In light of recent events (events that I will choose to mention only ambiguously) there is quite a flame war going on about sexual harassment in the community. Now, the cosplay community is no stranger to the topic of sexual harassment. While we often focus on cosplayers being the victim, what happens when light is shed on a cosplayer being the aggressor? While this situation is also not new to our community, it is often glossed over based on popularity (let’s face it) as well as other factors such as double standards. When someone is popular enough, the popularity can often outweigh the very real and very serious issue of sexual harassment. Event organizers will still invite problematic cosplayers to have platform at their conventions despite outcries from others.
The cosplayer’s fanbase itself will remain loyal to the point of defending (and in some cases, encouraging) dangerous behaviors. This allows for violations to remain under the rug as the victims reports are lost under the waves of time. What it takes to bring down a popular cosplayer that partakes in sexual harassment is way harder than it needs to be. So people react out of frustration that manifests in not so pleasant ways.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We are on the same side when it comes to the topic of sexual harassment. It’s unacceptable. It’s despicable. But it is also important that we don’t fight toxic behaviors in cosplay by participating in toxic behaviors ourselves. Using bully tactics in order to express your anger, disgust, and other feelings on the matter is not productive, and can in fact be harmful to those you weren’t intending on attacking.
We all hear “two wrongs don’t make a right”, but what is right when it comes to outing a wrong? It’s completely unfair to want justice and feel like you are powerless to make moves against it. Being justifiably upset, angry, sad, hurt, is not wrong. Having “negative” emotions towards something that harms others is completely natural and should be expressed. But how often do we bring completely unrelated issues to the table just because it’s against the person who did something wrong? How often do we bring looks, mental health, and personal choices into a topic that has nothing to do with the matter at hand.
If someone did something awful, isn’t the awful thing enough to bring to light in order to express how you feel about it. I mean, they did something terrible and yet you want to throw in how they look which is completely irrelevant to the terrible thing that they did? It’s toxic. It’s going from being justifiably moved emotionally to projecting your own hatred.
I am not at all suggesting disliking people is toxic, but spreading hatred is. How much sense does it make to call out bullies and abusers when you are participating in similar tactics, just in the guise of another name?
We tend to feel emboldened when there is a target. So much so that we gain a mob mentality to the point where it no longer focuses on the important: protecting the cosplay community. Rather, it becomes: how far can we get away with bullying during this time? When someone is on the chopping block for good reason, nobody really wants to be caught defending them. Reasonably so. So often we see people using bully tactics while many stand on the sidelines wondering how this escalated to the point of making generalized hate statements against someone’s weight, looks, dress, and mental health. This is where it starts becoming harmful to those around you.
Saying things like “They weren’t that attractive anyways” “They are just a fat cow” “They are (trigger warning: slur is going to be used here for example) retarded” “They act so bi-polar (or insert any other mental disability)” “They only had a following because they did lewds” are all forms of toxic behavior: Bullying. And you aren’t just bullying the person you are targeting. You are bullying every single innocent person that fits into those categories.
By bringing in these off topic issues, you are saying “these issues are on par with the abuse/bullying that this target did”. You are directly correlating certain body types, certain looks, certain mental health issues to something as deplorable a toxic human that assaults and harasses others. You may be thinking “but they deserve it”. Alright, but what about the cosplayer that has the same body type as the person you are attacking? What about the person who dresses the same way? What about the person that has the mental disorder that you are painting in a wrong and misleading light? Do these innocent cosplayers deserve that? No? Sorry (not sorry) but once you start attacking someone for something, you can’t turn to others who fit your attack and say “oh, but not you”.
You absolutely cannot use something as an insult and then try to convince others that you don’t actually feel that way. Because you either do or you don’t, and if you don’t feel that way then you should NEVER use it as an insult. Others are watching what you do and what you say. So you can choose: are you going to call out toxic behaviors in the cosplay community? Or are you gonna become toxic yourself? Because you cannot participate in bullying without checking yourself into that Toxic Cosplayer list as well, cause you just RSVP’d.