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A good defense of why people cosplay, except for…

http://kotaku.com/why-do-i-cosplay-let-me-count-the-ways-473057620

In the blog post/article linked above, the author writes about why she cosplays and her thoughts on the subject.  For many parts of the article I heartily agree with her and think her opinions are spot on.  Except I just couldn’t agree with this:

“In regards to the unfortunately common “stop playing sexy dress up time if you want men to treat you as a person” line of thinking, I fundamentally disagree with this perspective. How one dresses shouldn’t determine the degree of dignity and respect you impart on them.”

You know, I will grant that is a fine statement to say.  It’s nice you feel that way.  But the naïveté of the statement is staggering, even though this is something I hear very commonly as a defense by men/women who want to dress up in sexy clothes in public.

Society has judged one another based on appearance for as long as society has existed.  Respect is given and/or taken away every day by every person before you even speak to another person.  Think about it.  Think honestly about it.  If you saw a homeless person on the side of the street, a person in a suit, a person dressed as a police officer, and a teen dressed up in shaggy clothes, would you instinctively give all of them the same amount of respect if you didn’t know them?

I think the answer is no.  Each person I listed would get more or less respect before a word is even said based on your own prior interactions with people of that type or your own internal thoughts.  A teenager may be more likely to give respect to the teen and less to the cop and person in the suit.   A cop would likely immediately respect the cop more, and may respect or disdain someone in a suit.  A social worker would respect the homeless person who others ignore, and possibly look down on a teen who they might presume is “not doing enough with their life”.

In addition, the amount of expected respect is automatically different.  “The clothes make the person”, so the saying goes, and in a way it is true.  If you are going to an interview, or a nice dinner, or on a date, or out to a pub, or if you are going to meet someone important, do you dress differently/nicer?  Why?  If people could see each other without making assumptions based on how we look, why would it matter what you are dressed?  That person should respect you no matter what you are wearing.  Right?  I should be able to come to work in shorts and a t-shirt and walk up to a CEO and get the full respect I deserve, right?

It would be nice, yeah.  But it is completely out of the question, and I do not think we will ever have a society where that would be universally true.  No matter what kind of social system you live in (capitalism, communism, dictatorship, monarchy, etc.) ultimately there is a hierarchy, and that hierarchy is at least in part defined by what you wear.  Why do you wear something nice to a job interview, or if you go on a date, or etc.?  Yes, it might make you feel good, and it might help your confidence level.  However, the defining reason is because of first impressions.  Because you know you are going to be judged the moment you walk in the door by how you look.  The dignity and respect you receive is based on your appearance before anything else.

And because this is so well known, it is expected that you will understand that how you look will send a message to others.  Not really interested in the job or making a good impression?  Wearing clothes that are not right will send that impression.  You want to tell the people you are meeting that you take them seriously and are someone to be respected?  The right clothes will send the message you desire.  And just think: you know the clothes in your closet.  You know the message wearing some of them send.

So why, why do I keep hearing the same argument from cosplayers and such?  I get the point that cosplayers are just showing their love of a show/game/etc., that they like the interaction and feeling good about making something nice.  I agree 100% that cosplayers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

But this is real life.  It isn’t fantasy.  How people behave is not changed because you are at a convention and you are pretending to be a character from somewhere else.  And I don’t believe that what cosplayers want applied to them when they are cosplaying (i.e. that how they dress shouldn’t determine the degree of dignity and respect they are initially given) is something that they themselves can grant to everyone else when they are not cosplaying.  How many cosplayers get out of their costumes and then resume their “normal lives”, judging people around them by their appearance first and who they really are second?  I would guess pretty much all of them, because just about every cosplayer I know is human.

So if you are cosplaying dressed as a character designed to entice sexual thoughts in men/women, do not be surprised if the first impression you give is not one that demands “dignity and respect”.  Yes, you do not forfeit all of your basic rights as a person when you dress in different clothes.  But if you dress essentially as a sex object, then you are going to receive from others the same amount of initial dignity and respect they would give a sex object.  You can shout until you are blue in the face that you are a “cosplayer”, and that cosplayers should be able to dress as they like and receive the same amount of dignity and respect.

But perhaps that’s it: you are cosplaying.  You are, in real life, pretending to be a character/person who is here in real life.  So you are receiving exactly the same amount of dignity and respect that character/person would receive in real life.

Good for you.

 

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