Comic Creators, Cosplayers, and Gender Roles

Looking at the site for San Francisco Comic Con, and I see their guest list. First, there’s “Celebrity Guests”, which are a mixed bag. Then come “Comic Creator Guests”: folks named Steve, Allen, Gerhard, Arvell, Casey, Joe, Jack, Erik, Bob, Steve, Mike, Paolo, and so on. There is a Trina.

And then, right under that, there’s “Cosplay Guests”, named Heather, Jennifer, Lisa, and Jessica.

And I cannot help but notice the stark gender divide here.

Okay, I’ll give the organizers props for two things:

  1. They got a female comic creator in there. 1 out of 22, which is 4.5%… I dunno, does that match the industry-wide percentage of female creators? I suspect it might.
  2. They have a guest section for cosplay. That seems kind of cool.

But overall, it looks like: “guys create the comics, and then girls dress up as the characters from them”. It really minimizes any level of costuming skill on the women’s parts, and instead casts them very much in a passive role, to be looked at.

It really doesn’t help that their bios are far shorter than those of the comics creators… and nearly interchangeable, and all three of the ones with bios also list credits as promotional models.

I’m sure fandom itself bears at least a little of the blame, for being more inclined to pay attention to female cosplayers than male ones. (At least if they’re young and conventionally attractive — which, by a curious coincidence, all of SF Comic-Con’s cosplayer guests are.) The con’s organizers have a case to make that “we need to invite the big names in cosplay, not some randoms.” And that would be legit.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But the thing about a vicious cycle is, you can break it at any point in the cycle. And breaking it in fandom — convincing millions of people (just in the US alone!) to change their ingrained habits of who they pay attention to and snap pictures of while they’re at cons — well, that’s a very hard thing to make happen.

But breaking that cycle in the con committees? Getting them to realize that inviting female creators, and male cosplayers, and treating the cosplayers as creators rather than just as eye-candy? That only requires convincing a much smaller number of people to think about the effect their actions have on fandom at large.

So I’d like to see the cons themselves try to move this needle a little more. Hell, a lot more.

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