RICC 2018 and Harassment

Where do we draw the line between socially awkward and creepy? How bad does something have to get to be considered harassment?

When I think about my experiences at Rhode Island Comic Con last weekend, there is no point where I felt unsafe or feared for my physical presence, but there were several points where–had things gone any farther or had I been a less confident person–I would have felt unsafe.

The first thing you should know is that this year marks the first time I’ve moved out of my cosplay comfort zone. In years past, every day was a Kaylee day, wearing different coveralls (or her cupcake dress) for the majority of my weekend with other, smaller projects  (like Katniss from Hunger Games and Lydia Martin from Teen Wolf) on minor days or not at all. The constant barrage of “You know who you look so much like?” and “You know who you should cosplay?” made it so I stuck to Kaylee until April of last year. I love Kaylee but I want to have fun with other characters like the other costumes I love and want to wear. So I said to hell with it. My most ambitious show was Chicago Comic Con in August where I wore 4 different characters/costumes over 4 days.

One of these costumes is Zoya the Destroya, a character played by Alison Brie on the Netflix original G.L.O.W. She wears a metallic-red, one armed leotard, with a black fur ushanka, leather belt with the hammer and sickle, and black leather boots. I love this costume because of the way I get to experiment with  hair and makeup; these are more extensive than anything I’ve done before. I also love poses that encourage me to move beyond smiling and holding my parasol. Zoya shows more skin than any other cosplay I’ve done and, until Rhode Island Comic Con, I never felt like this was a problem. I still don’t feel like it’s a problem and I’m not gonna stop wearing a costume I feel comfortable in, but what the hell happened?Zoya at RICC 2018

I’ve been trying to rationalize why, at this small convention instead of bigger conventions I’ve been to, two men approached me and made me feel icky and gross. Was this convention different because I wasn’t walking with a friend/handler? Are people in New England just odd? I was able to safely get out of both situations but I felt trapped in the moment and I’m still not sure how to address what happened.

In the first instance while walking the show floor with a friend, a man repeatedly shouted for me to slow down despite the fact that I was not walking fast. When I did, he asked what character I was dressed as, then instructed my friend to take a full body picture of him with me where he wanted to put his arm around me but didn’t verbally ask. I responded,  “I’m not comfortable being touched” (When asked politely for Zoya pics, I actually don’t mind putting someone into a headlock for the photo!)

He handed my friend what looked like an ancient gameboy DS (though I am unfamiliar with handheld video game devices) and my friend did his best to step backwards into surging crowds to snap a pic. My friend and I attempted to leave after the first photo but the man accosted us for not getting a full body picture which we then refused, stating that it was too busy. The man aggressively apologized, saying “I’m sorry I yelled, I’m sorry that I was acting in a way you thought was rude, I just wanted a picture!”

He later found me talking with friends at a booth, got his full body picture, and then showed up to my panel about Comic Con-ing on a Budget where he asked if the costume contest at New York Comic Con was always on Sunday. It’s not, and that’s not even the convention we were currently attending. After the panel, I was chatting with a few folks from the audience who had relevant questions and the man interrupted to ask if his questions were good. I told him they were not.

But that’s the small scale problem dude. The second experience I had at Rhode Island Comic Con was far more insidious.

It started with me walking by myself around the Dunkin Donuts floor, about to head downstairs to check on the autograph lines when an older man with a camera asked me what was downstairs. Since I had walked the show floor in its entirety on Friday, I was pretty good at giving directions.
Me: “The bigger name celebrities and more vendors.”
He: “Where are the smaller name celebrities?”
Me: “Upstairs, near the Star Wars stuff.”
He: “Oh, do you do these often?”

This is where the conversation shifted from me politely offering directions to this man making me uncomfortable. “Yup.” I said, hoping to signal I was done with the conversation so I could get on with my day. But no, he continued.
He: “What are you dressed as?”
Me: “Zoya. From GLOW.”
He: “Loya??”
Me: “Zoya. With a Z.” I motioned with my hands.
He: “Oh Zoya! Do you mind if I get a picture?”

I didn’t mind a picture. I made a snap decision that I didn’t feel unsafe, I was proud of my hair, makeup and costume, and I didn’t mind this guy taking one picture. He held up his camera and took the shot. While he adjusted his camera settings, I took the opportunity to try to get pumpkin seed shell out of my teeth.
He: “Oh are you chewing gum? Will you blow a bubble for me?”
Me: “Nope, I have pumpkin seed in my teeth.”
He: “Oh.”

At this point he took a second picture and showed it to me. I didn’t care.

He: “Have you ever modeled?”
Me: “Not since I was a kid.”
He: “Are you interested in it?”
Me: “Nope I have a full time job.”
He: “I’ve actually shot some models, you know, BBW stuff, not that that’s you, or there’s anything wrong with being that.”

I now looked for any possible reason in the world to walk away from this man who made me step to the side for his picture and was now in the way of me leaving.
Me: “I have a full time job that I enjoy.” I was actively glaring.
He: “Did you see my hat?” He was wearing a beanie that said ‘Smile.’ I bared my teeth and left.

Did I feel that my life or person were in danger in either of these scenarios? No. In both situations, I attempted several times to verbally and non-verbally suggest my discomfort, but what do you do in a situation like this? It isn’t so bad that I felt the need to go to security, but it makes me second guess even speaking to people who ask directions on the show floor. With first guy, I didn’t feel like he had the capacity to understand the social connotations of harassing someone on the show floor, so my direct (if brusque) language was the best I could manage at the time. With the latter, a friendly gesture turned into me knowing this man was thinking about me in a sexual manner. I felt violated, and maybe I should have told him that what he was asking was incredibly inappropriate given the setting we were in. But I needed to get away. Do you go to security for something like this? Do you leave it alone and let men go on doing the same thing to other people? Do you make a scene to try to attract the attention of anyone nearby? I don’t have the answers, but I do have to rethink how I approach conventions on my own in the future.

Wizard World Chicago 2017

After missing its 2016 iteration, I was so happy to be back at Wizard World Chicago this year! Like all Chicago Comic Cons, this event took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL August 24th-27th.

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I attended with my sister, Little Dove Cosplay, who was showcasing a new Sansa dress on Friday & Saturday… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Since we were presenting two panels, we picked up our badges in the ‘Exhibitor/Vendor’ section in Hall B. In past years, we were able to pick these up from the VIP or other sections, but this year we waited longer in line.

On Thursday evening, we walked the con floor and established what we wanted to see before heading to the “Make a Nerdy Living” panel. This panel featured The Pumpkin Geek, Amanda Meyer, Emily Evans, Scott Larson, Onrie Kompon, and later Mogchelle showed up (who was overbooked and hustled from panel to panel with nary a moment’s rest!). Make A Nerdy Living PanelI was really impressed by what The Pumpkin Geek had to say; he was incredibly personable and gave good advice, like how reaching out over social media allowed him to save money traveling to different cons by staying on folks’ couches. Despite the panel being titled “Make a Nerdy Living” (emphasis mine), the majority of the panelists have a “day job” that pays the bills separately from their nerdy passion projects. This disappointed me because I still don’t know how to turn my passion into something that pays the bills. With six panelists, the conversation felt crowded and no one really got enough time to talk. Friday, my sister wore her X-Men: Days of Future Past Jean Grey cosplay, super comfy for a short day at the con, and I wore my coveralls.

On Friday, with an increased attendance, security had folks go through several metal detectors set up outside. Though some lines were dedicated to folks without bags, everyone filed through whichever line they could. My sister was dressed as Sansa in her black, season 6 dress (the one with all the feathers) and had her trusty direwolf purse with her (it’s name is Lady), and I wore my blue silk jacket and flip flops along with my coveralls for more of a pilot episode look. Once we got through security, I hosted my panel on ‘The Expanding Firefly ‘Verse,’ which is always shiny. This year, I incorporated new info on upcoming board games and some rumors about the fabled Firefly Online. AKF and Firefly Cosplayers WWCC17I met with a bunch of other Firefly cosplayers for pictures with them before going to Artist’s Alley. This year (unlike my last Wizard World Chicago in 2015), the Artists Alley had its own huge area between vendors. I think this was a nice set-up, though I didn’t care for the second floor of the convention center being only cars and a haunted house. Oh well, it meant me and my sister didn’t have to crowd on the escalator!

We closed our Friday night watching “Dungeons and Dragons Improv,” featuring a Bloodrager Dwarf named Buttsteak, a punny bard halfling named Matthew McConaughey whose signature tune was “Take On Me” by Aha, and a shapeshifting gnome by the name of Cuddles who could only turn into marbles. These three were on a quest to rid Detroit of the Unicorn plague, fight a Spiderman-o-taur (half bull, half spider-man), and get a lapdance from Striptease the Unicorn, but in the end it turned out they might have been part of the problem. We left the con with tears of laughter streaming down our faces.

On Saturday, we returned bright and early so I could catch a panel called “Intro to Podcasting.” Intro to Podcasting Panel WWCC17Despite several experts (David Vox Mullen, John ‘Bear’ Kolb, Patrick Newson, Paul Hinic, Nick Mataragas) clearly knowing what they were talking about, the panel was not very planned out. The panelists didn’t follow an outline and it was more of a Q&A than an introduction… and they kept pimping their new website which is a podcasting platform. Vox Mullen advocated paying for all of your own things (a website to host, etc.), and spoke most of the time, leaving very little time for Hinic and Mataragas to speak. I don’t think this panel was wasted time, but it definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for or expecting.

Saturday, I wore my screen accurate floral top with my coveralls, and we naturally went to see “One Season and a Movie: A Conversation with Summer Glau & Jewel Staite.” The panel started late, but it was refreshing to hear Lindi of PureFandom instruct everyone in the Q&A line for “No Personal Requests!” When asked where they would want their characters’ stories to go, Jewel answered that she wanted Kaylee and Simon to have lots of babies, and Summer offered River as babysitter. Jewel politely declined.

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Jewel’s favorite episode was “Out of Gas,” while Summer’s was “Objects in Space.” “I don’t know if you can recapture something in the same way,” Summer said, when asked about a Serenity 2 focused on River. “I really respect what the show was.” Finally, if Summer could change one thing about Firefly, she’d wear shoes and brush her hair more. Ha!

After that panel ended, we headed down to Game Of Thrones Trivia, though sadly we didn’t participate (or win). It was a nice way to get excited about the season finale and hear speculations on how it would end. Tess was again wearing her black Sansa dress, and a lot of folks really loved it. After that, we went to the Creative Stage which was at the back of Artists’ Alley near a food station. I really like how this Creative Stage was set up and I think C2E2 could learn a thing or two from Wizard World. Not only was there more than one microphone, there was also an A/V set up to show a powerpoint! This was the first time I presented my panel “Getting Started With Etsy” and I was really glad to have Laura of Rebel Among the Stars Studios alongside to help me. We both have very different ways we use Etsy; they do it full time for a living, whereas I do it to fund going to conventions. We got some excellent questions and I can’t wait to see new Etsy stores that I hope were inspired by our info!

Sunday was a much more relaxed day since we were quite tired! We love that 5 Hour Energy has a booth at cons, because drinking those made us able to get through our last day! On Sunday, I wore my Elizabeth Swann cosplay and met up with friends (Sparrow Style Entertainment & Gormassmuss) who were both cosplaying Jack Sparrow! Elizabeth & 2 Jacks WWCC17Since I was walking around with my sister as Sansa Stark, a lot of people thought I was a Game of Thrones character too. Whoops! I may have to start cosplaying Margaery again! My sister had opted for her pink King’s Landing Sansa dress, which she loves to wear because it makes her feel like a princess.

Overall, I had a really great time at Wizard World Chicago. I was excited to present both old and new panels, while spending time at a convention with my sister

My next convention is New York Comic Con, October 5-8th. Stay tuned for a panel announcement soon!

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