By Veronica Arreola
A comic book convention is not where you would plan to talk to your pre-teen about body autonomy, but discussions about harassment of women as they cosplay put consent on the agenda for a father-daughter outing at C2E2 last year. Wendy, age 11, pointed out the “Cosplay is not consent” to her dad as they entered McCormick Place convention center.
C2E2 is Chicago’s pop culture extravaganza that brings together fans of comic book characters, TV, sci-fi movies and even professional wrestling. Many attendees cosplay, or dress up like their favorite character, thus making my “Little Mermaid” tee shirt look fairly amateur. Wendy’s dad said it is important to discuss consent at these events. While she does not dress in provocative costumes, during her first C2E2 in a full body Totoro costume, Wendy was touched without consent. “As she gets older and she becomes a teenager it can become more of an issue.” Her dad notes that some of the blogs Wendy reads are very focused on “Cosplay is not consent” so it makes her think about it. These conversations have Wendy already thinking about consent at C2E2 and outside the convention center.
I met Wendy in line for the “Kick Ass Women of Marvel” panel. You would not think that a pre-teen would want to hang out at panels discussing topics like feminism, but that is what she and other young women did. They got up and asked hard-hitting questions of their feminist role models: Will we get to see how Peggy formed S.H.I.E.L.D. and if she incorporates women in leadership? Most of the questions by young women focused on trying to find life lessons from the actors. One young woman was heading off to college in the fall to major in engineering and wanted words of advice since she knew men would outnumber her. Other issues the women addressed at the panels included equal pay, learning that it is ok to not be a people-pleaser, saying no to roles that degrade women, standing up for yourself, raising boys to be feminists and loving yourself.
No one asked when the characters would get married, have kids, or other stereotypical female issues. Fans wanted to know how much more kick ass their favorite characters would be next season and how they could be kick ass in their own lives.
Women and girls have always been a part of comics culture, but their visibility is growing. Wendy already counts Thor: Goddess of Thunder as one of her favorite characters and when I talked to her, we still did not know who new Thor was! Thor’s writers have tackled the idea that feminism weakens comic culture inside the comic itself. The character Wendy cosplayed this year — Molly, from Lumberjanes — is another of her favorites, and now mine too. It’s like Buffy joins the Girls Scouts, where women in history are often cited. Sensation’s Women Wonder series has addressed the lack of women astronauts and women in combat roles. Adding a discussion about consent to fans of all genders is move evidence of how women’s growing roles is changing the community for the better.
So while Denver’s Comic-Con had a panel on women in comics without women, some fanboys cried over a woman becoming the new Thor and were outraged over the ecofeminist plot of “Fury Road,” anyone at C2E2 would know that women are a huge part of the fandom and they are not going anywhere. And we’re bringing feminism, too.
Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist, writer and mom. You can find her writing at Bitch Media and The Broad Side, as well as her own blog, Viva la Feminista. You can find her on Twitter at @veronicaeye.