Cosplay & Misogyny: 5 Notes for Tony Harris

In case you haven’t heard, Tony Harris – who has most notably contributed art to Starman and Ex Machina - decided to head to the internet to unleash a rant against female cosplayers.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tony later went on to attempt to defend himself in the comments, claiming vehemently that he’s “NOT a misogynist.” Disturbingly, among his detractors, there are also an unfortunately high number of men in the comments who agree with Harris about “posers” in the nerd community, and how these sexy geek girls “don’t belong.”

Misogyny is defined as “the hatred or dislike of women or girls.” Tony, you hate these “fake” cosplaying women so much that you wrote a diatribe about them on your Facebook page. Just because you don’t hate all women, you are still a misogynist. Sorry to throw the dictionary at you, but it seems as though you could benefit from spending some quality time with one anyways.

As a female sometimes-cosplayer who happens to spend a lot time caring about my appearance, I feel personally offended by Harris’s comments – as do a lot of women I know. So here’s my open letter to you, Tony. If it helps you to take me seriously, you can imagine me in a chunky grandpa sweater with absolutely no cleavage:


1. We Do Not Exist For Your Pleasure

Women who cosplay do it for themselves, because they want to. They cosplay because they love the character; because they’re great at sewing; because they work out twice a day and they feel fantastic when they dress up as Psylocke; because they’ve never worked out a day in their life and neither has Ramona Flowers and it doesn’t matter because Ramona is a bad-ass and dressing up like her makes them feel like a bad-ass too.

Believe it or not, Tony, women do not solely exist as sexual objects for the consumption and enjoyment of the men around them. We do not do what we do based on how we think males will respond. You say that female cosplayers are “preying” on the fragile, virginal men at the convention, simply by existing. Actually, if you, as a male, take issue with the cosplayer, the issue is caused by YOU, not the woman. Just because your confidence issues make you feel like we harbour some secret hatred for you, doesn’t make it true. If you’re angry because you can’t properly contain your attraction to us, you may find that this could be solved by exercising a little self-control.

I don’t care if you think my boobies are “big boobies” or “GREAT boobies” – if I want to put them in Emma Frost’s bra, I can do that, and you have to deal with it.



2. Our “Nerd Quotient” Is Irrelevant

The one thing I’ve noticed in articles by women responding to your blatant misogyny is that they all seem to start by insisting that they are totally legitimate nerd-girls, but we definitely shouldn’t judge all those other cosplaying women who aren’t. I, on the other hand, refuse to justify my level of “nerdiness” in this article, because it doesn’t matter.

Just because you liked something first, Tony, doesn’t mean you own the rights to liking it. Dressing up as Catwoman doesn’t mean that I have to know everything about every Batman comic ever written – I could be a huge Nolan fan, or I could just love the outfit. This doesn’t give you the right to judge me. For example, if you showed up to a Steampunk convention after having read some Dickens and thinking it was “pretty okay,” I’d be happy to teach you more about Victorian literature. What I wouldn’t do is call you a “Lying, Liar Face” and post an angry rant on the internet about how you were trying to be “con-hot” in your waistcoat, and how you have no right to do that in front of someone with a Master’s degree in Victoriana when you hadn’t even bothered to read Jane Eyre.

Are we somehow spoiling the purity of your nerd-world by caring about Spider-man’s continuity and false eyelashes? Does the time I dedicate to looking good in a costume somehow negate the time that I spend watching The Walking Dead? Am I somehow less of a “real” Lord of the Rings fan because I’ve only recently seen the films? And how does any of this concern you, Tony? It’s none of your business how I spend my time, and I find it offensive that you’d question my “nerd cred” just because of how I dress.

Saying “I don’t hate ALL female cosplayers – I like the legit ones” is insinuating that we have to earn the right to be scantily-clad in your presence with an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books. It reminds me of the racists who used to justify their hatred of a group-at-large by insisting that some of their best friends were people of colour. Please.


3. I Don’t Owe You Anything

Just because I happen to dress sexy at a convention doesn’t mean I owe you my time. Perhaps I wouldn’t give you the time of day outside of a con – but it wouldn’t be because I hold some sort of disdain for other nerds. Women who cosplay spend months on their outfits, and we, like every other person on Earth, enjoy the company of people who have similar interests to our own. Thus, we enjoy spending time with other nerds.

This point actually corresponds to something that I find is quite rampant in male nerd-rage against “fake geek girls”: male nerds hold resentment towards nerdy women whom they consider to be “shallow,” just because we judge them based on their physical appearance as well as their nerdy interests when considering them as a potential partner. The issue I have with this resentment is that these male nerds would also never date a nerd-girl whom they considered “ugly.” These male nerds seek out the hot cosplayers, and then bash the woman for being “shallow” when we’re potentially not interested? My double-standard sense is tingling!

Tony, are you offended that an attractive female cosplayer won’t date an “under-confident virgin who never speaks to women”? Well let me ask you this – would you be as offended by female inattention from these women outside of cons if they weren’t “con-hot”? You obviously judge women based on their physical appearance (as noted in your distinction between “big boobies” and “GREAT boobies”). Women do actually value physical appearance when choosing whom to date. Sue us. We deserve the same shallow rights that you do. It’s just something else you’re going to have to learn to deal with.


4. Cosplayers are not Booth Babes

You seem to be a little bit confused by the definition of a “cosplayer,” Tony. Cosplayers are women who spend months, sometimes years, perfecting their outfits to the last detail, as an expression of their love for a specific character or genre.

We are not Booth Babes. Booth Babes are models who are paid by a company to stand by their booth at a convention in costume, in order to drive attention to their product. If you google “Booth Babe,” the first result that appears is the Wikipedia article for “Promotional Model.” These women belong to an agency, and are models for hire. This is the model’s job. The Booth Babe will likely know little to nothing about the product they are modeling for. Next weekend, you can find them at a car show, modeling next to the new Lexus, which they will also probably know nothing about. Booth Babes are not cosplayers.

You are free to feel however you wish about the sexualization of women in corporate marketing. You may find that many female cosplayers actually feel similarly to you about Booth Babes. You should ask one.


5. You Are A Hypocrite

Guess what, Tony? Sex sells. You’ve obviously noticed that, because you draw covers like these:

Complaining about the mainstream media’s focus on sexy women over burly comic book artists at a convention is absurd, especially since you mention that these cosplayers wouldn’t exist without the artists who created the characters in the first place. In fact, that kind of makes you a hypocrite, Tony; if you didn’t draw your characters in skimpy, sexualized outfits, women wouldn’t have to dress up that way when they wanted to show their love of your characters.


The moral of the story is: I can wear whatever I want. Does seeing me in my Ms. Marvel costume make you angry on principle alone? Or does it make you even angrier after you find out I’ve only read the newer Ms. Marvel comics? It doesn’t matter. You don’t own my body, and you don’t get to dictate, or shame me for, what I put on it. In other words: deal with it.

Wonder Woman taught me that I could be a stone-cold bad-ass and still feel confident in a strapless bodysuit, regardless of my body type. You don’t get to decide how I dress and where. There’s enough air for everyone – even, unfortunately, misogynists like you, Tony. Even you.

Related posts:

How to be NERDY and score with hot babes
Tales from a N00b Anime North
Report on: Con G 2013
Convention Survival Guide
  • FannishSunny

    Absolutely adore the “Charlotte Bronte is judging you” gif. Great response.

  • The Real Anonymous

    Continue to beat this dead horse! WOMYN POWER!!!!!!!! LETS GO PLAY SMB3!!!

  • Soha

    Beautifully written, Sam!

  • Alex

    Excellent rant, with great humour. :)

  • Teddy

    My girl’s wicked smart.

  • Colleen Egan Hillerup

    Hear hear!! Well said indeed, Sam!

  • Kevin Dondrea

    I’m a geek but only in name. I’m clueless when it comes to gaming. Although I would love to go to a Star Trek convention, I’ve never been to one. But, his big rant was if a woman is geek enough to dress like a geek? BIG FREAKIN’ DEAL. Who cares? I know some people and religions don’t want to here this but… Everyone has the right to dress and do whatever they want to do. Even some illegal activities are ok, some of them are only illegal because of ignorant government agencies.

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