Anime North cosplayers fight against sexual harassment

Published On May 23, 2018 | By amychen | Arts, News

Ethriena San cosplaying as Okita Saber from the Fate series. Photo provided by Ethriena San. (MH Photography)

Amy Chen

With Anime North beginning this Friday, the cosplay community is teaming up to fight against sexual harassment.

While conventions allow individuals to cosplay their characters, it also allows them to raise issues about misogyny and consent. 

Raising these issues is especially important to Samantha Joy Nonan, who will be cosplaying Lunafreya Nox Fleuret from Final Fantasy XV. Lunafreya is a character Nonan relates to and who she draws inspiration from.

“She’s a strong and compassionate women who sees good and hope and believes in her loved ones. She’s not afraid to fight or protect those she loves even until death,” Nonan told Humber News.

As a champion fighting for the need to take action when cosplays are faced with harassment, Nonan suggests that conventions put up notices, warning signs and videos to educate people.

“I think conventions should ensure a safety program for volunteers and staff to see any signs of distress,” Nonan said. 

She recalled a time when she felt uncomfortable with photographers and convention-goers, and without properly enforced rules and regulations, faced harassment because of her cosplay and gender.

“I felt uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do. I was alone, they were asking for a picture which is a normal thing but then asked for certain poses which made me feel uncomfortable,” she said.

“Like showing more skin by bending over a certain angle, telling me to fix my skirt, because it was covering my legs too much. My mind was blank. I didn’t know how to react. I was petrified internally.”

“More often than not, it’s girls who get harassed, which is really, really horrible.” – Tarif Khondker

Tarif Khondker cosplaying as Vanitas from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Photo provided by Tarif Khondker. (Droo Photographer)

Tarif Khondker is another cosplayer who will attend Anime North this weekend. He will cosplay Vanitas from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and looks forward to bringing the character to life with a handcrafted Keyblade.

“I’m excited to bring that back. Especially since Kingdom Hearts is getting a lot more attention now, because some of the supposed release dates, screenshots and trailers that have come out,” he said.

Like Nonan, Khondker champions the need for action when it comes to harassment at conventions.

Sometimes, photographers or other attendees can act inappropriately.

“What I do is try to not to be rude and confrontational. I say, ‘Oh, hey. I need to got to this panel, so I’ll catch you later,’” Khondker said. 

“But sometimes, when one of my friends gets stopped, or if I’m feeling uncomfortable, someone will come up to be like, ‘Hey! We need to go check this thing out,’” he said. “Or I’ll do the same thing. It’s similar to club situations when someone’s being bothered,” he said.

“There are sometimes cosplayers who wear revealing outfits, which is cool and all the more power to them,” he said.

“But that doesn’t give people the right to say derogatory, sexual statements to them. And more often than not, it’s girls who get harassed, which is really, really horrible.”

Khondker suggests amping up educating everyone about sexual harassment.

“Staff, security and volunteers should all be privy to that sort of thing. Not just like jump in if something goes wrong, but rather investigate, interfere, ad say things like, “Hey, what’s going on? Is someone doing something wrong? Do you feel uncomfortable?’” he said.

“I want to be able to do something I love without worrying about my safety.” – Ethriena San

Ethriena San, who is also part of the Toronto cosplay community and is aware of how cosplay is not consent, will be cosplaying as Jeanne d’arc Alter (Jalter) from the Fate series at Anime North.

“I really adore Jalter’s design as a whole, and wearing an armoured cosplay has always been one of my dreams,” San said. “She is a powerful woman, and one of the strongest characters in the game. I love to see powerful female characters, which usually convinces me to cosplay them.”

Like Khondker, San also has suggestions to address the issue of harassment. She recommends  more signs around conventions, as well as educating attendees through program books and panels.

“Cosplayers are still people,” San said.

“It’s important to understand that it’s our cosplay that we worked hard for, and essentially our body. We have to let people know that it’s our right to decide if we’re comfortable or not to do something like having a photo taken,” she said.

Vivian Bui in one of her full cosplays. Photo provided by Vivian Bui. (Lazy Fox MI)

San knows cosplaying a character is important as an experience – and it requires hard work.

“We all want to have fun, and we all want to do something we love, and, in my case, that is cosplaying. I want to be able to do something I love without worrying about my safety.”

Vivian Bui, who will be cosplaying Momo Yaoyorozu from My Hero Academia, agrees, emphasizing that cosplayers are people. 

“We shouldn’t ignore the person behind the character. Assuming that you can do whatever you want with someone based on the clothing that they wear is ridiculous, regardless of the outfit,” she said.

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