AMBER LOVE 13-APR-2016 I’m lucky to be friends with Elsa, a woman who enjoys speaking on panels at cons and writing about her passions in games and fiction from the perspective of a person with disabilities. She’s not my first friend with physical challenges but she’s one who is okay discussing her world and sensitive topics that other people shy away from. I need to talk about what happened yesterday over on my Facebook.com/Amberunmasked page. Commenters are offended by Elsa being offended. Classic MRA behavior.
Why? Because she wrote a post about how she, as a woman with disabilities in particularly visual impairment, is offended by cosplayers at conventions who use medical devices as props that are not intended to be toys for a hobby. Gee, how dare she? Well, the men of Facebook took particular ire with it and since I was the one who posted her link, it was all over my page until I had had enough and started blocking.
There are big reasons why people wouldn’t want to be the spokesperson for their disbilities: trolls and fetishization. I got to witness it when I shared Elsa’s April 11th post about cosplayers using white canes to pretend to be Daredevil for Emerald City Comic Con. She addressed the issue of ability devices used by fictional characters like Matt Murdock and others like Oracle/Barbara Gordon who use wheelchairs. Comments on my Facebook page where I shared the link were nothing short of repulsive; one even said she should be beaten for her opinion.
“I’m sorry, but the overly sensitive opinion of a precious special snowflake is noted, but it has all the value of the opinion of someone who claims anger or discomfort when they see someone cosplaying a character they feel is the wrong body type/gender/sexual orientation/color/nationality/etc. for that cosplayer. Other people have no obligation whatsoever to do or not do something because this writer has issues. If she can’t handle discovering a Matt Murdock cosplayer isn’t actually blind without getting angry and hurt over it, then she has bigger issues than being legally blind and should probably stop attending events where there’s cosplaying going on.”
How are comments like the one above any different than people telling women they shouldn’t walk alone or take an Uber alone? Rather than adjust their own behavior, they insist on victim blaming and throwing around typical MRA style keywords and phrases (they make it so obvious to spot them sometimes). Their conventions are their sacred spaces just like their video games and their comic books and their movies.
This person is among the many, all men by the way, who commented on my sharing of her link. His one comment alone was 729 words (and he posted several times) to tell me and therefore the author of the article that we shouldn’t be offended and that she should just get another job because going to cons is PART OF HER JOB. She’s a freelance writer and educator, and also works from some conventions as their disability services coordinator. And the answer from those who want to continue to be offensive is, “so don’t go.”
If you’re drafting over 700 words as a comment, you need to go post that shit to your own platform. Get a tumblr or something – it’s free. Or hang out on reddit where you probably already share your bigoted intolerance.
This woman has specifically stated that people ask her if her disabilities are real! She’s had men follow and catcall her BECAUSE of the cane not in spite of it. It’s not a one-time only offense. It is her daily life; and likely that of many people. Sure, there are going to be people with disabilities who are fine with the accessories and props. Of course there are — people are different. In that way, it’s good to see individuals thinking for themselves and having their own thoughts on the subject. However, this one viewpoint and it’s worthy of cosplayers’ attention.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST BLOCK?
Well, because it’s Facebook and I tried and they’re still able to comment because Facebook sucks and their programmers should maybe take a class.
To address the cosplay and fandom entitlement: let’s realize what that entails. I’ve written about fan entitlement before. I know the feeling, trust me, I admit it all the time. I have love of a character and want to see them a certain way or do a certain thing even though I’m not the puppetmaster. I have been extremely critical of the body figure of Gal Gadot in her casting as Wonder Woman because I’d prefer someone a bit less thin; but did I hate her? Hell no! I loved her performance! But as a fan, I had my own idea of what Wonder Woman would look like. I tried not to be an asshole about it.
Fan entitlement in cosplay is downright out of hand too. The desire to want to portray a character even if the way someone chooses to do so is offensive, doesn’t matter to them. They care about their desires only.
I’ve worn an eye patch for cosplay. It was to do a photoshoot in my private backyard of a topless assassin named Mann from a series of books. She also loses a breast later to cancer, but I didn’t photoshop that or do any special f/x for that look. Some people would say the eye patch was offensive. I hadn’t personally lost an eye and I don’t belong in the community of people who have. Okay so I’ll probably never do that again, but I wasn’t out and about in a convention or breaking for lunch outside of one where someone crossing the street might actually not understand cosplay and believe I really have one eye so they shift out of my way (in NY they’d normally run into you and then turn and swear at you for not moving).
I don’t regret the eye patch nearly as much as the one thing that I do consider a big mistake. I loved Lolita fashion from a visual aesthetic. I created a Lolita and steampunkish version of Alice Liddell from Alice in Wonderland. I also wore one of those cheap party store “sexy Alice” outfits for a photoshoot because the photographer asked me to try the collection of things he had available. Lolita is unfortunately rooted in pedophilia. You can’t really escape that no matter how adorable the dress is. But for years, that’s all I saw: cute dresses and pretty hair bows. Once I started reading more about the creepy infantilization of women, I began to get annoyed with myself for having done those photoshoots. No one would have necessarily guessed that I was trying to portray an older version of Alice; there was no reason for them to decipher that even though audiences have seen plenty of re-imaginings of the character in outlets like Once Upon a Time.
WHO CAN BE A FULL-TIME CHAMPION?
I certainly didn’t share Elsa’s post to get on some kind of platform and be an abled-bodied spokesperson for a community that doesn’t need my voice in the first place. I shared it because I have made cosplay mistakes and I have friends who have also made similar mistakes. I haven’t approached them, but I hoped they would see the post and give their cosplay choices deeper consideration.
What’s alarming is that all the commenters on the post on my own Facebook were men. Each one saying neither of us have the right to be upset. Calling Elsa angry as if that’s a problem. Yes, she was angry. She knew about a situation at a convention she attended and it made her angry. Should women be devoid of the anger emotion? I know plenty of men would just love that!
And then they try to trap me in arguments: If you’re offended by THIS why aren’t you offended by THAT? Well, dudes, first of all if you follow me you ought to know that I’m pissed off about a lot of things. Today, it was this issue. I isolated the issue in order to present it to the world and hope that it would help people who attend comic cons whether they are the speaker, a ticket holder, or a cosplayer. That’s what I chose to talk about on that day. I’ve talked about transgender issues on other days. I’ve talked about mental health on other days. I’ve talked about domestic violence and animal abuse and a myriad of concerns all on different fucking days. I don’t need to be the universal champion of all things every goddamn day.