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You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Cosplay

There are a million ways to be cruel and ignorant in geekdom, and Halloween is a riot for the exclusive boys’ club nerd culture has built.

Cosplay, shorthand for “costume play,” is defined by Wikipedia as a “performance art in which cosplayers wear costume and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea that is identified with a unique name.” Think Halloween on the extreme – cosplayers turn the fantasy world into reality.

And who other to rule the fantasy kingdom than the sprawling plains of nerd-dom? There are Batmen and Spidermen, lords and kings of fantastical lands, and antiheroes brought to life by the hundred. The possibilities are endless. And after hours spent slaving over the minutia of your perfect cosplay, you hear from the corner of the comic book store Halloween party: “attention-grabbing slut!

Let’s visit the most terrorizing of stereotypes: the “horrifying” fake geek girl. Beware! These alleged women knock on your door, trick-or-treating, or arrive at geek events. And while they may be hot, they lack the “geek-cred” to be a “true fan.”

But there is no such thing as a fake geek girl. There are simply are females who like or enjoy something society automatically labels as part of “nerd culture.”

Alienating women in geekdom is nothing new, from both casual fans and even professionals in the industry. Comic writer Tony Harris, known for his work on Starman, Iron Man, and Ex Machina, posted on Facebook: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY pathetic. But we are onto you.”

Elitists will always make joining a clique, a club, or a subculture competitive and menacing. And the fact that geek culture is, with some exceptions, largely a boy’s club doesn’t make it easier for women to enthusiastically enjoy something different from the mainstream any easier. Without precisely reciting every fact, any female is labeled a poser.

Not to mention the way the subculture designs and glorifies women in skimpy costumes as half-baked characters. Female fans who create replicas then become marked as attention-seeking sluts.

The startling reality is that Halloween isn’t just the one time of year women are shamed in geekdom. Around the world, females are too intimidated by the nerd-cred-shaming male nerd population of geekdom to feel comfortable expressing the slightest interest in things that generically fall under the “nerd” category.

It’s expected of women to be subservient to the males in nerd society. If they dare submerge themselves into the universe, only then can they redeem themselves by becoming that archetypal, subservient-to-her-male-super-colleagues character. And even then, she is still not given the basic respect of being recognized as a member of the fandom.

But the fandom isn’t the only realm this virus affects. As geekdom floods into the mainstream, as superhero movies maintain number one in the box office for weeks, this “boys only” territory spreads everywhere. As young girls grow up watching Princess Leia being raped by Jabba the Hutt and dismiss it as a bump in the plot line, the anti-feminist side of geekery will not only cause some serious damage, but set a standard of shaming women for the years to come.

When you boil it down, women’s worth in geekery is not their contributions to the subculture or even their extensive passion. The community of lady nerds is growing. And ladies? Forget about the haters. Let your geek flag fly proudly this Halloween.

Kaity Gee is a high school junior at The Harker School in San Jose. She is currently multimedia editor of her school paper, The Winged Post. Kaity has won multiple awards for her journalistic works, including CSPA’s Gold Circle award for Broadcast and Graphic Design; Honorable Mention and 2nd place nationally, respectively. She has also been awarded 2nd place in the National Federation of Press Women’s prestigious Feature Category for her piece on eating disorders.

2 thoughts on “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Cosplay

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  1. I’ve got to disagree with you on this one I think that your expnrieece as a writer is creating bias regarding the n-person breakdown of video games. Your point of view regarding the point of view is skewed! When you play a video game, when you really put yourself in the game, in direct control of the character’s actions, what’s happening to that character in the game is happening to you , just filtered through the screen and keyboard/controller. You’re experiencing the events in first-person when you really get into a game. If you’re seeing all this as 3rd-person, I think you’re stuck outside . You’re thinking about the events of the game as a narrative being told about the character in the game, which would indeed make it 3rd-person. When you really dig into a game, you’re shifting your point of view into the character, taking what would be a 3rd-person story about that character in the game to a 1st-person story about you , because you’re the one experiencing the events now.Does that makes sense? Did I make a dent in your opinion on the n-person-ness of games?

  2. Hi Jigo,

    Thanks for your interest in my piece! It’s so cool to see that even after a year people are still finding this article 🙂

    I definitely understand where you’re coming from, the fandom side of it. I consider myself part of many fandoms, and I have loved my experiences in all of them very dearly.

    From your comment, I’m getting the vibe of two major topics: 1. The levels of passion I describe in the article are simply not possible, and 2. My perspective on nerd subculture is off.

    To address the first, I’d like to state that I totally agree that it IS hard to not be absolutely in love with a lot of the television shows, graphic novels, movies, etc. the culture provides. For me, it’s difficult to be casually or passively interested in well, anything. However, I would like to state that it’s important to recognize that there *is* a possibility that some people may not just love it as much as you do. To say that women or anyone who can’t name the minutia of your fandom is less than a fan, to me, that’s wrong. It goes against the idea of fandom, this whole community built over loving a thing.

    Speaking of “n-person” culture, I would say that you’re probably right– I’m not a member of ALL the communities within the subculture, but it’d be impossible to be so. Like I said a bit earlier, I do consider myself a member of multiple “nerd” fandoms and various communities within the subculture and I’ve experienced and witnessed this prejudice in several ways. Personally, I think this is great. Yes! You could get a second opinion on someone who is a member of more communities within the subculture; that would be fantastic; I would love to see that and read it.


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