In yet another case of someone being a dick to cosplayers at a convention, a group of Lara Croft cosplayers was harassed by a journalist at PAX East in Boston last weekend. The group had assembled in front of the Tomb Raider booth to help celebrate the release of the latest game when someone approached them looking to do an interview. Instead of asking them relevant questions, however, the individual decided their sex lives were of more interest to his readers.
The Mary Sue conducted a very insightful set of interviews with some of those who were involved in the incident. One of the cosplayers on hand, Lauren Wizemann, had this to say about how the whole thing started:
The other Laras all wore khakis, combat boots, grey tanks, had a bow and did some blood makeup. I think we were all pretty excited. We were taking pictures in the booth and then we moved out towards the walkway so that people walking by could see a group of Lara Crofts. We took more pictures and then this guy comes up and asks if he could ask a few questions. His partner had a more professional looking camera and so I think all of us just shrugged and said ok.
She also had this to say regarding the experience as a whole:
I felt very guilty and shameful because there were young women in our group and I couldn’t do anything about it. Granted, no one should have to experience that, but it’s worse when it’s a kid or a teenager who might not have the personal tools and experiences to handle it. The least I can do is talk about it and help raise awareness that this stuff happens.
So what caused the situation to go from interview to offensive? Apparently the first question out of the interviewer’s mouth was:
How does it feel to be at a convention where none of the men could please you?
While it may not reach quite the same levels as some of the other crap that has occurred in the past, it was still likely the beginning of what could have turned into something more ludicrous. And considering that some of the cosplayers were as young as 15-years-old, the question may have even bordered on breaking a law or two.
Meagan Marie, the Community & Communication Manager at Crystal Dynamics (those are the folks that develop Tomb Raider, in case you didn’t know), was there when it went down and this to say about it:
I moved in closer and inquired “Excuse me, what did you ask?” with a forced smile on my face, so to give him the benefit of the doubt. He laughed and didn’t respond, moving a few steps away as I repeated the question to the group of women. Turns out he’d probed what it felt like “knowing that none of the men in this room could please them in bed.” Yes, I’m aware it’s a poor adaptation of a gag told by a certain puppet dog with an affinity for insults. Lack of originally doesn’t excuse this behavior, however.
My anger flared upon hearing this, and for a moment I almost let it get the best of me. I attempted to calm myself down before walking towards him and the cameraman, and expressing that it was rude and unprofessional to assume that these young women were comfortable discussing sexual matters on camera. I intended to leave the conversation at that, but his subsequent response escalated matters quickly and clearly illustrated that this ran much deeper than a poor attempt at humor. He proceeded to tell me that “I was one of those oversensitive feminists” and that “the girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.” Yes, he pulled the “cosplay is consent” card.
At this point, as he snaked off into the crowd muttering angrily at me, I was livid.
Luckily, the conflict didn’t escalate, though a conflict was certainly necessary to stop things before they got out of hand. Hopefully more awareness of this sort of behavior will encourage those addressed in this manner to express their indignation and discourage journalists with no real questions to ask from using harassment as a substitute for proper reporting. Over time, we may even get the people who never developed their social skills past junior high school to either grow up or get out.
For a more thorough breakdown of the interview, head over to The Mary Sue and read the entire thing.