Facing harassment at conventions is unfortunately all too common for many cosplayers. Women especially encounter those who feel these events gives them the right to treat cosplayers as sexual objects instead of people. This is why it’s important for conventions to have firm anti-harassment policies in place and services to help those who feel threatened or uncomfortable. Unfortunately one of the largest pop culture conventions in the world, San Diego Comic-Con, still doesn’t have a formal, visible anti-harassment policy.
Now Geeks For CONsent is trying to change that with a petition on Change.org. The petition calls for the convention to create a formal anti-harassment policy to stop the sexual harassment faced by cosplayers. They would like the policy to include the following: “A harassment reporting mechanism and visible, easy to find on-site support for people who report harassment; signs throughout the convention publicizing the harassment policy and zero-tolerance enforcement mechanisms; information for attendees on how to report harassment; and a one hour training for volunteers on how to respond to harassment reports.”
Right now on the comic-con website there is only a brief section titled “Code of Conduct” on Convention Policies page that mentions harassment. It states that:
“Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.”
This isn’t exactly a clear or easy to find set of rules. Beyond this small paragraph on the website, comic-con’s director of marketing and public relations David Glanzer told The Mary Sue last year that their policy is also printed in the Events Guide made available to attendees and that “each incident is handled on a case by case basis, as are the decisions on how best to prevent the issue from occurring again.” Considering the length of the Events Guide and the possibility of not every guest receiving it, the convention should create a formal policy displayed more prominently on their website and convention materials. As for dealing with issues case-by-case, each incident will certainly be different but that should in no way prevent them from listing common, specific anti-harassment rules that would still be good to make clear for attendees instead of assuming everyone has the common sense to already know how to behave.
The comments from petition supporters reiterate the importance of a clear policy. Kristen Enders said such a policy is “important because people no matter what their sexuality or gender should be respected at conventions. Cosplay does not equal consent.” Terry Wellman, a manufacturer of game pieces, commented that they don’t want “to be associated with a con that looks the other way when it comes to sexual assault.”
“I'm tired of hearing about all the abuse on cosplayers. Some people need clear guidelines for their behavior. Comic conventions should be family friendly venues,” wrote Heloise Doucet.
As of Saturday, the petition had over 1,500 signatures. Geeks For CONsent plans to deliver it to San Diego Comic-Con in July.
Screenshot via Geeks For CONsent/YouTube