Many events have recently been questioned in light of the #MeToo movement – including Comic-Con, a gathering of fans of comic books and the superhero genre. With notable panelist Chris Hardwick stepping down from the annual event over allegations of sexual assault and abuse, conversation over Comic-Con and its safety has been buzzing.
There are many women who have had negative experiences at past conventions and do not feel as though it’s a safe space for them to express themselves.
Many women feel that the “geek culture” emulated by Comic-Con causes a negative atmosphere for women in general. Many self-proclaimed geeks have a tendency to test people on their knowledge of comic books and superhero movies, resulting in negative attitudes and cruel words. Additionally, there is a decent amount of gatekeeping at conventions such as Comic-Con, which typically involves women being subject to negative attitudes and discrimination just for partaking in an event that makes them happy. For example, a shirt for sale at Wondercon states, “I like fangirls how I like my coffee. I hate coffee.” These attitudes express a distaste for women who simply get excited over something they enjoy.
In terms of sexual harassment, New York Comic-Con made the decision to post signs at the venue, which read, “cosplay is not consent.” Cosplay, which is essentially dressing in costumes to resemble characters from movies, television shows, or comics, often leaves women as targets for sexual harassment. Many people who attend Comic-Con, or any convention of the same nature, act as if they forget that women cosplayers are human beings. Women who choose to wear more revealing costumes often are subjected to unwanted attention and harassment from other people at conventions.
A woman going by the name Liz recalls times she has felt harassed at New York Comic-Con. “I was taking a selfie with someone and after he took the selfie, he kissed me and then ran away.” Liz, who was dressed as Wonder Woman, described this particular incident as “horrifying.”
However, there are many women who have attended Comic-Con and had wonderful experiences free of harassment or mistreatment, one of whom is Shannon Blackler, Chief of Staff for New York Minute Magazine.
Shannon attended Comic-Con for the first time in 2017 and had such a positive experience that she will be attending again this year. She described the event as being an “all-around inclusive event for any gender, race, sexuality, and ability.”
When asked about harassment towards women at Comic-Con, Shannon stated that she and her friends did not personally face any; however, she could see where there might be potential for it to happen at the convention. “All places with a high volume of people become opportunities for harassment. It becomes easier to slip into a large crowd after groping someone discreetly.” Additionally, she did not notice any actions either on social media or in person to prevent harassment at the event.
Overall, Shannon described the event as “made up of mostly great folks enjoying themselves.”
With light being shed on sexual harassment more than ever, it is important to look at events such as Comic-Con with a new perspective. Women attending large events like conventions have been victims of harassment for years, and with the breaking of the #MeToo movement, it is critical to listen and take any action possible to make conventions a safer place for all women.
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