowed to insult her, call her too skinny, make fun of her. Because nothing gets to that girl. She’s got all the attention, all the love. She’s the one getting filmed for the promotional videos, she’s the one the photographers surround at the event while we’re sitting in the corner waiting for ONE PERSON to go “hey, I like your cosplay.” There’s no risk that anything we say can ever undo her.
The minute you add a couple of pounds, all of a sudden the girl is un-sexy. She can’t even look as good in professional photos because (I can tell you for a fact) the photographer makes her feel uncomfortable for even showing up. You can see it on her face (and mine)
Photo Credit: David Ngo (as on photo)
It doesn’t matter how cool my cosplay is, or how hard I worked on it, because I am not viewed as a person with value. And that has more to do with our ideas about value than my ideas about myself.
As Amy Schumer famously said: “I posted a naked pic of myself on Instagram, and everyone was saying it was brave. I didn’t want to be brave! I wanted to be sexy!”
The idea that a full-figured woman cosplaying a scantily-clad character is “brave” and “confident” but never EVER “sexy” is a problem. So is the idea that we are doing her some kind of favor by showing up to comment at all. Among guys (here I come again, guys), the idea that if you haven’t gotten any in a while, you can always go after a full-figured woman because she never gets ANY attention is a problem.
Why? Because it victimizes everyone.
Just like women, men have very different preferences. They like different heights, weights, body types: hell, they like different genders. No two people are the same and no two people find the same thing attractive.
But we are socially aware. Women are allowed to be whoever we want. We can choose from a number of different male body types and attitudes in the media.
The sexy all-american guy with a buff body and a heart of gold:
The overweight oaf who is kind of a dick:
The hilarious but odd-looking guy who makes you laugh…
and every guy in between.
Guys, however, get to choose from
the same face and body. But she comes in like:
multiple heights and skin tones, in movies that display dozens at a time.
For women there is ONE perfect body, ONE perfect personality, and only one way of being that makes you acceptable. We spend so much time trying to fit ourselves into that mold, that half of us end up looking like cartoon characters. And I don’t mean on purpose.
When I posted a terribly shot video of myself prancing around in a mini skirt at 145 lbs and a size 4 (I’m tall), I got 10,000 views and thousands of likes. Five years later after my accident, I posted photos and videos of my self that were of higher quality, and my videos got four, maybe five views. As a skinny girl, I could make hundreds of dollars a day at any given con, charging guys to take their photos with me. The most anyone offered to pay was $500 to stand beside me while someone snapped a photo. I wasn’t famous. I wasn’t anybody, but in a world that judges you on your photos, I was a hot commodity.
That income helped me to keep cosplaying. I knew I would make back the cost of my badge and any materials I bought to make a costume. I knew that I would be able to find makers who would see how popular I was and sponsor me to wear their props and outfits. I knew that guys would freak out when they saw me and be prepared to part with everything in their wallets just for five seconds of conversation with me. That’s power.
The problem with that kind of power being handed over for nothing is that cosplayers are artists. There are people out there who work for months or even years on a single piece, who are being ignored for a fifteen year old in a fun fur bikini. Not only are we insulting these skilled creators, we are insulting ourselves.
Every time we hit a fun fur bikini on any social media site, we are confirming both to the “cosplayer” and to the world that we don’t care about craftsmanship, creativity, or the attributes of the costume or character.
That, as a community, all we care about is boobs.
I really hope that isn’t who we are. Yes, it gets more people out to cons. But I remember when cons were small, exclusive, and full of just a few people who loved dressing up as their favorite characters and taking part in fan-based activities. A lot of my favorite cons have been turned into overglorified shopping malls with paid models who don’t want to be there in every second booth. Rolling their eyes and giving those of us who do cosplay on purpose dirty looks.
It reminds me of a conversation I had on the set of Detroit, Rock City.
We were on the last day of shooting and Kiss fans were permitted to flood the set right along with the rest of us: not to be filmed, just to see their heroes. I mentioned to the girl beside me that I had never really heard Kiss’ music before, but they were pretty good. One of their die-hard fans turned on me.
“Pretty good?!? PRETTY GOOD! I bet you’d spread like butter for Chris Evans or whatever idiotic star you kids are trying to get with these days. WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEM?”
Because. I was getting paid. I was a teenager, and hadn’t “spread like butter” for anyone yet (also, ew) but the guy had a valid point, at least about cons. I was in that audience because someone was paying me to look good.
They don’t even have to be paying you. If you are thin, not necessarily even attractive but thin, you will see yourself in the promotional videos for the event. Your photos will be everywhere. The organizers, volunteers, and other staff will make it clear to you that someone like you is EXACTLY the person they want to see at this con.
If you’re overweight, people will ignore you. A handful of other women online might say “be brave!” “have confidence!” and “wear what you want!” but what is confidence without approval?
Who would Chris Evans be, if he were forced to play Captain America in his backyard for a couple of friends? What would it mean to be Bruce Willis if you were just somebody’s uncle Bruce, watching movies in your living room?
We are forcing plus-sized cosplayers into the periphery and then telling them “hey, keep doing this”…why? What is the social, emotional, financial, or spiritual motivation for someone over a size 14 to keep making cosplays, keep attending cons, keep wandering around alone and being blown off, ignored, or outright insulted?
What’s the motivation to get up in the morning and spent five hours on your hair, makeup, and getting your cosplay on without breaking it, just to watch every photographer, volunteer, and general guy crowd around whatever skinny girl showed up, begging her for her contact information? It’s easier to just stay home, make your own stuff, and look at it.
In fact, that’s what a lot of creators do, and it’s a damned shame we don’t see them because they’re at home sewing for girls who look more socially acceptable than they do. Or more female. A number of the cosplay models you see are the result of a team of people working tirelessly to create one “star”…but too scared they’ll never be accepted wearing their own cosplays.
The problem is deeper than just telling someone to be confident, or that she can wear whatever the hell she wants. I know that I can wear whatever the hell I want. I want to be sexy. I want to be appreciated. I want to wear whatever the hell I want, and get noticed for what the hell I did.
Just like everyone in this expensive hobby.