ATTENTION COSPLAY COSTUME DESIGNERS.

furious-baratheon:

$10,000-20,000 for Anna’s Coronation Dress? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I don’t care who you are. Even with labor and fabric, that dress is not $10,000 worth of work. People who make really intense, Screen-Accurate Iron Man armor don’t even charge $10,000. If expensive plastic + labor isn’t even that cost, you are severely inflating your value. (I know the cost of plastic vs silk. I’ve been costuming for 10 years.)

Anna’s Coronation dress is time-consuming and full of fabric. I’m not shocked that people would charge $500-$2000 for such a dress (As fabric alone could be upwards of $300. If you’re paying more than $30/yd for fabric in that dress, you need to think about what you’re buying), but $20,000 is delusional. 

Additionally, the costumer in question also asked, “Would production make it for $150?” Film productions will take the cheapest route possible to get the best product for their money. As wonderful and amazing as the costumes in Game of Thrones are, I highly doubt Margaery Tyrell’s wedding dress was produced for over $10,000, including labor. No, I don’t think Elsa’s coronation dress would be $150 if produced by a film production. HOWEVER, if a film production had a $1000 budget for costumes, you better believe someone can still produce something fantastic out of their ass for it. I’ve seen it happen.

A perfect, fully-tailored ball gown with all accessories, at least 200 hours of custom embroidery, a period-accurate corset made to measure, all patterns drafted individually from blocks, custom lace, hoop skirt and petticoat, and jewelry?

All of this made by an individual costume-maker, not a studio, in two months? (And let’s not forget that what people charge has to include a profit. Otherwise, they’re just treading water and have nothing to invest in their business to improve it or expand it.)

Not worth 10k?

Are you insane

These people selling fully-made screen-accurate Iron Man costumes are vastly underpricing themselves, and are generally working from existing patterns that allow them to cut corners. Studios like the ones Game of Thrones has employ teams of dozens and outsource work to meet their deadlines. These studios are also, in my opinion, underpaid. They undercut their prices. Many of them also rent out existing costumes in order to cut costs. These period-piece television shows have budgets of millions per episode. Do you seriously think their costume department is working with $1000? Do you seriously think they aren’t re-using costumes over and over again on everyone they can so that more budget can be freed up for centerpiece costumes? Why do you think Disney has such strict specifications for their face character actress’s measurements, allowing them to use the same expensive costumes on multiple girls? Come on.

And let me let you in on a little secret: not only have I been costuming for ten years as well, but I am operations manager for a tailor house that produces many costumes for NBC’s Hannibal. NBC’s Hannibal has nowhere near the budget of Game of Thrones and they still pay thousands of dollars for a suit that has 5 minutes of screen time and then never appears again, and I still feel this is an undercut price for the amount of labour involved. One of our designers works in Dancing With The Stars' costuming department in our off-season, producing as many as 18 full costumes every week with a team of 11 people, and they pay thousands for simple dance costumes that are on-screen for perhaps five minutes at most. Holy shit, in the Superman Returns official artbook, they state that Superman’s costume alone cost along the lines of $250,000 from design to finished product. The 25 batsuits used in The Dark Knight are valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, breaking down to tens of thousands each, and you think $10,000 is ridiculous for a single ball gown?

And this person wants custom perfection for something she’s going to wear to multiple events, and she wants it made with love. As if you can buy not only time and labour and expertise, but also people’s goddamn souls.

If a film has a costuming budget of $1000, they are indie as fuck and congrats on them for pulling it off on screen, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair or ethical. I don’t think it’s worth congratulating people for undervaluing time and skill. I’m not gonna say “wow, congrats for fleecing amazing work out of skilled costume-makers for much less than they’re valued at!”

"Cheapest route possible" is a fucking capitalist sham designed to exploit people so that the value of what they produce is worth far more than what they were paid to make it –– and not for themselves, for the company who gets the product in the end. Fuck that! A race to the bottom never benefitted skilled tradespeople, and that’s the reason why skilled labour is seen as a lowly service today rather than a respectable craft and art. I refuse to undervalue myself when I don’t have to, so I don’t do commissions unless I’m doing ethically-priced work.

- Jenn

On Rejecting Disrespect

Look, I don’t get tetchy often on this blog, but tonight I will.

I will honestly and completely agree that I was harsh in the earlier reblog, but I’m also not about to apologize for it. Not for a single second. My anger is as legitimate as their ignorance, and as such, I am harsh.

I find it incredibly offensive when seamstress work (a HIGHLY skilled and gendered work) is devalued so incredibly. We live in a world where you can buy a tank top for $1.80 at F21 and they can still turn a profit because they’ve paid the seamstress –– a poor woman of colour –– pennies to do it. I mean, if someone offered you a job where you made 5 cents for every tank top you made, would you take it? No, you fucking wouldn’t, not unless you were desperate and it was the only work available in any reachable distance, because nobody loves making tank tops so much that they’d choose to work in a garment plant as they exist today. It’s not an ideal or fair job by any means, not from our perspective, and not from the workers’, but it’s hard to turn around a multi-billion dollar industry towards justice, especially when there’s a huge population benefitting from it in the form of cheap clothing. Hell, most of us will never wear a piece of non-exploitative clothing in our life. And cosplayers are complicit, too! Where do you think our fabric is coming from? But what can we do instead, other than become nudists? 

I know one thing we can do is resist further attempts to devalue seamstressing and tailoring work. We might have less clout on the international stage, but we can at least have a voice in our local community. We can stand up against attempts to see sewing as a no-skill, disposable job, we can reject people who see us as machines instead of skilled artists. It’s not as easy as “just not taking exploitative jobs”, it has to be “stand up against the people asking to exploit.” 

And I choose to be blunt and harsh about the realities of the cost of costume-making because this is a hobby that requires it. Given the rise of the wholesale market in the past five years and the utter devaluation of sewing work over the decades, any potential for a strong community market is squashed. Commissioners in our community have to lower their prices unfairly to compete with unethical wholesalers, and many young cosplayers undervalue their skills immensely. It is bad for our community to foster the idea that sewing is not a trade worthy of respect.

So addressing the community with an “attention cosplay costume designers” offering $160 including material costs is a slap in the face. It is as ignorant as going to a carpenter and asking them to build your shed for $160 including material costs, or asking an electrician to rewire your home for $160 including material costs, or asking a chef to cater your large wedding for $160 including material costs. I feel this same rage whenever I see artists on tumblr selling their works for piddly amounts that in no way cover the time spent creating them. It’s a devaluation of art and skill. It drives down prices artificially. It is insulting. Artists should demand better, less along the lines of “please don’t exploit me” and more along the lines of Mike Monteiro’s FUCK YOU, PAY ME.

I refuse to tread softly or speak quietly on a matter that is utterly offensive to people who have worked for years — or even decades — to hone a skill only to be told “yeah, but can you do all the work for free?” We are not machines! And to demand love, too!? The audacity of it, not only to offer exploitation, but want personalized, devoted exploitation. Like you don’t want some faceless, nameless woman in the third world sewing your princess dress –– it has to be someone thinking about you personally. It’s infuriating.

This is my craft. This is my community, and also my industry. These requests anger me and I refuse to see the work of my community and coworkers devalued.

I am harsh, and so be it.

- Jenn

ATTENTION COSPLAY COSTUME DESIGNERS.

elementalsight:

oopsfuckproductions:

Hi! It seems last minute I know for sure. Leakycon is at the end of July. And I really really would love to have the anna dress from the coronation in the Disney movie frozen. I want it to look perfect. And I want it to be made with love, all the ones I found are coming from china and mass produced. I’m willing to spend 150-160 (I’m willing to be I really really don’t want to spend that much) it’ll be used for more than leakycon. Please please let me know if it’s possible for you or someone you know to do it. Thank you!

As a heads up, $160 for an Anna dress is really, really cheap. Really cheap. If you want something like her Coronation Gown made, if it’s done by someone in US/Canada (with love), you’d be looking at a bare minimum of $300. And that’s probably being really way too optimistic. It’s a complex dress, with a lot of fabric. It ran me close to $250 for my fabric alone, and while you won’t necessarily be expecting taffeta and velvet, I suspect you don’t want something made out of $2m satin either.

Keep in mind that ‘mass produced’ for a costume from China means ‘made by someone paid really terrible wages in horrible working conditions’, not ‘printed out by a machine’. To get something cheap, it has to be made cheaply: either in material, condition, or labor. If you want something made well for cheap not made in China, you either want to pay nothing for the time, or nothing for the fabric. You can’t sacrifice both. (And sacrificing either pretty much rules out the ‘with love’ part anyway’.

If Anna is totally a thing you want to wear, and $150 is your budget, the Chinese sellers seem to be decent enough quality, from the photos I’ve seen around.  Otherwise I’d suggest upping your budget a lot, or look into making it yourself.

Best of luck either way!

We have a long post on this topic here, but I’m gonna be real blunt here to drive home Amanda’s point:

Minimum wage here in Canada is $10.25/hr. Now, sewing is a skill, a trained one, so really we should be saying $20/hr minimum, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with $10.25 now. If you’re offering $160, that’s less than 15 hours to do it in, which is ridiculously tight… I mean, it takes about that long to do a simple fuku-style schoolgirl uniform from scratch without patterns, let alone a ball gown, but wait, that $160 will need to include materials!

Assuming we use really cheap stuff (unlike Amanda, who went mid-range) then we’re looking at at least $100 in fabric costs, leaving us only $60 in wages… but wait, that $60 needs to include cost of maintenance of sewing machines, supply-gathering time, travel time, and possibly postage! It also needs to include time answering your emails, sending progress pictures, double-checking measurements, drafting patterns, washing fabric, AND cutting fabric before we even get to the literal “sewing” part.

Which leaves us with…

Nothing, really. I might as well work a job flipping burgers or running a cash register, at least that way I’m coming out ahead for investing my time and energy.

Me, I wouldn’t charge a penny less than $10,000 for a perfect Anna coronation gown. Make it $20,000 if you want it on your doorstep within two months. There’s a reason why there’s basically NO ONE turning a profit or making a successful business out of cosplay –– barely anyone has an inkling of understanding of the value of seamstresses time, labour and expertise. You can buy your prom dress from F21 for $50, so why can’t you get a ball gown for $160? It’s perfect logic when you’ve grown up in a society that erases sweatshop laborers to the point where people can just assume these things just show up on shopping mall racks out of the aether, but it’s batshit insane to actually be asking people if any of them are willing to be paid essentially nothing for the sake of something you love. 

You’re asking for perfection within two months for $160. Nobody is itching to make that dress so badly they’ll take that grossly underpaid offer out of “love”. You want it made with love, go ask your mama.

- Jenn

sweets-and-tea:

"all cosplay is equal, no one is better than anyone else"

Um how about no? There will always be someone better than you, it’s a fact of life, and if you can’t deal with that and work harder to be better and instead try to hide away the truth with ridiculously fake positivity you need to go and grow a fucking pair and get some fucking life skills

God damn 

How come no one on this website can be a fucking adult

While I do agree that the fake positivity in the cosplay community is exhausting and unnecessary, I think that’s just a part of tumblr as a whole, not specifically the cosplay community. You’ll see all sorts of diatribes on this site about how it’s okay to be [generally negative trait here] and to “just be yourself!” without any self-reflection, and most really just reinforce people in their insecurities; it fosters a community where everyone settles for their own mediocrity and never strive to improve themselves or their skills. It says “anyone who disagrees with you, even with the kindest of intentions, is wrong and you are never culpable.”

If there is going to be a community ethos as far as avoiding arrogance, it shouldn’t be about equality or everyone being on the same playing field, because that’s nonsense; there are beginner cosplayers and there are master-class/artisan cosplayers and there are people all in-between, and comparing them is like putting a kid making up box of mac ‘n cheese up against Gordon Ramsay. They’re completely different categories. You can’t look at someone with little experience and deride them for not having the skills of a trained veteran, but you also can’t look at that trained veteran and discount their decades of hard work with some unrealistic idea of equality. Hell, you can’t even compare beginners –– some people have resources, some don’t. Some have time, some don’t. Some have the aptitude, some don’t. For that reason, I think it’s fair to judge everyone on their own merits rather than either denying or fixating on people with more skills.

I’d much rather see a mantra around the cosplay community more along the lines of “if you’re having fun and are reaching your own goals, you’re doing great.” Nobody else has to factor into it at all. Acknowledging more skilled costumers is important, but one should focus most on oneself and one’s own skills.

But that said, shame on the people who see themselves as superior to others merely because they are more skilled or more popular or more conventionally attractive; to be held in higher regard should never come at the cost of kindness and helpfulness, and that, I think, is a problem this community has struggled with time and time again. The bullying needs to go, and veteran cosplayers should lead by example.

- Jenn

Made rebloggable by request; you can see the original post here.
————————
This is a really good question. It is one that doesn’t have a single answer, and likely one that cannot provide much in the way of guidance for young women (and men) who are looking for a clear-cut definition. It’s like asking “what does it mean to be human?” Everyone is going to have a different answer, due to different experiences, perceptions and attitudes towards the subject. 
I feel like feminism is often misunderstood by young (or otherwise “new”) feminists. In fact, I’ve grown particularly skeptical of the term “feminism” itself, and somewhat prefer “feminisms,” though obviously the latter is unlikely to ever come into common usage. This is because feminists, like Christians, or democrats, or cosplayers, have different conceptions of what feminism is. I say feminism is misunderstood by young feminists only to suggest they are inexperienced: they are prone to “not true scotsman” arguments about what is or isn’t feminism or feminist, and try to make universal statements like “that isn’t what feminism is about” or “the only thing that matters is that women have choice” or “feminism is solely about equality between the sexes.”
While for many people that is true (and I would not deny their experiences) I do think it is important to recognize that feminists do not hold any universal opinion, or even any universal goals. There are feminists who do condemn certain choices made by women because those choices uphold aspects of patriarchal society; for example, they may feel that a woman choosing to become a sex worker (for non-survival reasons) is also choosing to uphold a system that abuses women. There are also feminists who do not believe feminism is about equality; they may believe it is about equity, retribution, overthrowing the status quo, etc.
There are many kinds of feminisms, and many kinds of feminists. They are all legitimate in my eyes, even if I do not agree with some of them. As a result, asking what it means to be a feminist is really more about asking: what kind of feminist am I? What principles do I uphold as feminist? What philosophical or theoretical frameworks do I position myself within and how do I want to use them to improve my understanding of the world?
Tricky stuff, I know. ;) 
So: onto cosplay.  
Social justice communities have taken a pretty firm root in tumblr, and as such, I don’t think there are many of us who haven’t come across them yet. I also think social justice has kind of hit a level of “vogue” with fandom right now, particularly with people who don’t have much of a background with feminist communities (or other anti-oppression communities.) As such, yes: the cosplay community is growing rife with a lot of young women (and men) who are testing their wings as feminists.
Here’s my take on it: I feel personally empowered to step into the clothing and “identity” of women characters I admire, but I recognize that these characters do not exist as “feminist” characters, nor is my perspective of them universal. In my opinion, it is absurd to dress up as a character like Supergirl, who despite her age and characterization is often the subject of pin-ups, pornography and sexualization (even in canon!) and not expect aspects of that to carry over. Cosplay is NOT consent, but so many women characters ARE designed with an element of sexualization or to be titillating. We live in an era where companies spend hundreds of thousands –– if not millions — on the media they produce. Sexualization is not accidental. When you’re spending that much money to produce a product that must inspire the product to spend money, you have to look at every detail. Why do you think magical girl shows are aimed at adult men just as much as they are aimed at little girls? We might not see Madoka Magica or other magical girl shows as inherently sexual (especially considering the main cast is comprised of girls 13-15 years old) but you have to consider the various lines of figures featuring the girls in tiny bikinis, the animation of Mami’s breasts, the target demographic of adult men. So much of the media we consume is problematic.
And I’m not saying we should accept those things or excuse them or whatever. What I am saying is that when we cosplay those characters, we can’t expect those aspects of sexualization, objectification, etc to not follow us. While we are living, breathing human beings with rights and thoughts and opinions, when we cosplay, we are presenting ourselves as characters who may carry sexual connotations. For people who do not cosplay or have difficulty separating costume from costumer, they likely see the characterbefore they see you. They may not see a human being, they may see the object you are portraying. They may speak to the object instead of you. 
Everyone should be free to exist in fandom spaces without sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the whole gamut of inappropriate behaviors. However, it is unrealistic in today’s society to expect to dress up as an object who is very often subject to sexualization (if not intended to be wholly sexual) and expect none of those uglier elements to come with it. I wholeheartedly wish it could be another way, but that’s the truth as I see it. It is important to not get lost in feminism and see the world and society as “failing to be feminist.” The world and society are striving to become feminist. How you choose to help the world become more feminist is up to you, but I do think it’s important for feminists who cosplay to recognize that they’re willingly participating in objectification.
Again, willingly participating in objectification does not excuse being treated like a piece of sexy meat, nor does it mean one should be submissive to the desires of fans, but we are in a world that is striving to become feminist, not failing to do so. For many people (especially men who have had no experience with gender-based discrimination!) this is an act of naïvety. I often speak with male fans who get too handsy, personal or inappropriate with me; most of the time, the fact that they are being invasive doesn’t even occur to them, and most of them are extremely apologetic and concerned about their out behavior once it’s explained to them. While I understand the temptation and justification to be angry with these people, especially when you’ve just been mistreated by them, I (personally) feel that it is easier to just calmly but firmly call it as I see it and engage in dialogue. I don’t take shit, but I try not to dole it out in retaliation, either. I have always had better results by just assuming good faith, and when it proves that the fan is just an asshole who will defiantly continue to do it… well, scumbags are a part of living amongst humanity. Better luck next time. Treating all people who misstep as pigs isn’t going to win you any friends, though. Of course, this is also about harassment, not assault; when things cross that line, it gets very, very different.
And it’s important to recognize that some women cosplayers do feel empowered by being sexually desired. Feminists, of course, have different opinions on this; for some it is a matter of empowerment, liberation and choice, and for others, it is women engaging in denigration and upholding systems of oppression by encouraging men to continue treating women like meat. It all depends on your different brand of feminism. I get irritated when men immediately start asking me if I have a boyfriend, but I’m laid back when it comes to comments on me or my body –– even sexual ones, to a degree. Some women don’t want comments at all. Some women enjoy being told how desirable and fuckable they are. The problem is that none of these things are obvious from the outside, nor do they have much to do with what the cosplayer is wearing: line up a bunch of cosplayers and you can’t tell how any of them feel about sexually-charged interaction from strangers.
This is what “cosplay isn’t consent” means; you shouldn’t judge how to approach a cosplayer based on what they’re wearing, as they are not the character. However, cosplayers should be prudent about what they dress up as; if they’re not willing to deal with potential sexual harassment and undue attention, then they should choose their costumes wisely. It’s the same thing as the short skirt debacle, in my eyes. A short skirt isn’t consent and doesn’t excuse anything, but wearing a short skirt takes awareness and a preparedness to deal with the potential backlash. Meanwhile, men and women alike will make judgements about women in short skirts… it’s beyond patriarchy (which I feel is rather outdated and not necessarily relevant to much in the North-Western world anymore) and more about society as a whole engaging in oppressive actions. If you want to wear a short skirt (or cosplay), you can choose to either do it and handle the potential attitudes of others, or you can refrain from it and not participate at all. 
What is more important is open communication, especially between cosplayers and photographers. It is important for photographers to ask “are you okay with sexualized content?” and/or for cosplayers to make clear what kind of content they are or are not okay with. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Man, I feel like this got rambling or otherwise confusingly written, but I hope I’ve expressed myself clearly enough. But in short, feminism is a complex and multi-faceted system of conflicting beliefs, not a single set of beliefs, and it has no definitive opinion on cosplay or women in costume. When it comes to cosplay, it is best to be pragmatic first and feminist second and handle incidents of sexual harassment on an individual basis, and to alwayscommunicate. (And not passive aggressively, holy shit no.)
- Jenn

Made rebloggable by request; you can see the original post here.

————————

This is a really good question. It is one that doesn’t have a single answer, and likely one that cannot provide much in the way of guidance for young women (and men) who are looking for a clear-cut definition. It’s like asking “what does it mean to be human?” Everyone is going to have a different answer, due to different experiences, perceptions and attitudes towards the subject. 

I feel like feminism is often misunderstood by young (or otherwise “new”) feminists. In fact, I’ve grown particularly skeptical of the term “feminism” itself, and somewhat prefer “feminisms,” though obviously the latter is unlikely to ever come into common usage. This is because feminists, like Christians, or democrats, or cosplayers, have different conceptions of what feminism is. I say feminism is misunderstood by young feminists only to suggest they are inexperienced: they are prone to “not true scotsman” arguments about what is or isn’t feminism or feminist, and try to make universal statements like “that isn’t what feminism is about” or “the only thing that matters is that women have choice” or “feminism is solely about equality between the sexes.”

While for many people that is true (and I would not deny their experiences) I do think it is important to recognize that feminists do not hold any universal opinion, or even any universal goals. There are feminists who do condemn certain choices made by women because those choices uphold aspects of patriarchal society; for example, they may feel that a woman choosing to become a sex worker (for non-survival reasons) is also choosing to uphold a system that abuses women. There are also feminists who do not believe feminism is about equality; they may believe it is about equity, retribution, overthrowing the status quo, etc.

There are many kinds of feminisms, and many kinds of feminists. They are all legitimate in my eyes, even if I do not agree with some of them. As a result, asking what it means to be a feminist is really more about asking: what kind of feminist am I? What principles do I uphold as feminist? What philosophical or theoretical frameworks do I position myself within and how do I want to use them to improve my understanding of the world?

Tricky stuff, I know. ;) 

So: onto cosplay.  

Social justice communities have taken a pretty firm root in tumblr, and as such, I don’t think there are many of us who haven’t come across them yet. I also think social justice has kind of hit a level of “vogue” with fandom right now, particularly with people who don’t have much of a background with feminist communities (or other anti-oppression communities.) As such, yes: the cosplay community is growing rife with a lot of young women (and men) who are testing their wings as feminists.

Here’s my take on it: I feel personally empowered to step into the clothing and “identity” of women characters I admire, but I recognize that these characters do not exist as “feminist” characters, nor is my perspective of them universal. In my opinion, it is absurd to dress up as a character like Supergirl, who despite her age and characterization is often the subject of pin-ups, pornography and sexualization (even in canon!) and not expect aspects of that to carry over. Cosplay is NOT consent, but so many women characters ARE designed with an element of sexualization or to be titillating. We live in an era where companies spend hundreds of thousands –– if not millions — on the media they produce. Sexualization is not accidental. When you’re spending that much money to produce a product that must inspire the product to spend money, you have to look at every detail. Why do you think magical girl shows are aimed at adult men just as much as they are aimed at little girls? We might not see Madoka Magica or other magical girl shows as inherently sexual (especially considering the main cast is comprised of girls 13-15 years old) but you have to consider the various lines of figures featuring the girls in tiny bikinis, the animation of Mami’s breasts, the target demographic of adult men. So much of the media we consume is problematic.

And I’m not saying we should accept those things or excuse them or whatever. What I am saying is that when we cosplay those characters, we can’t expect those aspects of sexualization, objectification, etc to not follow us. While we are living, breathing human beings with rights and thoughts and opinions, when we cosplay, we are presenting ourselves as characters who may carry sexual connotations. For people who do not cosplay or have difficulty separating costume from costumer, they likely see the characterbefore they see you. They may not see a human being, they may see the object you are portraying. They may speak to the object instead of you. 

Everyone should be free to exist in fandom spaces without sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the whole gamut of inappropriate behaviors. However, it is unrealistic in today’s society to expect to dress up as an object who is very often subject to sexualization (if not intended to be wholly sexual) and expect none of those uglier elements to come with it. I wholeheartedly wish it could be another way, but that’s the truth as I see it. It is important to not get lost in feminism and see the world and society as “failing to be feminist.” The world and society are striving to become feminist. How you choose to help the world become more feminist is up to you, but I do think it’s important for feminists who cosplay to recognize that they’re willingly participating in objectification.

Again, willingly participating in objectification does not excuse being treated like a piece of sexy meat, nor does it mean one should be submissive to the desires of fans, but we are in a world that is striving to become feminist, not failing to do so. For many people (especially men who have had no experience with gender-based discrimination!) this is an act of naïvety. I often speak with male fans who get too handsy, personal or inappropriate with me; most of the time, the fact that they are being invasive doesn’t even occur to them, and most of them are extremely apologetic and concerned about their out behavior once it’s explained to them. While I understand the temptation and justification to be angry with these people, especially when you’ve just been mistreated by them, I (personally) feel that it is easier to just calmly but firmly call it as I see it and engage in dialogue. I don’t take shit, but I try not to dole it out in retaliation, either. I have always had better results by just assuming good faith, and when it proves that the fan is just an asshole who will defiantly continue to do it… well, scumbags are a part of living amongst humanity. Better luck next time. Treating all people who misstep as pigs isn’t going to win you any friends, though. Of course, this is also about harassment, not assault; when things cross that line, it gets very, very different.

And it’s important to recognize that some women cosplayers do feel empowered by being sexually desired. Feminists, of course, have different opinions on this; for some it is a matter of empowerment, liberation and choice, and for others, it is women engaging in denigration and upholding systems of oppression by encouraging men to continue treating women like meat. It all depends on your different brand of feminism. I get irritated when men immediately start asking me if I have a boyfriend, but I’m laid back when it comes to comments on me or my body –– even sexual ones, to a degree. Some women don’t want comments at all. Some women enjoy being told how desirable and fuckable they are. The problem is that none of these things are obvious from the outside, nor do they have much to do with what the cosplayer is wearing: line up a bunch of cosplayers and you can’t tell how any of them feel about sexually-charged interaction from strangers.

This is what “cosplay isn’t consent” means; you shouldn’t judge how to approach a cosplayer based on what they’re wearing, as they are not the character. However, cosplayers should be prudent about what they dress up as; if they’re not willing to deal with potential sexual harassment and undue attention, then they should choose their costumes wisely. It’s the same thing as the short skirt debacle, in my eyes. A short skirt isn’t consent and doesn’t excuse anything, but wearing a short skirt takes awareness and a preparedness to deal with the potential backlash. Meanwhile, men and women alike will make judgements about women in short skirts… it’s beyond patriarchy (which I feel is rather outdated and not necessarily relevant to much in the North-Western world anymore) and more about society as a whole engaging in oppressive actions. If you want to wear a short skirt (or cosplay), you can choose to either do it and handle the potential attitudes of others, or you can refrain from it and not participate at all. 

What is more important is open communication, especially between cosplayers and photographers. It is important for photographers to ask “are you okay with sexualized content?” and/or for cosplayers to make clear what kind of content they are or are not okay with. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Man, I feel like this got rambling or otherwise confusingly written, but I hope I’ve expressed myself clearly enough. But in short, feminism is a complex and multi-faceted system of conflicting beliefs, not a single set of beliefs, and it has no definitive opinion on cosplay or women in costume. When it comes to cosplay, it is best to be pragmatic first and feminist second and handle incidents of sexual harassment on an individual basis, and to alwayscommunicate. (And not passive aggressively, holy shit no.)

- Jenn

A message from Anonymous


Hey Dangerous Ladies, you've always been a great costume blog to follow since you're not only helpful but you make it a point to promote positive body image and equalized gender concepts so I figure one of you ought to be able to answer my question. What exactly does it mean to be a feminist? I've noticed the word getting tossed around in cosplay communities I'm part of as it applies to women in costume and how they're perceived by male photographers (and they're willingness to work with them).

This is a really good question. It is one that doesn’t have a single answer, and likely one that cannot provide much in the way of guidance for young women (and men) who are looking for a clear-cut definition. It’s like asking “what does it mean to be human?” Everyone is going to have a different answer, due to different experiences, perceptions and attitudes towards the subject. 

I feel like feminism is often misunderstood by young (or otherwise “new”) feminists. In fact, I’ve grown particularly skeptical of the term “feminism” itself, and somewhat prefer “feminisms,” though obviously the latter is unlikely to ever come into common usage. This is because feminists, like Christians, or democrats, or cosplayers, have different conceptions of what feminism is. I say feminism is misunderstood by young feminists only to suggest they are inexperienced: they are prone to “not true scotsman” arguments about what is or isn’t feminism or feminist, and try to make universal statements like “that isn’t what feminism is about” or “the only thing that matters is that women have choice” or “feminism is solely about equality between the sexes.”

While for many people that is true (and I would not deny their experiences) I do think it is important to recognize that feminists do not hold any universal opinion, or even any universal goals. There are feminists who do condemn certain choices made by women because those choices uphold aspects of patriarchal society; for example, they may feel that a woman choosing to become a sex worker (for non-survival reasons) is also choosing to uphold a system that abuses women. There are also feminists who do not believe feminism is about equality; they may believe it is about equity, retribution, overthrowing the status quo, etc.

There are many kinds of feminisms, and many kinds of feminists. They are all legitimate in my eyes, even if I do not agree with some of them. As a result, asking what it means to be a feminist is really more about asking: what kind of feminist am I? What principles do I uphold as feminist? What philosophical or theoretical frameworks do I position myself within and how do I want to use them to improve my understanding of the world?

Tricky stuff, I know. ;) 

So: onto cosplay.  

Social justice communities have taken a pretty firm root in tumblr, and as such, I don’t think there are many of us who haven’t come across them yet. I also think social justice has kind of hit a level of “vogue” with fandom right now, particularly with people who don’t have much of a background with feminist communities (or other anti-oppression communities.) As such, yes: the cosplay community is growing rife with a lot of young women (and men) who are testing their wings as feminists.

Here’s my take on it: I feel personally empowered to step into the clothing and “identity” of women characters I admire, but I recognize that these characters do not exist as “feminist” characters, nor is my perspective of them universal. In my opinion, it is absurd to dress up as a character like Supergirl, who despite her age and characterization is often the subject of pin-ups, pornography and sexualization (even in canon!) and not expect aspects of that to carry over. Cosplay is NOT consent, but so many women characters ARE designed with an element of sexualization or to be titillating. We live in an era where companies spend hundreds of thousands –– if not millions — on the media they produce. Sexualization is not accidental. When you’re spending that much money to produce a product that must inspire the product to spend money, you have to look at every detail. Why do you think magical girl shows are aimed at adult men just as much as they are aimed at little girls? We might not see Madoka Magica or other magical girl shows as inherently sexual (especially considering the main cast is comprised of girls 13-15 years old) but you have to consider the various lines of figures featuring the girls in tiny bikinis, the animation of Mami’s breasts, the target demographic of adult men. So much of the media we consume is problematic.

And I’m not saying we should accept those things or excuse them or whatever. What I am saying is that when we cosplay those characters, we can’t expect those aspects of sexualization, objectification, etc to not follow us. While we are living, breathing human beings with rights and thoughts and opinions, when we cosplay, we are presenting ourselves as characters who may carry sexual connotations. For people who do not cosplay or have difficulty separating costume from costumer, they likely see the character before they see you. They may not see a human being, they may see the object you are portraying. They may speak to the object instead of you. 

Everyone should be free to exist in fandom spaces without sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the whole gamut of inappropriate behaviors. However, it is unrealistic in today’s society to expect to dress up as an object who is very often subject to sexualization (if not intended to be wholly sexual) and expect none of those uglier elements to come with it. I wholeheartedly wish it could be another way, but that’s the truth as I see it. It is important to not get lost in feminism and see the world and society as “failing to be feminist.” The world and society are striving to become feminist. How you choose to help the world become more feminist is up to you, but I do think it’s important for feminists who cosplay to recognize that they’re willingly participating in objectification.

Again, willingly participating in objectification does not excuse being treated like a piece of sexy meat, nor does it mean one should be submissive to the desires of fans, but we are in a world that is striving to become feminist, not failing to do so. For many people (especially men who have had no experience with gender-based discrimination!) this is an act of naïvety. I often speak with male fans who get too handsy, personal or inappropriate with me; most of the time, the fact that they are being invasive doesn’t even occur to them, and most of them are extremely apologetic and concerned about their out behavior once it’s explained to them. While I understand the temptation and justification to be angry with these people, especially when you’ve just been mistreated by them, I (personally) feel that it is easier to just calmly but firmly call it as I see it and engage in dialogue. I don’t take shit, but I try not to dole it out in retaliation, either. I have always had better results by just assuming good faith, and when it proves that the fan is just an asshole who will defiantly continue to do it… well, scumbags are a part of living amongst humanity. Better luck next time. Treating all people who misstep as pigs isn’t going to win you any friends, though. Of course, this is also about harassment, not assault; when things cross that line, it gets very, very different.

And it’s important to recognize that some women cosplayers do feel empowered by being sexually desired. Feminists, of course, have different opinions on this; for some it is a matter of empowerment, liberation and choice, and for others, it is women engaging in denigration and upholding systems of oppression by encouraging men to continue treating women like meat. It all depends on your different brand of feminism. I get irritated when men immediately start asking me if I have a boyfriend, but I’m laid back when it comes to comments on me or my body –– even sexual ones, to a degree. Some women don’t want comments at all. Some women enjoy being told how desirable and fuckable they are. The problem is that none of these things are obvious from the outside, nor do they have much to do with what the cosplayer is wearing: line up a bunch of cosplayers and you can’t tell how any of them feel about sexually-charged interaction from strangers.

This is what “cosplay isn’t consent” means; you shouldn’t judge how to approach a cosplayer based on what they’re wearing, as they are not the character. However, cosplayers should be prudent about what they dress up as; if they’re not willing to deal with potential sexual harassment and undue attention, then they should choose their costumes wisely. It’s the same thing as the short skirt debacle, in my eyes. A short skirt isn’t consent and doesn’t excuse anything, but wearing a short skirt takes awareness and a preparedness to deal with the potential backlash. Meanwhile, men and women alike will make judgements about women in short skirts… it’s beyond patriarchy (which I feel is rather outdated and not necessarily relevant to much in the North-Western world anymore) and more about society as a whole engaging in oppressive actions. If you want to wear a short skirt (or cosplay), you can choose to either do it and handle the potential attitudes of others, or you can refrain from it and not participate at all. 

What is more important is open communication, especially between cosplayers and photographers. It is important for photographers to ask “are you okay with sexualized content?” and/or for cosplayers to make clear what kind of content they are or are not okay with. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Man, I feel like this got rambling or otherwise confusingly written, but I hope I’ve expressed myself clearly enough. But in short, feminism is a complex and multi-faceted system of conflicting beliefs, not a single set of beliefs, and it has no definitive opinion on cosplay or women in costume. When it comes to cosplay, it is best to be pragmatic first and feminist second and handle incidents of sexual harassment on an individual basis, and to always communicate. (And not passive aggressively, holy shit no.)

- Jenn

A message from filmsfoodandfandom


If All-Star Superman isn't your favorite Superman book, then what is, if you don't mind me asking.

Probably Birthright.

But also Brainiac or For All Seasons

And Secret Identity. That one is definitely up there.

- Jenn

A message from bgrevln8fu


Given the business practices of the past, I'm guessing that the image being put out regarding the movie is all marketing's fault. I recall reading that the film itself isn't as "Nolan's Batman" as it's implied to be. Personally, all my faith in the movie hangs on the fact that they're using "All-Star Superman" for reference material.

I’d like to believe that too, but I feel like they’re using All-Star only from its barest text. A massive part of All-Star, for me, was how much Morrison played with Superman’s quirkier or more cosmic elements. He’s this guy who is so utterly human in his interactions with people, he’s just as small-town Kansas grown as anyone else out of Smallville, but he occupies this strange, beautiful, technicolor world full of vivid imagery and trips to the sun and moon. There are rock monsters and wheezing purple Parasites and flying dogs chasing tree trunks and Supermen from other universes and gods. Morrison plays up how different Clark and Superman are while still grounding them as the same person. Family is so important to his life even as an adult. All-Star Superman relaxes on cloud-beds and smiles and tenderly expresses affection for his girlfriend, his family, the innocent… god. All-Star isn’t even my favourite book, but it’s great material. It blends Superman with his more mythic elements with the emotive material that makes him someone you just want to know and embrace

Literally everything that made All-Star so special is absent from Man of Steel thus far. All-Star would never be so colorless, so angst-focused, so alien in all the wrong ways. And that isn’t to say I want an All-Star inspired movie –– I don’t! –– but Man of Steel reeks of executive meddling to tailor to market audiences. Necessary for them to do for Man of Steel to be a financial success? Probably. I won’t kid myself or anyone, we all know that we’re never going to see another Superman anything remotely like the comics, especially as long as this fascination with “mature” superheroes persists, and that’s where this movie does need a little All-Star. The most light-hearted moment so far is Lois pointing out that Superman’s emblem is an “S” and him saying that on “his world” it stands for hope, and it’s still a cold, awkward scene.

I’d love to be surprised in theaters and have it full of fun moments, though. Love to.

- Jenn

A message from Anonymous


Even though you're not excited about Clark himself in Man of Steel - how to you feel about how Lois is being portrayed?

We’ll see! I like Amy Adams well enough, but I’m still not sure if she has the feistiness in her to compare. I liked her dialogue in the trailer, but I don’t think there was enough snap. I do especially like that she’s been following him around the world prior to his going public, à la Birthright.

I think Erica Durance set the bar very, very high for portrayals of Lois Lane, so Amy Adams needs to either sell it hard or go in another equally awesome direction. 

- Jenn

Edit: Also, I just remembered Amy Adams was in Smallville. I’m laughing imagining her Lois Lane tucking into a whole deer carcass face-first. Om nom nom nom.

I always hope for things to be better than I expect; I’d characterize myself as a pretty optimistic person! But I’m also being realistic: when I see the S, I hope I’m seeing something I like, but I’d be naive to hope everything I am suspicious of so far will be different in the movie when all signs point to “not for me” so far.
Our expectations are pretty different, too! :) Your Superman and my Superman are pretty different guys, given our different reactions to the trailers, and the Superman you know and love probably isn’t the same as the Superman I know and love. To me, this Superman is one further step away from the Superman I know and love, because that’s just the way DC goes sometimes. My Superman doesn’t refer to Krypton as “my world” in the present tense. My Superman doesn’t think his relationship with his parents is about pretending. My Superman doesn’t live in a desaturated blue world. But I understand that for you, this is a come-back for him, and I’m really happy for you. I hope you love the movie more than you anticipate! 
- Jenn

I always hope for things to be better than I expect; I’d characterize myself as a pretty optimistic person! But I’m also being realistic: when I see the S, I hope I’m seeing something I like, but I’d be naive to hope everything I am suspicious of so far will be different in the movie when all signs point to “not for me” so far.

Our expectations are pretty different, too! :) Your Superman and my Superman are pretty different guys, given our different reactions to the trailers, and the Superman you know and love probably isn’t the same as the Superman I know and love. To me, this Superman is one further step away from the Superman I know and love, because that’s just the way DC goes sometimes. My Superman doesn’t refer to Krypton as “my world” in the present tense. My Superman doesn’t think his relationship with his parents is about pretending. My Superman doesn’t live in a desaturated blue world. But I understand that for you, this is a come-back for him, and I’m really happy for you. I hope you love the movie more than you anticipate! 

- Jenn