Slut Shaming and Concern Trolling in Geek Culture

The skirt length is Starfleet Regulation. I wouldn't want to go against the admiralty.

The skirt length is Starfleet Regulation. I wouldn’t want to go against the admiralty.

“Honey, your skirt is a little short.”

To be fair, it was a little short. It was short intentionally. I was dressed in a science officer costume from Star Trek: The Original Series. Not the sleek little work-appropriate but still sexy jewel tone tunics from the new movie, but the flared, strangely-constructed, unapologetically teal and chartreuse polyester cheerleader dresses that fit perfectly with the (now) retrofuturistic vibe of the original show. It’s a screen accurate dress. And by “screen accurate” I mean “short”. And at the beginning of the day, I just assumed the lady who commented was pointing out that I needed to tug down the dress a bit. That was the first comment. After the next 30 or so, I had had enough.

I was at Balticon, a great science fiction convention that leans more to the literary side than the ones that are normally in my wheelhouse. This was my second year going to this con, and my second year costuming there. Last year I brought several costumes, but only wore one: a fairly conservative X-Men costume that didn’t involve skintight spandex, cleavage or even any bare skin below my neck. I did that because I knew the moment I walked in that it wasn’t the kind of con I wanted to wear my Ms Marvel costume. I wore that outfit for all of Saturday, became extremely annoyed with the response I was getting and then dressed in normal clothes on Sunday.

As a costumer, you have to develop a fairly keen sense for what is a safe space and what is not. I felt safe at Balticon both years. It isn’t a space where any harm would come to me. I could wear anything I want there and I wouldn’t come to any legal form of harm. That said, the responses I was getting made me want to run away. Or possibly take a shower to wash off the feeling of eyes and comments.

This year, in my Star Trek dress, I was just as uncomfortable, but I decided to say frak it and ignore them. The discomfort came from a constant stream of microaggressions. A constant flow of women leaning in and stage whispering in mock-concern about how short my skirt was. A constant flow of men grilling me about whether I had watched the series, and trying to trip me up on trivia. And many of them looking affronted when I corrected them that I was not, actually, Nurse Chapel or Yeoman Rand. For one thing, if I was Yeoman Rand, I would have the perfect blonde basketweave beehive. For another thing, the rank braid on my uniform shows that I’m a LIEUTENANT, thank you very much, Mr. Fake Geek Girl Screener. I assume I passed?

At a convention like Dragon*Con, or CONvergence, or Pandoracon, in costume I feel like I’m part of the convention crowd. Yes, I’m a good costumer, and I look good in my costumes, but at the end of the day, I’m another nerd geeking out like crazy over her favorite subjects.

Dragon*Con isn’t perfect, and in most ways, is a much less safe convention for a woman. However, at Dragon*Con, I am accepted as a costumer. At a con like Balticon, I’m celebrated as eye candy. I felt like I was placed in the role of Convention Booth Babe, receiving both the objectified interest from the men and the scorn of the women.

That’s a problem.

I do need to point out here, that none of this came from people involved with the con. In fact, everyone even slightly officially affiliated with Balticon was respectful, concerned and nerdily-excited about my outfit, my hair, the screen-accurate seams. The staff, the volunteers, the program participants, even the people working the tables for other events were all wonderful.

The people attending, on the other hand, were Not Comfortable With The Way I Chose to Present. I felt like they really, really wanted me to go back to my room and change into a long, historically accurate, shapeless Medieval dress. Or jeans and a geek t-shirt. Either would be acceptable: not too aggressively feminine, but not dressed nicely enough to make them nervous they were being invaded by mundanes.

We in the nerd community have a tendency to make fun of the “fashionable people” or the “cool kids”. The ones who dress alike and spend their lives being sheep to the newest styles. Part of the fascination on social media with watching Abercrombie and Fitch’s fall from grace seemed to be a form of schadenfreude, against the pretty people who had made our lives hell in high school/college/life and who so proudly wore that brand as a mark of tribal membership.

We celebrate our community for being thoughtful and intelligent and welcoming of weirdness. But we do the exact same policing to our own that we see in mainstream society. Women who, at one end of the spectrum, put too much effort into their looks, whether in costume or not, are ostracized. Women at the other end of the spectrum, who don’t meet the standards of nerdy attractiveness set by the menfolk, are ignored entirely. If you don’t fit that happy medium of “kinda hot, but not hot enough that you know you don’t have to sleep with me”, you’re either a non-entity, or a walking Barbie and treated as such.

This is not a problem unique to nerds, of course. It is just an extension of the same in-group presentation policing that every aspect of society does. However, once again, it’s coming from a community that delights in being offbeat, in being accepting, in being interesting. But only interesting within the narrow margins of what white male geeks consider “real geekdom”. Once a woman decides she wants to dress up as a character, or decides that she’s going to wear an awesome outfit even though she’s heavier than what society says should be acceptable, or, heaven forbid, decides to speak up on nerd topics, she is immediately ostracized, ignored or objectified. Often in much more subtle and ostensibly socially acceptable forms than the abuse heaped on Anita Sarkeesian or Rebecca Watson. Often in ways that are neither obvious nor actionable. Often in ways that are extremely mild until they pile up interaction after interaction, hour after hour, day after day.

So how do we fix these problems? The subtle ones. The microaggressions. The people who don’t realize that they’re causing harm through their words and actions. The women who want to make sure I know I look a little slutty. The men who might think they’re just having a conversation, but are really hitting every hot button of geek gatekeeping they can.

Cosplay is not Consent campaigns are great for events like Dragon*Con and CONvergence, but the kind of problems at this con were different and not easily addressed through something like that. No one touched me, or even made inappropriate come-ons. No one groped me, cornered me, made me feel like I was in danger. I never worried about walking the halls alone, even late at night, costume or not.

These things aren’t really things a convention can control, except through patient modeling of appropriate behavior, and reaching out to a more diverse audience. Balticon is trying to do that, and I give them kudos for that. I really enjoy going to this con and I plan to go back next year.

Unfortunately, the default assumption of convention space is “male space” The really annoying thing about this whole discussion? Convention space has never been a space that was solely the domain of men. From the very beginning of the fandom that I chose to represent at Balticon — Star Trek — conventions had women. Women creating costumes, dressing as Klingons. Women discussing gender and racial politics in the series. Women participating in collaborative remixing of the canon. There have always been women objecting to “warrior women” on the covers of books and magazines and protesting the misogynistic habits of male writers who enjoy pinching and groping. There have always been women using science fiction to rewrite gender assumptions. They were there. They are there. They’ve always been there. The history of geekdom is not a history of men, it’s a history of invisible women.

At this point I could easily throw my hands up in defeat and say “It’s always been like that. I can’t do anything to fix it. I’m just one person in a long history of women and other minorities fighting for their voice in nerd space. And yes, I get tired of fighting it. Sometimes, like last year, I get so tired that I wear ‘normal’ clothes for the rest of the convention, just so I don’t have to deal with the crap.

But that’s not going to fix anything. If other women are feeling the same way I do, they might be turned off from that con entirely. Or lose all desire to attend *any* cons. Or participate in geek culture at all. It happens. All too often. The story of the woman dealing with comments about her costume is the same story as the girl who walks into a comic shop, only to have all of the denizens come to a complete stop and stare angrily at her. It’s the same story of the girl gamer who plays as a man so that she doesn’t get the come-ons and “compliments”.

So, in my case, I’ve decided that my solution starts with me.

Rather than bitching to my friends about the comments, backhanded compliments and trivia grilling sessions, I’m going to say something. I will respond to comments about my skirt being too short with questions about why that’s a problem. I will call out men grilling me about trivia (I do that already, but I need to do it more consistently.)

There is no reason I should have to do this, but I came to realize something in reflecting on events at Balticon: I am, at all conventions, surrounded by people who accept me, who care for me and who are willing to hand me a gin and tonic or three when I look like I’m about ready to punch the next person who comments on my skirt. It’s not a position of power, but it is a position of safety. Every place I go will not be a safe space, but the people around me make it one for me.

So my solution? Not be invisible. Not anymore. Not let my legs and skirt short speak for my presence, but speak for myself. Challenge the male gaze both metaphorically and literally. Sitting in the bar and fuming at other convention attendees won’t help. Opening my mouth and answering them just might. Or it might make other people witnessing the exchange think about what happened. Point out that I can both wear a short skirt and have a brain under my beehive. Out loud. And probably snarkily.

I have a privileged position, in that I can do this and then safely retreat to my friends and colleagues. I am not walking into a convention alone and for the first time. So if I can speak out a little bit and make sure that other women, who don’t have the space to safely challenge the microaggressions, might stick around and develop their own support network, I will challenge it. Because I can. I’m tired of being invisible except when being objectified, so I’m not going to be anymore.

And if anyone wants to fight me about it? You can find me in the bar. Surrounded by 40+ skeptics, costumers and science communicators who have had a little too much bourbon, and who fully embrace my right to be there. Good luck with that.

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333 thoughts on “Slut Shaming and Concern Trolling in Geek Culture

  1. We saw you at Balticon (high five!) and thought you were rocking the uniform like a champ. I have no idea who these nay-saying jerks are, but I think I represent the silent majority in saying you brought a nice bit of flare to the con.

    • Dear Emily,
      Lovely costume! You carried it off well. Saw you in the halls at Balticon as I was traveling between the Science Program in Salon A and either the con suite (for more coffee) or the Ladies ( to make room for the next cup of coffee). Sorry you were harrassed-probably by some neos who have yet to be “assimilated” to con culture. Miriam@BSFS.ORG, BSFS, 3310 E.Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD

      • Glad you saw her, Miriam – I totally missed her (I *think*)! I’m sorry I didn’t hear any of the other crap because, yeah, i would have said something. I’m a terrific costume geek, & I have been ready for the “fake geek girl crap” since I first heard of it.

        Emily, PLEASE come back to Balticon – or, better yet, come to BSFS & make enough friends who will take care of these idiots for you!

        • Thank you, JRDSkinner, miriam and Susan! I’m not a local, but I do plan on coming back for Balticon next year. I love the people I see there too much to stay away. :) I would love to meet all of you next year.

          The “fake geek girl” crap is particularly insidious because the gentlemen who do it generally don’t mean harm in the moment, so it’s hard to respond to them in a way that makes them an immediate enemy. Hopefully I’ll have that worked out by next Balticon! (Or not, but I’ll continue to work on it. ^.^ )

          • It is very possible that the “trivia geeks” are trying to impress you with their knowledge, rather than trying to make you feel like a “fake geek girl”

            I think I was 14, when I saw one of my first detailed cosplay outfits – a boy not much older dressed as a member of Red Squadron. I went up and fangirled, thinking “this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.” So, of course I tried to impress my new friend by showing that I really liked Star Wars, too, and pulling out all my geeky trivia.
            As you might guess, this did Not Go Well.

            That is one of the most amazing Star Trek costume I have ever seen. I would have approached you at BC.

            What sounds like a “fake geek girl” gatekeeping to the the person being questioned very well might be “I think you are awesome and we like the same things” to the person doing the questioning.

            I think that the real problem is that people in costume are treated like they are characters. And the better the costume, the harder it is to distinguish between creator and creation.

      • “Sorry you were harrassed-probably by some neos who have yet to be “assimilated” to con culture. ”

        I am not a costumer, but I’ve been harassed and known people who have been harassed by both newcomers and people who have been in fandom for decades. I boycotted a popular local convention for several years because one of the harassers was elected ConChair. There is no magic forcefield that keeps jerks out of sci-fi geekdom. This is the “no true Scotsman” argument, and it is harmful because it silences women in order to preserve the status quo. That dude who gave you a hard time was probably a Mundane, so there’s no need to worry about policing our own.

        • Sorry, but this is NOT a “no true Scotsman” argument. It happened to me when I was younger and slimmer, and it happens at literary conventions like Readercon when a woman dares speak up about harassment, and it happens at media conventions and on message boards and Facebook and Tumblr and everywhere else. Harassing, shaming, demanding litmus tests of women (and ONLY women, unless there are hoards of women harassing buff guys who dress up as Captain America, *which there almost certainly are not*) – this has been part of geek culture since before most of the people who post on this board are alive –

          And you, yes YOU, are contributing to it, first by refusing to believe this woman’s FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT of her experience, and then by saying that you don’t believe that someone who went to BALTICON, for Christ’s sake, and grilled this woman about her knowledge of TOS, was probably a mundane. Do you have even the slightest idea of how this comes across? How arrogant? How STUPID? Did you even bother to read the whole article?

          Shame on YOU for proving her point.

          • Actually, I believe Sydney’s “No True Scotsman Fallacy” comment was specifically directed at the ‘Sorry you were harrassed-probably by some neos who have yet to be “assimilated” to con culture’ comment by Miriam Winder Kelly, not at Ms. Finke’s article. Ms. Kelly’s statement does indeed appear to be a ‘No True Scotsman’ – she’s implying the offenses are more likely to have been committed by ‘non-con-folk’ than ‘proper-con-folk’. Now, if the assimilation process is formalized and includes harassment training with objective testing, there is no fallacy, but…

            Admittedly, the lack of quotes or other punctuation clearly indicating sarcasm around Sydney’s last sentence makes it a little harder to see, but I think your positions (i.e. harassment does occur, you have personal experience, and saying harassment is a ‘Mundane’ thing is harmful) are more or less congruent.

      • “Sorry you were harrassed-probably by some neos who have yet to be “assimilated” to con culture.” I sat on a panel at a British con this year and was given the same line. It is absolute nonsense. I have found problems across the board and it is invariably those who have been around forever that make me feel the most uncomfortable and unwelcome.

      • Chiming in with the “It’s not newbies” chorus: I got the nerd-grilling-and-gatekeeping treatment at my first Trek con in 1982. A female Trekkie at a con was… assumed to be someone’s girlfriend, no matter how many identifiers I wore. (I had IDIC and “Catspaw” Enterprise necklaces.) And I wasn’t even in costume, so I’m sure I missed out on a lot of the abuse. It was only mildly annoying at that first extremely small con, but it was certainly in-my-face at Philcon and Creation cons in the early 90s.

        The sad part is that when I saw my first cosplayers in 1990, I remember being uncomfortable and judgmental about some revealing (and completely canon) Klingon costumes. I had thoroughly absorbed misogyny and slut shaming culture, and was too full of assumptions based on the arbitrary conventions of my own insular group, to realize that I was part of the problem. Thankfully, I had the rudiments of manners not to SAY anything, but I’m still sorry.

        So please, speak up, as you might catch at least a few people like younger!me who haven’t yet thought through their prejudices and are still stuck in the 20th century in a way that a SF fan really ought not to be.

        … And it’s an impressive outfit, Lieutenant. :)

    • JRD, saying what I was thinking.

      You rocked the costume, sure the skirt was short, but it was modest, and even if it wasn’t who cares. People have no right. Had I known you were getting all of these comments I wouldn’t have merely taken your picture but might have verbally smacked some folk down for you too.

      Wear whatever you like, and flaunt it. You are awesome, and often insecure people can’t handle those of us who are willing to be ourselves.

      As for the fake geek quizes, again, point me at them :)

      Hope to see you at Balticon next year.

      • Skipped Balti this year (work) but I think I saw you last year. Try some more New Media track programming. Some really awesome people over there who know that women kick arse regardless of skirt length. ;)

        • The New Media track is one of the things that draws me to Balticon! The ladies and gentlemen in that track are, without exception, awesome. Plus, some of the men were rocking their toga skirts just as hard as any of the cosplayer ladies.

    • Your costume was superb. I felt a little sad reading your post – both in sympathy for the position you were put in, and by the fact that although you are right about the “male” culture of gaming, you seem to completely miss the point that the biggest critics of women are other women.

      Is it not possible that (some) women are a large part of creating the very culture that other women (such as yourself) rightly rail against? I think that the greatest danger to feminism in modern culture comes from women such as Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and their legion of supporters.

      • I don’t know about the other women who have commented here, but I know that in my experience, it is usually the male people in geekdom (including at cons) who make me feel like I’m not welcome because I’m an attractive young woman – like ‘attractive young woman’ = ‘FAKE GEEK! Must make it clear they do not belong!’ The fact that I have been a giant geek my entire life means nothing, because one look at me and they make all kinds of assumptions. The fact that I am subject to this less often since I a) cut my previously-long hair to bob length, and b) started dying it colours other than blonde (which BTW, was my original hair colour) says a lot about how much I am judged in geek circles simply on my appearance.

        Is it not possible that (some) women are a large part of creating the very culture that other women (such as yourself) rightly rail against? I think that the greatest danger to feminism in modern culture comes from women such as Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and their legion of supporters.

        And yet, if all men were supportive of feminism in both word and deed, do you really think that the culture would be the way it is? Now try reversing that – even if all women were utterly supportive of feminism and each other, we would still have the same culture we do now. So no, I don’t agree with you there.

        I’ve seen quite a lot of discussions on this, and usually people pull out the ‘women putting down other women is the biggest problem!’ line when they want to minimise the effects of this kind of culture (and the dominant role men play in it), or want to shut down valid discussion.

  2. BRAVA! I’ve attended Balticons on and off (lately more off than on) since #18, and I agree with this 100%. Wearing a costume, revealing or not, should not instantly reduce you to a quiz generator or store mannequin. Sharing your comments because I agree with them completely. Thanks for taking the time to write!

  3. I wonder if the women who were making these comments were just secretly jealous. This happens in all aspects of life, not just geekdom. I’m sure the cheerleaders in your high school had similar comments made by the geekier girls. And the men, the ones who are grilling you, to test your geek knowledge-they have been spurned by pretty girls their whole loves. They have no right to take that out on you, or any other woman. Bravo for having a thick skin and enjoying your convention. All those people, they’re just haters. Rock on with your geek self.

    • intra-gender policing doesn’t have anything to do with “jealousy”; that’s a pointlessly individualistic explanation that also makes women look shallow and nasty. inter-gender policing doesn’t have anything to do with being a spurned virgin. those people are not “just haters”.

      not everything in the world is reducible to sex, nor is the lack of sexiness/sex the cause for enforcement of gender roles. That’s just letting systemic sexism off the hook and blaming it on completely irrelevant and largely imagined faults of the individuals.

    • Sorry Chad, I can see you mean well, but that analysis is pretty sexist. I’ve certainly said bad things to women due to jealousy, but I’ve also done so for other reasons. Policing fellow women is complex, and cannot be reduced to one factor so easily.

          • No, men are just as complex and deep as women are. By saying “men are simple and can be reduced that way” you are selling men short. By saying they’re “simple” you’re excusing them from the requirement to think about their choices and their behaviour.

            Stop. Please.

      • What kind of woman – other than your own mother, generally – would think they have any right or reason to tell another woman, especially a stranger, that their clothing is inappropriate? Short of warning someone that they are actually breaking decency laws, that is. What possible reason could someone come up with to go up to a stranger and tell them that (or say it as they pass by)? Even if a person thinks “Oh, my! That other woman’s skirt is way too short/corset is a bit small for a bust that size!” You just DO NOT EVER, as a stranger, have a go at them (or come on all passive-aggressive). You can mutter to your friends, quietly. You can roll your eyes, with your back turned. But you do not get to try to put another person down for your own petty enjoyment or to try and enforce some invisible rules that nobody else either knows about or gives a damn about.

        I, as a “mature” geek woman (haven’t been a girl in decades), would like to say that I cannot even begin to imagine what must go through their minds to trigger such uncivil, impolite, mean and wrong behaviour to a stranger. (There’s an old rule. It’s still a fucking good rule. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Really. There is never any justification for it.)

        But, having witnessed a certain type of this low-grade passive-aggressive behaviour close up (family dynamic), I can say that in that situation it was simply a technique for doing the following:
        - make other person feel bad/wrong & thus, she believes, herself feel & appear superior, especially in public
        - double that if that person gets angry or upset in public so she can pull the *innocent face* “what did I say?” and appear to be the victim

        There are only two ways to deal with it properly. One: Ignore it. Walk away. And I do mean ignore. Don’t even repeat it in your own head. But that’s hard to do. So, two: confront it calmly. “Why do you feel the need to tell me this?” “Is this comment leading somewhere other than an attempt to belittle or upset me?” “Do you have a phobia about legs/cake/cleavage/make-up/whatever-the-target-area-was?” “If it bothers you so much, don’t look.”

        I will now admit that I am in the UK and I haven’t, to my knowledge, come across this within the fan/geek communities that I inhabit (the closest was a hotel staff member getting twitchy about costumes). Does it happen so much more in US (or other non-UK) events? I sort of get the feeling that the UK fans are mostly still programmed with the “polite” gene – but perhaps I’m just not seeing it. Maybe I should wear something suitably “shock and awe” inspiring to an event and see if anyone simply can’t contain themselves at this almost 50 year old, disabled, obese woman showing off her body! How simply dreadful. And the guys can try and trip me up on geek trivia but, you know what? My answer to that is “I don’t have to have memorised the entire fictional universe of a specific area of fandom and all peripheral works to enjoy it. Calm down or you’re going to give yourself a concussion.”

    • They might also have been made uncomfortable by the hyper-sexualization of what, for them, is a nonsexual space. That seems, to me, to be a potentially legitimate complaint.
      Dialog is probably the right answer, but labeling them “jealous” is highly unlikely to be productive.

      • Exactly where is this “hyper-sexualization” you speak of? Because I see nothing even regular sexual, let alone hyper-sexual.

    • I think it’s much more likely that at least some of them were afraid for her safety, given some very high profile sexual harassment incidents at cons in the last couple of years.

      • Fantastic. So they weren’t slut-shamers, they were rape-cultureists. Suggesting someone cover up because you’re afraid they will be assaulted is just the pre-emptive version of asking “well what was she wearing” when you hear of a rape incident.

  4. Convergent thinking – I posted about something along these lines today, but much, much less eloquently . You’re amazing, and your costume is amazing. Rock on!

    • I just read your post about wanting to do Wonder Woman! You should! The thing that makes a cosplayer awesome to be around is their confidence, not their weight, and I would love to see more people of all shapes and sizes rock Wonder Woman. Because you know Diana herself would approve!

  5. It’s far worse to go to a con and see all the fat people who don’t exercise and they’re wearing clothes that don’t fit them than wear something that looks good on you but might be considered too short by others.

    • Seriously?
      You respond to this piece on microagression with a slur at people who are overweight?
      Why should your sense of what you don’t like to see be more important than any person’s ability to enjoy themselves without fear of shaming (slut, fat, or otherwise)?

    • We don’t need backhanded support from people like you, Ted. To Quote the article:

      “Once a woman decides she wants to dress up as a character, or decides that she’s going to wear an awesome outfit even though she’s heavier than what society says should be acceptable, or, heaven forbid, decides to speak up on nerd topics, she is immediately ostracized, ignored or objectified. ”

      People like you are part of the problem in this culture. You don’t have the right to judge other people for their costume. Cosplay is not about looking like a character. It’s not about having the ‘right skin, right race, right body’ for a character. Cosplay is about loving a character, loving a series, and making a costume that expresses that, regardless of what you look like, if the costume was bought or homemade, or what other people think.

      Emily, thank you for putting up an article that so eloquently expresses the problem of people judging others in cosplay. While I don’t go to many sci-fi conventions (i’m afraid that while I ADORE ST:TNG, I don’t memorize enough trivia to feel accepted at them) the same problems occur at anime, gaming, and comic conventions and it really ruins the fun for new cosplayers and discourages many of them, especially the younger ones who haven’t developed a thick skin yet. Bravo to you!

      • Bravo. As a male Cosplayer I abhor the one up attitude of some fans. The entire purpose of cosplay is to celebrate a fandom not fight and jockey for position in a hierarchy. Also, as a male cosplayer I can assure you that the trivia barrage isn’t directed solely at female cosplayers. Anytime I put on a costume I spend half of my evening dismissing super-nerds and ignoring comments on how that one button isn’t screen accurate.
        If you are brave enough to put on a costume and go out into public you deserve some respect and some admiration.

        • Completely agree with Rev. According to Ted, I would be considered to be one of those cosplayers who doesn’t exercise.

          I was terrified of going to a recent con as Batman because I am a large guy and was worried about comments. Surprisingly for me I didn’t hear a bad word. It’s when I got home and looked for photos that I started noticing the comments. The fact is Ted, I’ve been exercising constantly. I’ve lost 80 lbs in the past two years and I’m still working my best to lose it. You don’t know why a person is that size so don’t go assuming that they’re lazy and not bothering to exercise. They’re doing the damned best they can.

          What upsets me more is that I know by being male, I’m not even being criticised one tenth as hard as other genders are. We get criticised, but I don’t think we can imagine how much worse it is for others.

          Thank you for this article, Emily. I’m not gonna stop doing what gave me so much fun at the weekend.

          • Michael, you gave me a second’s pause with your phrase “…as other genders are.” It took me that long to understand how easily, simply and automatically you were able to include multiple groups of people who are otherwise invisible in this conversation. As one of those often-invisible people, I applaud you and thank you.

        • Bravo sir! i do indeed agree with you since I cosplay little more creatively than “screen accurate. ‘ That kind of criticism makes geek culture more tedious and misses the point; have fun and meet new people with similar interest.

      • If a con is “worth it” to go to, you generally can pass if you can do one or more of the following: say Klatu barata nikto, do a quick live long and prosper gesture without too much fumbling (or reply to one with a “Nanu nanu”), or break out in a chorus of “Spam, spam, spam, spam…”

        But that costume looks fantastic and shouldn’t have been questioned by any true fan. Even if it was longer, had baggy seams or was made from Spandex.

      • And now look at you, doing such a good job shaming and ostracizing Ted for doing or saying something innocuous that you disagree with.

        Even the phrase “slut shaming” is, ironically, a way to shame and ostracize those who don’t share ideology and silence any objections to it. I’m trying to decide whether the SlutShamer! crowd is honestly stupid or a hypocrite or just a terrified little herd of frilled lizards.

        • BZZZT, thanks for playing. This is exactly the same argument used by so-called “Christians” who whine that not being allowed to harass gays, atheists, and pagans is “religious persecution”. Tolerance is a two-way street; if you want it, you’ve got to give it. Slut-shaming is not tolerance, and is neither morally nor legally required to be rewarded with acceptance.

        • Well, okay, but it wasn’t actually innocuous. Fat shaming is rife in this culture and it’s offensive. Using it as a backhanded way of supporting the poster is cowardly.

    • It’s really quite simple, but I’ll try to spell this out for you (since you obviously missed the point of this entire post): My body. Is not. Available to you. For comment. For any reason. The end.

      Comments like this are part of the problem.

      • Actually, anything and everything is available for comment. Whether it is your hair, body, attitude, behavior or anything else anyone is able to comment on it. What you do in relation to those comments is up to you.

    • As a Fat girl in Spadex I would like to offer you a big old fashion Fuck You on a stick while I jiggle everyone of my fat roll at you.

      Have a lovely, fat filled day! ;-)

    • The temptation to respond in an angry way seems quite prevalent but I will exercise self control. To what end do you Ted suppose that your comments would bring about? The content of it seemed very short and devoid of any reason what so ever. I suppose you considered yourself an authority on what is attractive and pressed post comment. I suggest you search yourself and ask do you live up to your own judgment of others and if so what qualifiers do you set for these apparent absolutes?

      The heart breaking truth of it all there is no shortage of criticism of anything in geek culture and Ted you have been swept up in the tidal wave of unrelenting selfish opinion. Emily is not doing anything new but rather doing something quite brave; that is making a stand that is long overdue. I feel that in the popularization of geek culture we geeks have grown fat in our opinions; discarding reason for the momentary high of verbal dominance over another. Trolling and flaming have become common place in the market place of ideas and good and noble ideas are few and at a premium.

      I plead with you Ted reconsider your comment and search within yourself what beauty truly is. Perhaps you have unwittingly given in to hate; that is the fallacy that looks are measured by an absolute marker. Life is easier when taste is free and Ted free cost little where harsh criticism’s price is too high.

  6. People i are too dang puritanical. Even if the costume was not screen accurate (but it is), who cares?

    Oh my I see some legs. We all have them

  7. As a Starfleet Admiral*, I approve this uniform.

    *Really. Peter David wrote me into a Classic Trek comic as an Admiral commanding Starbase 24, and “I”‘ve been referenced as such since in a couple of his Trek novels.

    • Grr. It really sucks that “It is not okay to touch us” has to be said, in any circumstance. Unfortunately it does. Apparently repeatedly and at great volume.

  8. I remember the outfits from the original show. The dresses were impractically short, and any turbulence on the Enterprise made them look like shirts, but that wasn’t just the style of the show, it was also the style of the day. ““Honey, your skirt is a little short.” sounds so much like something a grandmother would say – but not my grandmother, because she was a 70s grandma who wore short skirts. I wish people would come up with a term other than “slut shaming” to describe the uptight tsk-tsking that goes on when a woman wears non-matronly, non-gender neutral attire. Wearing a short dress doesn’t make you a slut, and you aren’t being shamed for being a slut – you’re being shamed for not dressing like a man or a nun.

    • No, you are being shamed for being a slut, because the assumption is that if you’re wearing something skimpy that you *are* a slut.

      (Amusingly enough, I kept typing slut as slot.)

    • Actually, it’s for being a woman and being noticeable.

      Dress in loose folds = “Oh, c’mon, what are you ashamed of”? Muslim in a hijab = “I bet that actually gets you more attention.” The nun’s habit = “I hope you understand many people find that kind of kinky.”

      That’s an amazing costume re-creation and brilliant illustration of “microagressions”… But I think the title of “Slut Shaming” obscures the real issue: men and women assuming that a woman MUST be dressing for the male gaze.

      Oh, wait, what does that make us all? Silly me. Title’s perfect.

  9. Excellent article. It’s absurd that we still need to have this discussion. Actually, not discussion. Wrong connotations. It’s absurd that poor, pathetic fools still feel the need to spoil your fun. And the trivia thing makes me fume. And not silently. I used to bar geeks from the comic shop I worked at if I heard them trying to catch anybody out. We don’t lord it over each other, for any reason. Geekdom’s a community, not a bloody heirarchy.

  10. You were being “vetted” because male geeks simply don’t believe that beautiful women could ever possibly be into the same things they are to the degree they are. It is a somewhat indirect misogyny borne out of their own insecurity. We’re trying to educate, but it’s slow going. You’re to be commended (and put in for a promotion) for your patience, IMO.

    • Some male geeks don’t believe ANY woman could be into the same things they are to the degree they are. Looks don’t come into it as often as you’d think.

  11. I have had the amazing fortune and true joy to be included in artist alley for 3 straight years at Dragon Con. I do not costume mainly because I am busy working my booth, carrying heavy things and crawling under tables and need to be as comfortable as possible. I love that you have deemed these experiences “micro-aggressions” because until now I didn’t really have a decent word to describe the weird unexpected barbs that get thrown from strangers, even when it isn’t malicious. The men who examine my art very closely to see if I got the details right and then just walk away like I have insulted them somehow, or wonder sarcastically aloud why my booth is SO packed with women, or simply come up and ask when the artist is going to get back. I do fan art (along with my regular art) because like you I am a huge fan, we shouldn’t have to prove it to anyone.
    P.S. Please come by my booth at DC. I want to show my appreciation and solidarity and give you free stuff if you like!

  12. Thank you for the article. I’ve probably always been very “acceptable” to the geek squad because I’m exactly that “attractive, but not too attractive,” dressed, but not too “in character.” I also have the privilege of a surrounding community and a long-term sense of belonging. Maybe I’ll stretch my limits for the sake of others…. after all, at 42, I’m NOT the hottest thing in the room anymore, but maybe I’ll make a Rogue or Fay (Cowboy Bebop) costume anyway.

  13. I hope that when you confront these people you are ready for all the typical retorts like “Wow, what a bitch!”, “Must be THAT time of the month”, and “Freaking lesbian, why’d she dress like that if she didn’t want us all over her.”

    Because any non-demure response (especially to males) to their trivia quizzing and unwanted advances will be threatening to them and their security. I just hope you are prepared for that. That said, I will high five you for every sniffling and angry nerd left in your wake. :D

    • Being called a lesbian is only really insulting if you care whether people think you’re one or not. Either way it amounts to the same thing: YOU have no place in MY pants. People think I’m straight all the time and you don’t see me getting my panties in a twist.

      This is an excellent article on an excellent topic that it long overdue for discussion.

    • Yes Tim: women know that this is a likely response. That’s why they so rarely get confrontational when they are subjected to microaggressions. Women aren’t stupid.

      May I ask if you are arguing if the male response is correct, and to be expected? Because I think that’s the problem right there: the notion that men feel “it’s just expected” that other men will react that way.

      More to the point, if you were standing with your best guy friend, and this exchange took place with a lady cosplayer, would you tell your guy friend that calling the lady a bitch or making gay slurs or commenting on her menstrual cycle is a totally gross and inappropriate way to respond to a woman calling him out for a microaggression? Or would you tacitly take his side because, well, of course?

      You do have a role to play here. Even if you don’t do the fake geek thing to women or the creeper thing or call them bitches yourself. You can still stand up for them when other men, and in particular the guys in your social circle, do this to them.

      • That is exactly my feeling. If I am with my friend at a con and they are acting like a dick, it is my responsibility to call them out on it because what they are doing wrong and poisoning the community.

      • I’m not the same Tim. I’m a different Tim.
        “May I ask if you are arguing if the male response is correct, and to be expected?”
        — I interpreted his statement as “I hope you’re prepared for [this reaction] because that’s what most jackasses tend to do”. I interpreted it as a statement of factual, but unfortunate, reality. But again, I’m not that Tim so I can only interpret it as a reader.

  14. While I’ve never had a chance to go to any conventions (would love to but I live in Brazil so they’re a bit far away!), I work in a very male-dominated field and absolutely know where you’re coming from. I’ve seen the ostracization of women who are deemed “too attractive” or follow standard beauty practices too closely. I’ve even experienced coworkers asking me why I dress up so often because I should just wear jeans and t-shirts apparently? It’s extremely frustrating and hard to combat these stereotypes, especially when you’re often the lone female voice speaking out.

    Anyway, keep fighting the good fight and your costume looks awesome! I seriously need to get myself a Star Trek uniform…

    • I totally agree with June. While this is a huge problem at conventions, the comments and attitudes are in no way limited to this particular sphere. I work at a certain orange-box-bent hardware store I get comments like this all the time. “Hey Tool Girl!” “Oh do you work here? But you’re so pretty!” “I support the life style choices of your kind” (Straight as an arrow, so this one always makes me laugh out loud and shock them) or my particular favorite “Can you go get one of the guys? They know more than you,” (despite myself being certified in most of the departments, being a supervisor and occasional Manager on Duty).
      Now, to me this is often water off a ducks back because I know who I am and learned in high school to care little about how others look at me as long as I feel good, but even confident women like my self, who are cross-aisle nerds (Marvel and DC, Wars and Trek, Xbox and Playstation, etc.) have never been to a con or dressed up because we know this is almost a guaranteed part of the experience. Now after hard work I managed to turn the guys at my comic store and haunts around, but that was sheer determination and a lot of obnoxious hard work. Its not fair that women have to work twice as hard, if not more, to be accepted in the geek world. However, I am so proud of you because more women need to not be silent and fight fire with fire. Bring your gal pals to the shop, go to con in groups, dress up and maybe start some nerd fights of your own. Slowly but surely we can change this culture and every little grain counts!

      Btw, your uniform looks so much better than the one I was looking at online. I thought about doing it myself but will probably up going the Voyager route for because even the concept is driving me up the wall. Did you pattern it yourself?

    • My wife likes to dress up, but has steadily stopped because people (male and female) see her and start acting inappropriately. I don’t get all the hate on someone who just wants to look pretty and girly.

      • I wear jeans and t-shirts most of the time and I get asked on a regular basis why I don’t dress up more. Can’t win.

  15. The only thing I’ve ever been moved to say to a costumer is “Nice costume!” or “Good job!” – all in the spirit that I’m impressed both that they took the time to make it, and are (for want of a better word) brave enough to wear it. And I can’t the stand the schism of elitism in geekdom that picks apart someone’s accuracy of depiction or knowledge of minutiae in trivia. I have liked Star Trek all my life, and I’ve never memorized what episode happened on what planet. I’m just happy others like it, and we can share our interests. There’s no need to out-interest or shame someone else for celebrating their own love of fandom.

  16. In my youth, I costumed, as we called it, for twenty years (that being 43 years ago, started at 13 years old) and this generation has a very wider spectrum of choices, which I’m envious of, but during my time we had a much narrower range to select from and Star Trek (yes, the original) was just freshly minted. Frankly, in my humble opinion, you have achieved a costume/uniform that is of the highest quality and your posture and mannerism are outstanding.

    You have nothing to be shamed of, thus do not allow those that lack the gravitas to sway or influence you.

    One women, who costumed during my age (yes, when the dinosaurs were still around and the Earth’s crust haven’t cold yet), was Sheri (withheld last name) who did several Star Trek costumes, including Rand and Shahna. The latter got her more photo’s taken, but I always though her Rand was dead on. However, in all those years, no one ever had the hootspa to tell her that she was anything other than glorious and had a great costume.

    I am hoping that you wear your Star Trek (or any other costume) when you are Dragon*Con, because I’m going to be looking for you (second time reading through this email, that sounds damn creepy, sorry), if for no other reason, than to say “Thank You” for being who you are and not bowing to the pressure of those that have no real idea what it’s like to costume.

    As for me, I remember those days with fondness and I’m hoping you do too. If there is a costume for me at my age, it would the bald, older, red shirt guy who survived being on the Enterprise during Kirk’s time as the Captain…

  17. I agree with Adrienne, Ted, you are missing the point, & doing exactly what she is talking about in the article. You are making assumptions based on the way a person looks. I am a large person & a costumer. I also exercise every day. So what.
    Large people are often ostracized & made fun of in ways too subtle to fight. If we hear a negative comment about our clothes or our looks or heaven forbid if we wear something in public that makes us feel sexy, then our choices are either to accept what was said which makes us want to curl up & hide, or ignore it (if we can) because if we dare to complain, then we’re often told that we have no sense of humor, or we’re just being over-sensitive. How do you fight that? I mean really, it’s a no win situation. I have spent the majority of my life feeling guilty for being large & hiding from nasty opinions & judgments about the way I look. Well I’m done hiding, because I don’t wear my costumes for you. I wear them for me. At this point, I figure, if you don’t like the way I look, then don’t look at me.

  18. Emily,

    After reading your excellent and well-presented article, I would like to invite you to speak on this very subject at a costume convention I’m chairing here in the Kansas City area: Figments and Filaments next April. Please let me know if you’d like to attend. Thank you so much for your words and courage. Stay strong and cosplay!

  19. “Not be invisible. Not anymore. Not let my legs and skirt short speak for my presence, but speak for myself. Challenge the male gaze both metaphorically and literally. Sitting in the bar and fuming at other convention attendees won’t help. Opening my mouth and answering them just might. Or it might make other people witnessing the exchange think about what happened. Point out that I can both wear a short skirt and have a brain under my beehive. Out loud. And probably snarkily.”

    I like it all, except maybe the last word – i enjoy some good snark and comeuppance and it’s a good release valve, but in the end, would that be helpful? if the trolls and slutshamers end up getting publicly zinged, are they going to change their minds or think about things — or are they going to go sit and fume and change their impression from slut to bitch and be even more close-minded because they’re now on the defensive. Of course everyone else will be thinking you’re awesome(r), but you might not be breaking through the person who obviously needs their point of view re-aligned the most. Not sure what would break through to them on the short term, but maybe there’s a fine line between snark to shut down their behavior and snark to put them down. Just a thought.

    As for the different tactics/vibe of Balticon vs D*Con – I do small cons in San Diego as well as Comic-Con and there is definitely a different sense about costuming and behavior. Large con has that whole anonymity factor (which some people use as permission to be jerks in general), and people tend to be younger. Small SF/F lit cons tend to be smaller in size (and in my area, they also tend to be attended by an older crowd), so there is no real anonymity, so people tend to behave better since they will be seen by the same people all weekend long (and may be remembered in other/future cons) – and usually con staff will help put a stop to the crap.

    random thought: if someone gives the ‘TOS dress is too short’ line, does saying “It’s screen accurate” shut them down? i can’t think of a response to that line that doesn’t make them come off well, because they can’t argue against it without exposing their own judgments over facts.

    • History shows that a short, sharp shock works quite well to bring to someone’s attention the fact that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It is not necessary to convince them of the wrongness of their behavior, only its unacceptability and intolerability.

      It’s not Ms. Finke’s job to educate sexist boors. If they find themselves moved to seek understanding regarding why their behavior is unacceptable and intolerable, Google can help them with that on their own time.

  20. As a “bridge” in tech (I’m NOT a programmer but I’m not a newbie, I speak tech AND user) I have experienced this in the workplace especially when seated with the more tech end of the business. Additionally, as someone who WAS extremely awkward and out if place as a young adult who is now ( and quite shocking to myself) considered by mass society to be attractive, it’s been an interesting journey to reflect upon the way my body and mind have been viewed by others and how that view has changed as my body has changed. I used to be safely accepted into my groups of male friends and colleagues without any worry about what I said or did. I never had to secondguess a comment or look and then adjust my behavior around my friends to avoid “the conversation”. I wasn’t an object and my ideas were taken seriously. Sadly, all of that has changed and there are days when I long to be awkward and ugly. Because I’m NOT just a body and honestly, my brain and my heart are far more important.

    Kudos to you, and I hope to live to see the day when it doesn’t matter what skin we’re in.

  21. I think I saw you and I think you rocked that dress hardcore! I dress up as whatever I want to (I was Sailormoon at Balti) and I don’t care what people say. Is my dress short? Yes. Do I (like you) have the figure to rock a dress like that? Hells Yes. Will I care when I don’t have this figure anymore? Probably not, I’ll still wear what I like.

    This kind of crap is, sadly, why I don’t do Anime cons anymore, I thought the clientele at Balti was above that :( Keep on rocking, wearing what you want and don’t let them get in your way!

    PS Have you joined the ICG?

  22. This was also only my second time at Balticon, anime cons are my usual scene and I was really shocked at how few people were even wearing costumes. If you had worn your Star Trek outfit somewhere like Otakon, where cosplay is really rampantly embraced, I really don’t think anyone would have even blinked at eye (aside from to tell you that you looked awesome, which you did). It seems like the atmosphere is very starkly different between different niches of geekdom, which surprised me. The problem really does seem to be not just the men but also how women treat each other. I was there in costume (I was one of the steampunk people who had lunch with you on Sat) and I thought it was weird that there wasn’t more camaraderie between people in similar costumes. When other women in steampunk garb walked past me they didn’t even make eye contact with me. I’m used at other cons having people run up and geek out with virtually every person they see advertising a common interest. Balticon felt colder and more competitive than what I’m used to, which was disappointing. And I’ve read some horror stories in blogs about other sci-fi cons with experiences similar to yours (and worse).

    • I guess I should amend that I have been hit on while in costume at anime cons, just never aggressively criticized or treated in a bitchy way. Skivvyness is unfortunately hard to avoid entirely.

  23. I noticed your costume at Balticon and was really impressed with its accuracy and attention to detail. I didn’t think it was inappropriate, only awesome. Hopefully for every person that felt the need to approach you and criticize you for wearing a Starfleet uniform at a science fiction convention, there were at least 10 or more of us who thought, “wow, awesome work on that costume!” I was certainly one of them.

  24. I saw you, and never made it over to compliment you on the uniform. I thought you did a GREAT job on it and looked the part, right down to the hair in a “regulation” updo. I’ve been a STAR TREK fan since the original series first aired, and I’m very pleased when I see the “retro” uniforms at cons.

    Don’t let one person’s snarky comment ruin your con experience. Like an iceberg, for every one person who thought your skirt was too short, there were 9 or more people who really appreciated what you were doing as a costumer and a fan of the series.

  25. I was called away to watch the new Man of Steel trailer when I was almost done reading this essay. So when I came back, the last few paragraphs of determined resolution had the movie soundtrack playing over them.

    It was a good match. I thought you’d like to know.

  26. I am the head of Operations/Security at Balticon. You can find us at the end of the long hallway on the lower level near the Art Show. If you need ANYTHING while you are at the con, please come visit us. And, as we get closer to next Balticon, if you would like my contact information, you can have it.

    ops@balticon.org is the main addy, but from there I can give you my personal email.

    I have to say the few people that told me about you were AMAZED at your costume and that beehive on your head! I am sorry I missed seeing it in person.

    Moria

  27. I have to say that while I don’t know if your seams are canon (not particularly knowing what the canon ones even look like that is,) or if your braid means this rank or that—-YOU LOOK STUNNING. I’m so serious. You look -amazing- and I can immediately tell the dedication and time you put into that outfit! There is nothing at -all- slutty about the length of your dress or your appearance (I mean, seriously, does a knee length skirt make access somehow harder? Does it even matter?!) By that I mean you look like you’re dressed to code and regulation, and so immaculate no one could call it anything else without just being plain JEALOUS. :p You go girl!

  28. I went to my first con (Denver’s) this past weekend and while I did not dress up, I witnessed this to a small extent. What I found to be disappointing was that the panel on Women’s costumes in Comics was spent mostly on who wore what and not discussing what your post covers vs. how a lot of women are dressed in anime and comics. I was hoping to come to an understanding as to why women dressed in costumes that are fairly close replicas of female characters get looked down upon, but that these costumes are ok on the page or screen.
    I’m definitely not saying that the way women are dressed in the fictional world is wrong, I just want to be able to dress up as Psylocke from the 90′s and not have anyone glare or make comments.
    I think that the grumpiness from onlookers didn’t occur as much as I thought because there seemed to be an equal amount of females and males. Which is something I’m not used to and was super happy to see.

  29. You know, I rarely participate in cosplay because frankly, I’m not brave enough. Last year my husband and I took our kids to a smallish local con in Rochester NY and they were starstruck by all of the cosplayers, old, young, accurate, inaccurate, fat, thin, whatever! My son’s favorite was a Klingon Green Lantern. And why not? It was fun and imaginative.
    So they insisted on dressing as Doctor Who and a Dalek for Halloween, and we made that happen. Maybe I’ll be an overweight River Song and go along with them next year! Who cares what people think?
    Thank you- and if I see you at a con, I’m sure my daughter will want to take a picture with you (to hell with Disney princesses, my daughter knows what’s cool!)

  30. Unfortunately, it falls a lot on the attendees. So, until you change the general social attitude of the attendees, this behavior will continue. However, if you think changing the average population’s social attitude is bad, wait until you try and change a geek’s schemata.

    Most of the poor behavior and “drama” that arises in geek circles comes from that personality archetype’s rigid adherence to it’s personal worldview. Trying to change a geek’s preconceptions of acceptable behavior and “how things are” is like trying to convince a Tea Party member that Obama isn’t the anti-christ. The clientele of these cons are so immovable in their rigid opinions on everything, from their chosen fandom to how women should dress and act, that it’s going to negatively affect these events.

    Perhaps it’s time for conventions to do the same things that many organizations and businesses are doing: provide diversity programs and discussion panels. Although many may scoff at “wasting convention time” on a 30-60 minute panel about gender or racial concerns in geek culture, I bet there would be some attendees… and those attendees might start spreading the word to their compatriots.

    Only by shifting the overall geek culture at once will you begin to shift the individuals’ behaviors.

    • Brook, I think your comments hit the nail on the head as it were: people who challenge the world view of others will not be welcomed into the fold. Great observation, thank you.

    • Some cons are indeed doing exactly that — usually in response to a particularly egregious example of bad behavior either at their own con or another one. The Readercon mess last year spawned a lot of official sexual-harassment policies at other cons. (Including my local con, ApolloCon in Houston, which is coming up in just 2 weeks — pardon the shameless plug.)

      But the thing is, until people are made aware that there’s a problem, there’s no incentive to address it. This is why posts such as this one are important. All social change starts with a few brave people standing up and saying, “No, this isn’t acceptable any more.” It’s akin to the way dropping a seed crystal into a supersaturated solution produces a chain reaction — suddenly a whole bunch of other people who were equally bothered by the behavior in question realize that it’s not just them, and they start speaking out as well. And when enough people are speaking out, that’s when real change starts to happen.

  31. I used to attend and costume at Balticon and the other Baltimore area cons several years ago before moving to the Southwest. As much as I enjoyed attending these conventions, and think their staff is amazing, my friends and I got some of the worst comments of the type you are talking about at those conventions.

    There was a particular group of women that attended every year who were the worst about commenting on the length of our skirts and the amount of boob we were showing. My bestie and I called them the “B*@#@ Old Women” or BOWs (they weren’t really old, but we were teenagers at the time). My personal favorite was the year my friend wore something particularly revealing, and we heard one of them loudly proclaim “That girl needs to either commit to taking it all off or go put on some actual clothes. That dress doesn’t leave anything to the imagination.” We still say it to each other and laugh maniacally whenever one of us is wearing a skimpier costume. I don’t get half the comments at conventions here that I did there; I wish I could go back in time and implement your “Say Something” policy with those women.

  32. As we move toward utopia, I think it helps to remember that we are not all the same…not physically, not mentally, not emotionally. Certainly speak up. Do what you think is best. Just manage your expectations to the reality…I don’t expect others to be ‘exactly’ like me, to understand as I do, or to behave as I do because they aren’t me. The best I can do is communicate as reasonably and as appropriately as possible…and then, do my thing.

  33. Well said, I haven’t been to a con in almost 20 years. One day I plan on taking my daughter and son and I would like to see an atmosphere that is accepting of both for their love of scifi. It shouldn’t matter what they choose to wear or what they look like. It shouldn’t require any kind of “purity” exam to prove anything. Thank you for writing this.

  34. I also attended Balticon and saw you. You costume is wonderful, and I hope you wear it again. I should have sad something to you about how glorious you looked, but I was shy.

    I imagne there were also comments said about me: Middle-ages, overweight, white lady in an Indian skirt and Choli.

  35. I’m not a cosplayer, but I love cosplay. The amount of creativity that you guys put in is astounding. I’m a little too body-conscious to do it myself (being a fair bit overweight), but that doesn’t mean I look down on the curvy River Songs and hefty Narutos just because they’re doing something I don’t have the courage for. You guys rock.

    Ditto the people who go all-out sexy, be it a dead-on smirking Bayonetta or the bare-chested muscular Professor Layton and his zaftig fem-Luke sidekick I saw at Pax East. Some people might take offence (or blush and get nervous) but that is most definitely their problem.

    I also see the way that cosplay is building communities. There was a veritable crowd of young Homestuck trolls picnicking at MCM Expo a couple of weeks ago, and I envied the instant, unspoken connection that gray facepaint and orange horns creates. I don’t recall anything like that when I was that age.

    Bottom line – you’re having fun and hurting nobody.

  36. Awesome article. It takes guts to cosplay, and I love seeing people who do, whether they’re society’s dictate of attractive or in the most rumpled, shoddy costume there is. I was at an anime convention one year (Otakon, working a desk as my friends ran the thing), and I loved all the costumes. The only girl I considered “slutty” was the chick in a skin-tight Pokemon suit who missed my boyfriend at the time (and, trust me, I was none too happy with him, either). Since then, I’ve spent many years going to the World Boardgaming Championship, where I’ve been ogled, hit on, stalked, and almost raped. And I do not at all fit society’s definition of beauty or attractiveness. I’ve since stopped going, and the behavior of the men there is part of why. Your article is making me reconsider going back and more vocally standing up for myself and, perhaps, going more out of my way to connect with other girl gamers. Thank you for that, and for speaking out.

  37. Just when is this outdated notion that fandom is a guy thing going to face reality and fade away? Cons are PACKED with true-blue female fans. They run things behind the scenes. They geek out with the best of them. Female nerddom is front and centre at every con I have ever attended. If anything, we are bigger nerds than the guys. So why do men still get all confused by us?
    I did my first cosplay a few months ago, at a con far from home. I was covered head to toe as an Andorian, and holy heck the guys came out of the woodwork. My fellow Andorian and I spent the rest of the weekend avoiding a particularly zealous fan. What was it about our being in costume that changed the whole damn dynamic? How was that an invitation for sly comments, endless photos, assumptions about our character? I was totally weirded out, but I know the man we were attending with thought it was just delicious, and would not have understood how off-putting it was for me. Next costume will be full armour, with a mask. And weapons.
    I too would love to hear a panel discussion about this at a con. Please let me know if you plan on doing one. I think it would be cathartic.

  38. Sexism I can see. That’s something that is definable and inarguable. However, the “slut shaming” thing, not so much.

    People get embarrassed when they become hyper aware of themselves and their OWN actions. Some people are able to dress in a super short skirt or as a slave leia or as a red Sonja and any embarrassment or “shame” they might feel can be overridden by simply being an extrovert, exhibitionist or just a good old fashioned narcissist. If you’re feeling “shame” that isn’t something that comes from someone else, that’s something that is in you. You might not feel it in certain conditions because you’re in a bubble of people who are exhibitionists and extroverts and narcissists. But if you feel shame when coming in contact with people that ground you to your own day to day cultural existence who whisper at each other as they look at you, that’s not them, that’s you.

    You are the emperor who has just heard the child say “He’s naked”.

    You feel shame because you are embarrassed by your OWN actions. Not because they are injecting feelings of shame into your brain with a syringe. You feel shame because in YOUR MIND you are doing something that YOU feel shameful about.

    This effort to make the feeling/emotion of shame into some tangible “thing” that someone has and passes on to you like a virus is a false argument made up by people who want to do things that their own brain tells them is shameful. Shame and or embarrassment is part of instinct. To remove that part of our instinct or to make one feel that they are the “victim” of the emotion of shame, or make people think that you can catch shame like you can a cold or that shame is the weapon of someone else who is using it against you is a notion with no sociological, physiological or anthropological evidence to support it. It’s nothing but cocktail party psychology and psychobabble and new age nonsense. But more importantly, it’s dangerous because it works against our own defensive instincts.

    Much like the failed experiment of outcome based education and trying to give a child a false sense of self esteem by giving them a trophy for losing has produced a generation of millennials with off the charts narcissism and entitlement, getting rid of feelings of shame and embarrassment by blaming it on others will be ultimately, incredibly damaging. More so than any feelings of shame and embarrassment possibly could. If you feel shame, deal with it. Don’t blame it on someone else. If that means dressing as Jane Austen instead of Slave Leia then that’s what you do. Or just wear a longer skirt.

    • Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the above-comment, by Julie Dawson. If you should ever be called upon to give a sterling example of victim-blaming, you could do no better than to quote this comment.

    • Slut-shaming doesn’t require shame on the part of the victim. I’m constantly slut-shamed, by family, friends, co-workers, etc. Most of it is unintentional curiosity (I’m polyamorous and a lot of times they just don’t know how to treat my lifestyle). Some is malicious. None of it makes me regret my choices or feel ashamed for embracing what makes me happy and what hurts no one. That doesn’t make implying that I’ll “grow out of” my distaste for monogamy, asking me if I’m “responsible,” etc is okay and especially does not make outright calling me a slut okay. It reduces who I am to how much sex I have and implies that my value is based solely on my sexual purity. And THAT is sexist and NEVER okay. Whether the person being shamed is a virgin in a muumuu or a “slut” like me in a corset or anyone in between or beyond.

      That said, awesome costume. I don’t attend cons and I don’t cosplay, but most of my friends are gamers and I’ve been slowly but surely (verbally) beating the misogyny out of them for years.

    • Um, no. “Slut-shaming” is well-established. It’s the action of saying to someone, “Shame on you!” You don’t have to feel shame fin order for someone to be deliberately attempting to make you feel shame. It’s that deliberate attempt that we’re talking about here.

    • You do know ‘shame’ forms both transitive and intransitive verbs, right? “To be/feel ashamed” versus “to shame [someone else]“, i.e. to attempt to make someone feel/be ashamed (by denouncing them in public or making snide remarks or whatever).

    • I love how just in case we didn’t think that you were an out-of-touch, snide, judgmental moralist, you unfairly mischaracterize an entire generation.

      • How so? There was no moralizing at all in my comments and at no point did I try to impose an unsolicited morality onto her actions. My entire comment was about dealing with actual emotions rather than trying to avoid them or conflate them with something different all together. As for my comment about Millenials, that is chartable behavior and provable science that has already been documented in such “moralistic” publications as the Harvard Medical Journal and Time magazine. Along with millennials seeming lack of reading comprehension. Ironic.

    • Wow. Spot on. Wait (not long) and watch the H8 roll in.

      Note to the NSA and Barack Obama: I mean no harm.

    • if I feel embarrassed I should just stop what I am doing and conform? And to what standard should I conform to? The issue of revealing costume and the motivations for wearing them are not as simple as shame being an instinct to tell us we are being bad. People feel embarrassed for different reasons and to hand it over to instinct might be an mistake. I cannot speak for all people but sometimes I have felt embarrassed for all sorts of actions and issues. I agree that shame can motivate to do what is right with a humble attitude but if the shame is the result of abuse then that can become something worse. People are responsible for their actions and ultimately we are all accountable but if we are not merciful and kind in our judgments then shame does become a weapon and everyone looses.

  39. My girlfriend and I were at Balticon (working at the Philcon table), and we totally loved your outfits, including the Starfleet uniform! My comment to her was “It’s nice to see someone wearing the uniform who looks like they could pass the Academy physical!” :-)

    I only wish that what you’re talking about wasn’t a problem, but it is, not only at cons, but in society in general. The only thing we can do, I think, is to each do our part to try to stop this sort of thing when we see it.

    • My comment to her was “It’s nice to see someone wearing the uniform who looks like they could pass the Academy physical!”

      Aaaaand comments like that are why I don’t cosplay. Thanks for being part of the problem.

      – a fat girl

    • Right. How dare someone whose body doesn’t conform to “normal” standards of fitness/thinness be seen in public engaging in their hobby? Listen up, all you fatties! No cosplay for YOU! Go put on an oversized t-shirt and some sweatpants and try not to be seen by anyone, ever, lest you offend their delicate sensibilities.

  40. I think you look great in the picture, and you deserve commendations for taking the time/spending the resources to make/purchase a great costume. Great costumes liven up a con, and make it fun. I am sorry you have had to endure this kind of criticism.

  41. I saw you at Balticon as well and I thought you liked great! Also, compared to others, I thought you had a lot more covered! You even have tights /leggings! To each their own. Please suck. Please keep being you. You’re awesomesauce!

  42. OK, as a master level costumer (or so they tell me) I have to say to people that don’t get cosplay: “Get a life!” So how does that feel to have the shoe on your foot? Cosplay is about having fun, and when you get the madness that combines OCD and ADD, you have to be perfect. But the thing is, when you get it, you don’t require other people to be perfect, just yourself. The whole “isn’t that a little short?” or “Aren’t you a little fat to wear that?” Passive agression is pure B.S. delivered by people that don’t get it and frankly have no right to judge. Walk a con in my Velvet smoking jacket, Klingon battle armor, heavy wizard robes or whatever and get back to me. I spent good time and money making it as accurate as I could, and if I want your criticism, I will ask for it… I do from better costumers, but otherwise just appreciate what we have done and don’t judge.

  43. Oh how I wish we’d seen you! We don’t see costuming like this at Balticon as you do at some other big cons, despite the costuming track. No Klingons roaming the hallways. But from the hair down you look authentic and you would have received appropriate appreciation from my whole writing group. Anyone making comments such as the ones you received is insane. You look like you just walked off the set. I am glad to see the picture here. I hope people learn a lesson and to just enjoy what you share with your costuming. Keep doing what you love!

  44. I’d like to apologize for the subset of my fellow XYers who are so bound by fear and insecurities. I pity them, but do not excuse their behavior.

    It’ll be great when we have a device like that one Futurama episode where there was a chip that allowed (if by “allow” you mean “force”) Bender to feel Leela’s feelings. We’ll have to make it mandatory, ocal only, so you’ll get instant neural feedback about how you (and the rest of the group and the local environment) are making others feel. I suspect people would be a whole lot less shitty to their fellow humans if that were the case.

    Also, rumor has it that Kirk was actually supposed to be a female role, but the execs nixed Roddenberry’s wishes as being too whatever for TV in the 60s. I wonder how little geek dudes would behave if it had been Jane T. Kirk instead of James T. Kirk.

    Oh right, they’d celebrate her like they do Jane… uh … Jane… uh.. that Star Treck series of which we don’t speak. ;)

  45. Let’s get to the bottom of this. Cosplaying is all about being, “Look at me! Look at me!” and being noticed and recognised and getting your photo taken and, on top of that, you chose a costume that features a short skirt that, indeed, will get you looked at. Now, people don’t think in a uniform, hive-mind on topics like this, so some of them looked and subsequently made comments you didn’t like. And that’s surprising? Wow. And now you’ve gone and written an article about it which, by extension is a bit, “Look at me! Look at me!” Yet you, and the people who will blindly support this kind of topic, just can’t see it… can you? Like most things in life, there is a middle ground here, which means neither you, or the naysayers are “right” and your way is the “only” way. Yet being able to live and let live and take a criticism as well as you take a compliment seems to elude your way of thinking.

    • I’m going to overlook your assumption that people get dressed up just to attract attention. If you don’t understand wanting to *be* your hero, then you’re never going to understand costuming culture.

      But let’s address the rest of your point, that criticism should be expected and accepted as equal to compliments… Putting yourself and your art “out there” isn’t automatic invitation for criticism. I know this is hard for you to fathom, and maybe the lesson didn’t stick when you first heard “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, but while you might have a legal right to say any nasty thing you like, it’s simply not socially acceptable. If someone asks for your opinion, then please give it honestly. But just showing up in public isn’t asking for your opinion. Do you go to a friend’s dinner party and out of the blue spout “I hate your dining room chairs” or see someone walking down the street and saunter over and say “your grey hair is ugly, you should dye it”? When a child comes to your door at Halloween do you make snide remarks about how inauthentic their costumes are? If it isn’t appropriate in those situations, why on earth would it be appropriate in this context?

      We give unsolicited compliments because it can make someone’s day and because it makes the world a nicer place to live in. Randomly tearing people down with nasty words isn’t making our world a better place, so while you have a right to do it, that doesn’t make it “right”. I’ll defend your right to speak freely, but you must also accept the consequences of the words you choose to use, and in this case, I’ll argue that the people who think you are a jerk are 100% correct in their assumption.

      • If you don’t think a percentage of cosplayers do it for the attention (and I personally think it’s a large percentage), then you’re living in fantasyland.

        Go to any con and look at how many “photoshoots” there are. Look how many websites are dedicated to 1000s upon 1000s of images are put up there… seemingly for their own gratification. To gaze at images of themselves, hour after hour, day after day, and to talk about it non stop.

        And you think none of that’s narcissistic and doing it for attention? Wow.

        • You said “people don’t think in a uniform, hive-mind on topics like this” in your first comment, and yet you seem perfectly willing to assume that all cosplayers engage in their hobby for the same reasons, and thus that the author of the post must do too. Pot/kettle.

          (Not a cosplayer, but sympathetic to the desire to dress up without having people assumed you dressed up *for their gaze*.)

        • Yeah, what Nic said. I was merely pointing out that they are not JUST dressing up for attention, which was your statement.

          Now as to the photographs… do you walk down artist’s alley and tell everyone who has a painting on display that they are a narcissist? If they post their images on a website do you say it is for their own gratification? When an author or actor offers to sign autographs and meet with fans you think that they are only doing it for the attention? If an author does a reading, therefore presenting themselves with their art, is that narcissistic? If not, then why are you attacking these particular artists and assuming one motivation for all of them?

          Costuming is an art form that HAS to be displayed on a human body. It’s simply not the same if it’s a static display on a dress form or mannequin. It’s not just a sculpture, it has to function! Entering their creations in competitions, or allowing people to take photographs isn’t self-love, it’s loving what they have MADE with their hands.

          Sure, there might be some costumers that do what they do to fish for compliments. Just like there are some musicians that only learned to play the guitar because they wanted to attract women. Or athletes that only compete for the cheers of the fans. In each of these cases, while those rewards might be appreciated by some, or even most, it is folly to assume that it is the primary motivation for all. For each one of those people, I would say there’s a costumer that always wanted to be Sailor Moon, or a musician that just needs to get his music out of his head, or an athlete that really likes the million dollar pay day.

        • You are obviously not a costumer as you CLEARLY do not understand the hobby or the general mentality of those who are into the hobby. However, let’s say your correct. Even if I *DO* costume for attention, it would be safe to assume that the attention I seek is the good kind and I still get to decide when that attention is unwanted and inappropriate. Just because I you can see my cleavage or legs or the curve of my ass does not give you the right to openly comment on or in extreme case touch my body.

          In other words my seeking of attention is not YOUR consent for anything more than looking. So take your victim blaming and get out.

        • Sometimes, people just like cool clothes.

          Sometimes, people like being artistic with fabric.

          Sometimes, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

    • While that can be what motivates some cosplayers to cosplay my experience is that the majority of people who cosplay do so because they love a character so much they want to completely immerse themselves in that role. It’s more about a love of pretending/escapism than attention. Also the challenge of making your costumes and props (for those that do home made costumes) is extremely satisfying on a creative and artistic level. You’re missing most of the point of cosplay and hugely generalizing.

    • Well, is that why you cosplay? Admittedly when I started I loved the attention, but now it’s about getting it right, accomplishing. I used to paint and now I sculpt, it’s the same satisfaction.

  46. In response to “your skirt is too short,” “The costume designers and censors at Desilu didn’t think so.” I was re-watching a couple TOS episodes a couple days ago, with particular attention to costume details. There’s a scene in which Uhura gets knocked down in a scuffle and you get a glimpse of an undergarment, =over= her pantyhose, which looks like it’s made from the same fabric as her dress. And I thought, “Oh, like a figure skater’s costume.” No one ever complains their skirts are too short.

  47. I wore a rather good replica of one of Arwen’s dresses from the LotR movies to a con, once, with the ears and my own hair very elaborately done. I’m thin, but it was still yards and yards of fabric. When they started asking me questions about my LotR knowledge, I started asking them questions from the Silmarillion.

    Mostly didn’t get creeped on, except when I was wearing an oriental outfit (also a lot of fabric) that was really just fancy and not a costume, but again, the hair was kind of elaborate. It wasn’t cosplay, just dress-up. The ladies loved it, but there was something about the Asian motif that attracted weirdos. :P

    The next year my Beloved built me a Bender suit: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v602/AsatoMuraki/kids/DSCF3797.jpg
    That was before it was done. I can’t find the finished pictures.

    Guys don’t hit on Bender, and EVERYONE wants to buy him drinks. It was my best costume ever.

  48. For what it’s worth, if I’d been there, I’d have stopped you to tell you how AMAZING your seamstress skills are. Serious envy over here. And if I could rock an outfit like that, I’d be tempted to wear it every day of my life. Keep doing what you do. For every micro aggression you experienced, there were probably 10 people out there talking to their friends and saying “did you see the woman in the incredible Star Trek uniform?” over dinner that night. It’s the people who make something come to life, who lift it off the page or pull it out of the screen that make a con something worth going to!

  49. I also attended Balticon with 3 generations of family female costumers. My wife, who spent several years in the “not the right weight” category, who has slimmed down. She also wears a TOS uniform. My daughter who trends more towards gothic outfits, who admittedly does not have a perfect body, but will tell these goofs where to get off. My granddaughter who looks like Shirley Temple in (insert costume name). I as a retired costumer take pride in their willingness to costume, and that they are not afraid to not buckle under to the ignorance of others. Best of luck to you and stand for your right to be you. Or whoever you want to be.

  50. I’ve seen a lot of slamming between various types of women. Women criticize women for being too fat, too skinny, too pretty, not pretty enough, too slutty, too prude, too dumb, too smart. It’s sick. Men are bad, but women digging at each other about these things are worse. The fact is, we’re people. We differ in all of these things from one degree to another, it’s all relative as they say (they = me) to perception, so why put down someone else for what they do and who they are? Is it a reflection on you? No, then shove off. I also hate the so-called “feminist” movement for these same things. It’s like only one type of cookie cutter female is allowed in society. It’s complete BS and women above all else should know better. Why are we so conditional with one another?

    • Feminism is about supporting all women and ending socialized and internalized misogyny (the latter being what you described). Please make an effort to learn more about feminism before slamming it.

  51. I think the trivia grillers aren’t coming from a place of hate, I think it just how some socially akward geeks connect with pretty girls and they are secretly turned on when you correct them.. I give them credit for even having the nerve to say anything to a pretty girl.

    • As a non-pretty woman (not girl) who has been trivia-grilled over and over again, let me tell you something. It might not come from a place of hate, but it seriously does come from a place of gate-keeping. I have to prove that I’m a Real Fan before I’m accepted. I’ve never seen a man go through the same kind of entrance test that so many women do.

  52. Now I regret not speaking to you at Balticon! I did notice you, and that the dress looked perfect – with those wonky radial seams. Even voted for you (and others) in the hall costume contest. That said, I think of that color as turquoise more than teal.

  53. I’ve been attending Balticon for years, as well as Shore Leave, Farpoint, all the WorldCons that have been in Baltimore, some cons in DC, and an ICon in NYC.
    Something I’ve noticed at Balticon for years is the attitude of many – I don’t THINK it’s a majority – of the attendees (and VERY FEW, if ANY, of the crew and committee) concerning TV series Sci-Fi: they by and large DON’T respect it. Star Trek in particular they don’t respect, but they don’t care for either version of Galactica, or Buck Rogers, or StarGate SG-1, Lost In Space, (or any other Irwin Alen, either).
    I take it back – they DO like Doctor Who, especially the older Doctors. But NOT Torchwood. And they LOVE Steampunk.
    The trend seems to be toward fantasy and OLD sci-fi, plus anything print; well, that MIGHT be due to the fact that Balticon started as a PRINT MEDIA convention. But the committee has grown up – WHY can’t the people attending?

  54. Thanks for sharing your experience and taking a strong stand! “The history of geekdom is not a history of men, it’s a history of invisible women.” Well said.

  55. Surprising story. I was a vendor in the hall at Balticon, who was pre-teen when TOS aired. The costuming was pretty typical 1960s clothing with an “edge” to it. I saw you and thought you were spot-on. I’ve seen lots of folks in ill-fitting shirts before, but you had an impeccible costume and had the hair right, too! Sorry you didn’t stop at our table, because I wanted to ask about the hair. Voted for you the few times I made it downstairs. I am shocked to read your experience. Almost every inch of skin was covered. I saw a few unfortunate costumes in the halls with seams pulling too tightly into the wrong places, and offering a bit more show than I’m comfortable viewing these days, but my impression was people “live and let live” at Balticon. I thought the goal is to celebrate early science fiction, and help aspiring writers, costumers, actors, artists, filmmakers grow in the field. I didn’t hear any comments about you or other women this year, but I will have my ears tuned in and speak up if I do in the future. Hope to meet you next year.

  56. Oh FFS. Do these women (who, from your description, seem to be about my age) not remember when the original show aired? Your costume is perfect, and if I’d been there I would have asked to take your picture. And not because you were a cheesecake sex object either, but because it was an awesome costume.

    My partner is a convention dealer, and we attend (on average) about 1 con every 2 weeks. I take a lot of costume pictures, and they are not by any means all cheesecake (or beefcake). I take photos of large women, large men, fans of color, young fans, fans cosplaying cross-gender — I don’t care who’s wearing it, if it catches my interest I’ll ask for a picture. It’s one tiny thing that I can do to push back against the attitudes you’re discussing here.

  57. What a beautifully written article. Frankly, what was all the fuss about? You look absolutely wonderful in your Trek uniform! It looks like it passes the middle finger test (aka, the hem of the skirt ends about where your middle finger is if your arms are at your side) and even if it didn’t, so what?!?! And frankly, if you wanted to help a girl out and share with me your pattern drafting skills, I would really appreciate it. I’m a bridesmaid in a trek theme wedding next summer and am making the officer uniforms……those damn seams!!!!

  58. i think its sexy! you have legs for days and you should wear that everyday! females can be very mean when they know that you are smokin hot and they arent or they didnt think of it first! if you are having fun and you are comfortable then by all means wear it and wear it with pride! you look stunning!

  59. Your costume was totally appropriate as a daytime con wear. It does not even begin to approach the risqué. I have not been to a con in years, but I can’t imagine the rules changing. Maybe you were dealing with 1 day ticket people who were not even staying in the hotel.

  60. My first reaction? Of course it’s short. It’s an Original Series dress. They were all minis. Come on.

    Second – DAMN THAT’S A GOOD COSTUME! YOU GO! WUUUUUUURQ!

    And I’m sorry anyone gave you even microstatic about it. I can sit here and tell you “the women were jealous” or “the men were intimidated”, but that won’t lessen the way you feel about the experience. Unfortunately, we lady geeks get static from all corners. Too fat? We hear it. Costume? We hear it. Daring to be female? We hear it.

    The “He Man Women Haters Club” isn’t going to change. We have to change them. Sort of a “We’re here, we’re girls, get over it.” So good for you, rock that Trek uni and everyone else can get out of the way.

  61. Preach it, nerd sister! I’ve thankfully not experienced a lot of that at cons, I’ve been really lucky. But, I too have a group of my friends to support me. But every time I hear other ladies’ stories about those microaggressions you’re talking about are part of what haunt me before I attend a con, and sadly sometimes they help determine what I cosplay as or whether I do at all.

  62. From an insider’s perspective, DCon is working hard to ensure that all attendees, especially the women will be much safer this year. The hotels are being pushed hard about dealing with the grabby toads that don’t respect the culture. We’re talking arrests this year if needed. We love all of you and you’re the reason why our con is so great.

  63. It’s a classic 1960′s miniskirt (and very nicely worn too!), what ‘IS’ the problem?
    Oh! Your American!

    ….nuff said!

  64. This is a great post. I don’t costume because I can’t sew and can’t afford to pay someone to make stuff for me. However, I do love to look at the pretty costumes and take pictures when I can. I would definitely have wanted to take a picture of you.

    As a woman of size considered unacceptable clothing and public response is always a problem for me. I am lucky enough to have friends who don’t give a damn. Oddly enough I have also never had to face the “fake geek girl test” I think it is being fat, after all fat girls are the same as dorky guys right? *eyeroll*

    I do know people who have had to deal with this crap and it makes me sad. It isn’t always like that. I didn’t go to my first con until I was 26, and engaged – it was a Disclave. It was a startling and eye opening experience for me in a good way. I had been the fat chick in TX who was not accepted by anyone and often attacked or ridiculed as such. My first day at Disclave I was in the dealer’s room and was shocked when a strange barbarian man walked up to me and politely got my attention. He apologized for staring and just wanted me to know that I was appreciated. You could have knocked me over with a feather I was so shocked. I believe I was able to mumble a thank you and blush. Later on at that convention I was hit on more than once by young good looking guys that were definitely “out of my league”. I had to call my finacee and complain because for the first time ever young cute guys were hitting on me and I couldn’t do anything about it. :D I’ve been a fan of cons ever since. I have found much more acceptance for the way I look at them than anywhere else. So a bit of a sidelining your thread but I just wanted to put in the good word for some of the male fans out there, I just wish there were more of them and that they were more vocal for all of us.

  65. Sorry I’m on the wrong coast, I would love to see your outfit in Real Life. Long time Trekkie, definitely knew you were not Yeoman Rand, she wears Red and has blond hair. Yes, those dresses were short. So are the Logan’s Run Dresses. That was the Look!
    I have several friends who run around in Original Trek. Don’t know if they get hassled, but it does some times help to run around in Packs. And it should be noted one of them IS a Rocket Scientist, she works for JPL.
    Interesting Costuming Note – 2001, the movie, was different by putting the PanAm Stewardess in a Pants Suit. Interesting, that actually brought more comments. Women did NOT Wear pants back then. We were expected to wear dresses, even very short ones, but Not Pants. That was bad. Now, if we wear short dresses we’re tramps, and told to put on pants. Go Figure.

  66. I started hanging out with a beautiful woman who declared she was a fan of Star Trek,, we started watching Enterprise together (I don’t care what anyone says it’s under rated) and we just enjoyed the series, moved on to Voyager and have been dating for 8 months and after we finish watching Chuck we’re going to start watching ST:TNG, the moral is when you stop judging others amazing things happen.

  67. The skirts weren’t as revealing as you’d think because they were wearing baggy bloomers underneath (alas!) That said, TOS had other outfits that were shockingly revealing, and surely would be denounced by all the right-thinking people if they came out on a series today.

  68. I think the whole thing is ridiculous. They fancy women for dressing up like their favourite characters then take the piss out of them. I really do feel that some people “slut shaming” is their own way of dealing with their own inadequacies and fear of approaching attractive women.

    BTW my 2 year old Son saw your picture and said, “Look a princess.” Out of the mouthes of babes.

  69. So my first thought is anyone saying that skirt is to short clearly never really watched original trek. I was amazed at how short those little ‘dresses’ are. Which is why they wore matching under things? …like a cheerleader.

    My first thought from your pic was Dax from the crossover ep.

    Either way maybe you just need to walk away from these people?

    As for the “nerd test” is it really that or someone just curious? I’m a fan of trek but I by no means know the ins and outs of it nor do I know what the rank ribbon on the sleeves mean. So I’m now (because of this and many other blogs) reluctant to ask because you and others will think you’re being challenged.

    Is it so awful to have a conversation? Isn’t that the point of being at a con?

    I dunno I’m of mixed thoughts on this whole thing.

    There is reason geeks are known as socially awkward. So I wonder how much of the ‘grilling’ is really just an attempt at conversation with someone who has similar interests.

    Cause frankly maaaany cosplayers on of both genders and variety do have an air of “better then the rest’” earned? Sure but…it goes both ways.

    Let’s not forget budget shaming (not a joke). Cross play shaming etc etc etc…

    It doesn’t help that there are in fact fake cosplayers. They exist I’ve seen them and unfortunately met one face to face. A sort of con crasher.

  70. I think you look awesome – in person I might have been too shy to tell you that (if I had been there) but I certainly wouldn’t have thought your skirt was too short – that’s the way that skirt is. Longer would be wrong.

    And I think you rock for deciding to tackle this head on. The few cons I’ve been to have been really close and almost family like so I’ve never experienced this. But I hope that if I ever do I handle it with this kind of strength and style.

  71. I saw you at Balticon, and totally failed to tell you how awesome I thought your costume was when you complemented me on mine (I was in the DS9/Voyager era uniform). Hope I didn’t come off as unwelcoming or disapproving, I’m just not always quick on my feet in conversation. You bring up some good points – I’ve only recently started attending cons and complying, and both my costumes are at least partially chosen to avoid some of these issues. In addition to above mentioned Trek uniform, I have a steampunk outfit I’m working on building, but that is also fully covered (pants, blouse under the corset, caplet). I’ve thought about doing something from comics or another source, but my body isn’t “perfect” and worry about being uncomfortable, both personally because I’m normally a jeans and t-shirt type and because of the potential for comments. Thanks for being willing to talk about this, and I hope to see you at Balticon again.

  72. I thought the costume looked good.
    Both from the standpoint of a con-goer who liked TOS (and recognizes the Lt. braid), and from the standpoint of a HAPPILY MARRIED man who can comment on the dress of another woman.

  73. Snark on! :)

    But in all seriousness, be yourself, do your thing, and those who can’t accept you as beauty AND brains, whether they be nerds/geeks or no, they matter not. The only opinions of you that have meaning are yours and that of those you choose to value.

  74. Baltimore was once legendary for it’s prudery, and apparently has not changed enough from H. L. Mencken’s day (he once defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.”). Actually, your excellent costume looks a bit more modest (in the picture) than in the stills from the series: the neckline isn’t as low-cut, and the skirt looks longer! Still, my first thought was, “It’s Star Fleet regulation length. Take it up with the Admiralty!”

  75. I have a question for the poster (and anyone reading the Comments):

    What is this, please?

    “The men who might think they’re just having a conversation, but are really hitting every hot button of geek gatekeeping they can.”

    Besides the whole issue of physical appearance/dress the post raises this issue several times, but I’m not sure I understand why it’s being raised or, really, what these “gatekeeping hot buttons” are. If you mean the typical, almost semi-aggressive conversations that geeks have over trivia/minutia (I think you do, but please correct me if I’m wrong), then I think this may just be how geeks talk to each other when THEY know they’re in a “safe space” and can wear their obsessions on their sleeve. God knows I’ve found myself in more than one conversation asking myself “why is this dude (or dudette) so worked up about the specific number of spot-welds in the port nacelle of the Enterprise D?” (or whatever). Perhaps you’re referencing something else…

    Thanks! –Matt

  76. I’m sorry you had to deal with that! I attended Star Trek Con in Chicago last weekend, and I wish you could’ve been there. Everyone was so nice and there were many girls in regulation length original series dresses. I myself had a dress made for the event, but due to complications with my seamstress, it was unwearable. :(… If you would have been there I would’ve asked for a photo with you, because you were doing it right!

  77. Cosplay requires courage. You are putting yourself out there in a way most fans aren’t. For all our imaginings that we are unique and different, a lot of fanac (fan activity) is fairly passive and introverted. For all my costuming, I can not approach the bravery of Forrest Ackerman, who rode a train to WorldCon 1 dressed in his home made space cadet uniform. It’s one thing to proclaim your fandom by wearing a “Han shot first” teeshirt (brave in a lot of contexts) but to lacquer your hair up in the Starfleet beehive, put on the boots and squeeze into the short uniform is amazing.

  78. I was Balticon that weekend, and geez, I don’t know who the women are who made these comments, but they’re crazy. The length of the skirt was accurate (and far from obscene), and personally I was in awe of your costume the entire time; you looked like you stepped off the darn show!

  79. Totally against slut shaming. However, why is there nothing here about the sexism of the original show? For geeky grrls that actually lived through that era, the original Star Trek represented another black hole where a mirror could have been. It wasn’t until Next Gen that I could even begin to see myself in Roddenberry’s universe. The *reason* that “your skirt’s too short, honey” is because the original show was devoid of women like you, brainy, gutsy and in charge of their own lives.

    • Actually, Roddenberry was going to put female crew in the same uniform as male crew (and did for the pilot episode “The Cage”). Before filming began on the actual series, Majel Barrett and Nichelle Nichols got together and designed the female uniform, including the length of the skirt, because they wanted to look less masculine, and the skirt length was fashionable at the time. Or so I have been told. :)

    • Actually, Paulie, the actresses on TOS lobbied FOR the mini-skirt costumes, because that is what confident, liberated women of the day were wearing. Nichelle Nichols has talked about this. The official pattern that I have (and haven’t had a chance to make up for anyone yet, darn it!) is called a “skant” — there are pants under that short skirt, much like skaters and cheerleaders use, presumably to keep the network brass happy.

      Have you watched the original show recently? When I did, I was actually surprised at how outspoken Uhura could be, and how she was involved in a number of issues on the bridge. Not to the extent of anyone in her position today, of course, but not bad for the time frame.

      One last thing — you may or may not recall that in “The Cage” they showed scenes from when Capt. Pike was in charge of the Enterprise. His second in command was a woman (Majel Barrett). The *network* axed that — couldn’t handle the thought of a woman even being second in command, that far in the future. Mr. Rodenberry had his faults, absolutely, but please don’t lay that one on his desk.

      • I’m not trying to drag Mr R into this except to say that it was his universe and that it changed over various iterations.

        The original iteration was sexist, and it was a time with a great deal of sexism and complexity.

        If sexism is wrong now, then it was also wrong then. I find it challenging to read a clear, forceful rejection of sexism in our own time that doesn’t even give a nod of acknowledgement of the sexism of the time that is being so excellently and painstakingly honored.

        Yes, you can cite a conversation here, and a glimpse of empowerment in an episode there, but on the balance this show was sexist. I don’t want to be surprised at how forceful Uhura can be in some of the conversations on Kirk’s bridge. I wanted her to have her own ship.

        You can dress like it, but you wouldn’t have had any fun at the cons that would have existed then, if you can imagine that! :)

        The costume is excellent.

        • There isn’t anything about the sexism of the series because it was outside the purview of the article. The response I received wasn’t contingent on it being *that* particular costume. I had the same response when costuming as 90s Marvel Girl last year.

          I fully admit and accept that the show was sexist in very problematic ways. But so was every other geek media. I chose to cosplay as a character from this show because when I watched it (in the late 80s, early 90s), I wanted to be Uhura. No, she wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be a linguist on a Federation Starship. My other icons weren’t perfect either: Emma Peel, Jean Grey, Princess Leia. All of them had stronger personalities than most of the women in ST: TOS, but they were still designed for the male audience.

          I spent many of my teenage years being incredibly angry about the sexism on Star Trek and other early sci-fi (Ask me about Heinlein sometime), and every other show of that time. Embracing the science officer costume, while speaking about science at conventions was a way that I could take that frustration, and that initial desire to be like a character who didn’t really exist, and create her in my image.

          Originally the TOS costume I wanted to do was Elizabeth Dehner – who wore pants, the same tunic jacket as the men and who kicked ass in her own way. However, I could neither find nor make a tunic shirt that looked good on me in the least bit. I ended up looking like I was costuming as McCoy. Now that I think about it, crossplaying Bones would actually be rather fun, but it wasn’t what I was going for.

          As for wanting Uhura to have her own ship: Yes! I want reboot Uhura to have her own ship as well! And I want the bald bridge officer lady in the reboot to have lines!

  80. Haters Gonna Hate… let the comments be evidence that you are doing something right. I’ll be honest and say if I had of attended the conference I would have tried to have a drink with you, Coffee or other.

    Regardless, Don’t let this experience influence your future cosplay

    Shawn

  81. Allow me to join the ranks of those saying that your costume was top-notch, your presence both totally legitimate and welcome, and your reaction to the responses you got completely reasonable.

    Ill never understand why so many people feel the need to react the way people did to you. If I see someone (whether female or male) in a costume at a convention, I just assume that (a) they probably made the costume themselves, and (b) they are a fan of the character and/or genre the costume represents (even if its a “new character” like your Sciences Lieutenant uniform). Why wouldn’t I?

    Why do people believe that there are people who “belong” at a con and some who don’t? As far as Im concerned, in order to “belong” at a sci fi, gaming, or fantasy convention, you have to have fulfilled two criteria. One: You must have heard of it somehow, even if that means you just saw a sign for it two minutes ago. Two: You have to come in and check it out. TA DAAAAA! That’s it.

    So please, please keep coming to conventions. Please keep creating and wearing awesome costumes like the one you wore to Balticon. And please keep challenging those who make you uncomfortable there, because you have every right to be there, and they have no right to make you feel otherwise! :)

  82. I’m no match for someone who has so closely followed the history of the show. However, I was there, I was a little girl, and the show didn’t have cool, tough, little girls. Uhura was almost the exception, but she appeared, to my eyes, to still be the secretary of the bridge. In my own make-believe games, I was in charge of the adventures, I was leading troops into battle, I was exploring uncharted lands. When my eyes turned to Star Trek, they glazed over in boredom. There were no really exciting adventures for little girls like me there.

  83. Add my voice, please, to those who attended Balticon, saw you in your impressive costume, and mostly just thought how awesome it was when people go to that much trouble in the name of accuracy and fidelity to the source material. I really wish now that I had approached you then and expressed my thoughts, so that you’d have had another positive experience to balance the negative.

    The group I attend Balticon with is usually at least half female, including a number of active and/or avid costumers, and I know every one of us would be uncomfortable at the comments you received, though I could only wish that we’d have the courage to speak up and squash such when we hear it, social pressures being what they are (plus the general trend towards geeks being introverted…). I’m glad you have the courage to face that kind of neanderthal-ic attitude and come out swinging, and I and my friends will do our utmost to help swing the tone of the con around.

  84. I wanted so badly to support every word, thought (and planned action) in this article. I did. I even linked it to my blog, as I have with all of the best-written Cosplay =/= Consent articles. i love cosplayers and appreciate their enthisasm, bravery and coolness. I’ ve spotlighted them for the blog, photographed them and asked their advice. And I have never. ever. understood the notion of skeevy behavioir, pop-quizzing or showing anything but appreciation and admiration to cosplayers. Or other fellow geeks in general.
    If you ever find me telling a woman she has no idea what the hell she is talking about when it comes to X-men or Wonder Woman, it’s because we’re in the middle of a debate and she just told me something similar.
    But, as this article (and the commenters) makes no secret of, having been born a man, I am cleary only allowed to be either part of the problem as you see it, or must be a mx_nico level self-misandrist to have an acceptable opinion. All references to men are made with generalities and identify us as sources of danger and stress. I wish this was not the case for you, and I wish I could do more. But that baton of guilt and responsiblity doesn’t simply go into my hand because I was born male.

    • You’ve built a very nice strawman there. No one but yourself has made any illusions to the idea that “GRRRR ALL MENZ ARE BAD!!!”. In fact, the article specifically points out that a good deal of the comments came from other women.

      Also, misandry is not a thing so stop.

      • You are mistaken regarding misandry. It means hatred of men. It is often considered the converse of misogyny- hatred of women, although the implicit assumption that these words refer to women hating men and men hating women is not necessarily part of the definition. The words themselves allow for equal opportunity hatred. Misandry does exist, at least as a concept and, I’d argue, in reality as well.

        • Misandry is not societally reinforced, though. It’s toothless. Most of the ways that society hurts men are due to patriarchal essentialism, not misandry.

          Yes, it is possible to hate men for being men, but misandry isn’t a pervasive environment in which we live. Misogyny is.

          • Touche. I was speaking more conceptually about the word, which bears no direct, specific reference to society, because it is a real word with real meaning and I don’t want anyone thinking it’s not. In terms of the reality of it in practice, well, let’s just say I was speaking from experience that I find lies more at the level of the individual. I wasn’t referring to the institutionalization of either misandry or misogyny, or their cousin, discrimination based on gender.

    • Friend, I’m gonna assume that you’re operating in good faith, even though you used the word ‘misandry’. Please do some reading on what it means to be an ally. When it comes to describing the danger that men can pose, these generalizations aren’t about what every man is, but what every man could be.

      It’s not about us.

  85. Just stopping in from io9 to tell you how much I love you. As a sister geek, I have often wished I could express these frustrations. I am too often saddened and bruised by this community that I love so much. You are right. We need to stand up and demand better treatment from our “accepting” fellow geeks.
    Thank you. Again and again, thank you!

  86. Grouchy, grow up a bit, get over yourself, and join the 20th century. I have no idea what mx_nico means, I have been in fandom too long to get the reference, also not into anime. Your post is a crypto-misogynist post wrapped in a transparent cloak of victimhood. It doesn’t work, but if it makes you feel good to hate, it’s your life.

  87. Cosplay seems to bind women into a tough situation, even if you have the type of body that doesn’t invite “she’s not hot enough to wear that” comments. Because so many outfits in video games, sci-fi/fantasy and anime for women are tight and/or revealing, often you’re forced to choose between accuracy and modesty.

  88. After such a respectful and perfectly worded article, i’m disappointed to read so many disrespectful comments. Emily made a point to say “The people who don’t realize that they’re causing harm through their words and actions.”
    Nobody has a right to be hateful, even to people who might be guilty of micro-aggression.
    I’ve been guilty of it. I once whispered to a woman “your bra is showing” and she replied “oh, that’s what the costume is” and I was embarrassed and apologized. I meant no aggression, i was simply trying to help. I’ve been in clothing that didn’t like to behave before, and have been embarrassed to find that it had moved to reveal more than I wanted it to. I thought I was doing this girl a favour. She corrected me, and I apologized. Simple as that. Nobody was mean, nobody had an attitude, and I’d like to think she didn’t complain about me later.
    Emily, your article is perfect, as is your solution.
    To the people commenting: please be respectful of EVERYBODY no matter what you think they might be guilty of.

  89. Hi, I was at Balticon (fat lady with glasses behind the Orlando in 2015 table), saw you, and commented that I thought you looked terrific. Now I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I’m of a generation that came of age in the 70s, and thought how confident you looked, and how accurate the design was. Next time, I’ll give an atta-girl to the next generation fighting slut-shaming. Or better still, I’ll finish that Wonder Woman costume and join you! And I hope we win the Worldcon bid so you can join us because we need to be more welcoming and inclusive.

  90. This is a really excellent piece and that was a really excellent costume. I am hesitant to compliment you on writing something that I think speaks “well” to males because I know that isn’t your priority, but pragmatically I think your tone is dead center in that sweet spot of making people think without making them ultra defensived. I plan on passing this on. Everything you said about inappropriate and unsolicited criticism is dead on.
    But. There is one issue you raise that I feel may be tipping you into the mistaken-motives direction. “A constant flow of men grilling me about whether I had watched the series, and trying to trip me up on trivia.” You see, you lump this is with the sexism and prudery and misogyny you discuss otherwise, but it’s hard for me to see that. They/we do that to men in costume, too. And men who aren’t in costume, and all sorts of women. The same ADD/OCD that motivates costumers motivates all geeks to a certain extent. It is a very trivia focused culture, and quizzing on trivia is how conventions started and the basic linguistic currency off geek culture.
    It is reasonable to get into a separate discussion about whether such quizzing is appropriate or polite or productive or just plain annoying. But I find it hard to lump that in with the same motives you’re referring to when it seems to my edye that this is an equal opportunity offense. As a queer person, I understand that the constant bigotry (external and INTERNAL) that marginalized people face can lead to a default expectation that everything people do to annoy us comes from that place of bigotry, but sometimes it is reasonable to parse further. You may find the quizzing obnoxious, but I’m not sure it’s sexist.

    • What you call vetting other people would consider normal competitive and self-defining behavior. I’m not sure why trivia quizzing people about their ostensible fandoms is any different than people comparing how many concerts they’ve been to of a shared favorite band, exchanging travel and baby pictures, or one-upping each other on their shoe purchases. Everyone is annoyed when it’s done to them, most people do it, and ultimately we all get over it unless we seriously are unable to be challenged at all.

      • Just because a behaviour is common and prevalent doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Trying to ascertain the level of commonality an individual shares with another is one thing, using the same interrogative methods to cut another person down in order to feel better about oneself is quite another. The latter is passive-aggression/microaggression, as Emily described. It doesn’t matter how many people engage in it; the practice is still cowardly and unneccessary. There are other, more intelligent, healthier ways to define oneself.

  91. Good for you for taking something negative and trying to turn it into something positive! Good luck, I’d say “DFTBA” but I don’t think you forget to be awesome all that often!

  92. Hey,

    1 : your costume is very cool, well done
    2 : I agree with what you’re saying
    3 : unfortunatelly, it’s the same here in France. Cosplay community (otaku or geek) is very hard, girls who’s make cosplay of sexy characters are considered like sluts. (sorry if I use strong words, I’m not that good in english)

    I hope that your post will help people reconsider their thoughts about all this

    =)

  93. Your TOS blue uniform is perfectly fine; I do not see one thing wrong with the uniform. The length is correct and just wait until the Fashion Industry returns Micro-minis to the runways and the stores all those “Female objectors” of your uniform will be showing leg leg leg, forgetting their hypocritical commentary to thee at BaltiCon. They were objecting because you look fabulous. They were making comment because they were jealous. You rocked it. Never let people get you down.

  94. I remember seeing you in this costume at Balticon and thought you looked great. How can anything be considered slutty when you are wearing colored tights. Geez, people playing tennis wear less.

    However, it’s total overkill to think that you are somehow advancing civil rights by wearing this outfit. “I’m just one person in a long history of women and other minorities fighting for their voice in nerd space. And yes, I get tired of fighting it.”
    Give me a break. The original series was completely sexist and the skirt was designed for “male space” (to borrow your words) and you are celebrating that by wearing it. No, you aren’t a civil rights hero.

    • I don’t consider myself a civil rights hero. I’m just trying to make cons into more of a safe space for other women who want to express their geekiness in whatever way they decide they want to be, whether that’s wearing a short dress, a burlap sack or anything in between.

      • I apologize if I misread your intention.

        Anyway, Balticon is rather stuffy and I’m sorry too that you had a bad experience. Hopefully you’ll be able to wear your outfit at another con.

  95. I don’t go to a lot of cons because they are expensive, but at the few I have attended, I have experienced some of these same things you have. I am also a decent looking lady- when I dress up like Lara Croft, I look almost exactly like Lara Croft. I don’t cosplay at superhero oriented cons because I prefer fantasy/ren faire costumes, and when I go in my normal clothes I fall too far to the attractive and normally dressed side of the spectrum you mentioned. I have some nerdy t-shirts, but I like fashion and I don’t often wear them out. Does that make me any less of a nerd? Nerds can’t like fashion? Who wrote that rule?

    At the cons, I am usually stared at and/or ignored by men and women alike- even by the vendors! Instead, I am assumed to be one of these “mundanes” you refer to. Hadn’t heard of that term before, but I suspect that’s what everyone thinks I am. My husband fits the nerd role a little more easily at a glance, so everyone talks to him and assumes I’m his bimbo who is just trailing along because she’s a dumb follower. When someone does occasionally notice me enough to give me the quiz, I usually fail because I don’t memorize trivia. I LOVE Star Trek and bunches and bunches of other fantasy and science fiction universes- I love the philosophical and moral issues they explore and they way they use fantasy to push socio-cultural buttons. I love the characters and the difficult situations they face. Let’s talk about that, not about the backstory of a minor character only developed in a novel written so badly practically no one has read it. I don’t find that kind of thing interesting. Does that make me less of a nerd? I write original science and fantasy fiction (self-publishing my first novel this year!), and I’d like to think that having different interesting things to spend my time on doesn’t mean I have to be excluded from the community.

    I don’t have any cosplay friends to turn to for support when I do want to dress up in sexy costumes. I don’t have any fantasy or comic con friends. I don’t make friends at these things because nobody talks to me. If that’s the case because I’m decent looking and confident in myself, then what does that say about this community? It’s only for people who feel rejected by everyone else? I am rejected by ‘mundanes’ because my conversations are too weird and intellectual. I am rejected by intellectuals because I like fantasy and science fiction too much. I am rejected by nerds because I don’t look right to them (oh, the irony). So… yeah. Nowhere for me.

    • Jaimie, may I suggest you get involved in local science fiction/fantasy and/or costuming clubs? It’ll provide a way to meet people that you can hang out with at cons, and a place to discuss science fiction and fantasy. It’s much easier to have friends going into a con than it is to make friends at a con, I’ve found, because at a con everyone is rushing around, and you seldom see people again. In fact, all the friends I’ve made at cons, I’ve made while volunteering, which you may also want to look into as well.

      • Sadly, at the ripe old age of 34, I have yet to learn the skill of walking into a club meeting by myself without knowing anyone in advance. I have tried that type of thing a couple of times over the course of my life, and I was shunned or ignored in each situation. I am shy- yes it is possible to both confident in yourself and shy- and I have trouble starting conversations with people, even when we have common interests. When I do drag a conversation into being, I manage somehow to intimidate people and they get away from me as quickly as possible. The mental fortitude it takes to try again is overwhelming. When I do actually plan to try something new where I might make some friends, I often chicken out at the thought that I’ll just come home disappointed again- and there’s very little in life as depressing as coming home from a club event in which you didn’t speak to a single person while you watched everyone else have a great time. I think it’s second only to throwing a party that only two people show up for- yeah, I’ve been there, too. Twice. It’s a vicious cycle.

  96. Wow, really? BALTICON?? I admit, i haven’t been to a Balticon in at least 15 years (due to no money because kids), but… I’m really saddened by your report. Some of my best convention memories are of Balticon, and I never had problems with anything I wore there and I did a lot of cosplay and LARPing.

    • This year was my first (I went to see Sassafrass’s amazing performance of Sundown). Having had most of my recent experiences at Arisia, I was a little surprised at the ‘old guard’ feel of Balticon.

  97. You wore a costume that was both correct for the Original ST show and the con itself. You have skills. The people who have an issue with it have an issue with their own bodies and probably do not have the costuming abilities you do.

    Your costume is also rather conservative considering what some people wear. Perhaps it was the fact more is less; like a Ferengi mind had taken over the populous of the con? In a society that wears booty shorts and bikini tops to a doctors appointment; perhaps covering up is seen as obscene. Honestly, you’ve got the crap out of me.

    Either way, you rocked that con!

  98. A shapeless medieval gown is not the armor it might appear to be. Religion can rear its ugly head. I don’t wear a veil on the way to reenactment events anymore. Even a little cap has lead people to sneeringly ask what sort of Amish I am. I try to find the hilarity in someone not knowing if I’m Muslim, a Catholic nun, or Amish but there’s an implied threat and insinuation that I’m only doing this because of a guy. Blech.

    I’m relatively new to cosplaying and I’ve found myself rehearsing responses to fat comments and construction nitpicks. I hate that I’m going in wary like this. Thank you for this essay and the awesomeness of your costume.

  99. came over from IO9. such an amazing costume. makes me happy just to know that you are out there wearing it. screen accurate seams…so to die for; just lovely! Hope to see you rock in person someday.

  100. We just read your article, and we LOVE your costumes and your attitude. The more of us that speak out on our own behalf, and create a safer environment so that others can do the same, the better geek culture becomes.

    Thanks again!

    Backup Ribbon Project

  101. You’ve started an interesting conversation here that, I think, has much deeper (and possibly darker) roots than what most are willing to really discuss. Boiling it down to ‘jealousy’ or ‘haters gonna hate’ doesn’t get us anywhere. Among the myriad of reasons women (especially) are the focus of so much discrimination in ‘nerd spaces’ and elsewhere has much to do with the wide-spread permissiveness of the so-called ‘male gaze’ and what compels it.

    There is also the more complicated question of why costumers (like yourself and others, including men) choose to wear certain costumes. One, because you enjoy it (obviously), it is part of the fandom you subscribe to, it has personal value to you. You want to represent something that you find cool or exciting or otherwise meaningful to you. There are also the many unconscious things that compel us to act the way we do, things that really have nothing to do with having fun, but what we are exposed to (perhaps from childhood on) and what we have become part of, a system and a way of thinking that is almost never discussed, outside of CBT sessions. There is nature and there is nurture and something in between.

    i was at a meeting of psychologists with discussions that varied around sexual behavior since the advent of the Internet. There has been a (questionably) disturbing trend of women who have now grown up in the Internet age, with its drip-feed attachment to pornography, who have been more or less ‘educated’ by pornography and how to behave regarding their partners. We were all a little taken back by statistics that show so many young women today believe that ‘sex’ involves, primarily, the pleasing of the male and that women are still in a subservient role to men, socially, intellectually and plenty of other myriad ways, including sexually. For all the progress in equal rights, we still do not see many women CEOs, political leaders, etc. We see plenty of costumers, though. And I don’t mean that in a cynical fashion. Role play is interesting to explore, especially with these dynamics. Why is there so little discussion about it? Just blind acceptance in the media and elsewhere?

    Why does a grown women feel compelled to wear a costume originally designed to compel the male gaze? A sexist-hold over that is being reintroduced and thus, helping to perpetuate that old-fashioned idea? Today, we don’t consider that much, because we expect men to behave better. Women shouldn’t have to police their own behavior, or what might motivate their behavior, but men must be respectful, regardless of the situation or the motivation of the other person. It’s just ‘cosplay,’ right? It’s supposed to be fun, not enlightening.

    I’m not sure Nichelle Nichols or any other actresses from TOS were particularly in love with their costumes, but they knew what they meant and it shows that there was an impact because, in the first film, men were seen in the background wearing the short dress. Do you see many men at cons cosplaying *that* role? It isn’t really venerated.

    I don’t like the idea of anyone being put down for something they love and enjoy doing. That said, there are people out there who love dressing up as Nazis (though they do not subscribe to the philosophies) – some are even members of royal families. Costuming itself is a troubling area of adult behavior – it shouldn’t be, it should be fun and, in an equal world, there would be no real subtext to harm anyone or ascribe anything but the most innocent motivations, which many clearly have. But where does learning begin? Where is the education of men that what they have been raised with and what they identify with (comics/films/tv shows with women presented for their ‘male gaze’) isn’t really what it’s about – when sexualizing women is what it has ALWAYS been about. The fantasy female (that you may embody for some), is a male invention, and you are wearing it. No one deserves abuse for it, but not to understand why some men might behave inappropriately, is a tad disingenuous. Yes, they should know better. We all should. But I see the irony.

    In language, there is ‘trend’ of taking back racist or sexist language in order to turn it on the users who wish to denigrate another. Is wearing an exact replica of a sexist costume designed for the male gaze a way of doing that, in a different context? Does the message come across, or does it matter? Is it all down to being respectful, no matter what a person looks like, is dressed like, etc? It must be, but, again, where does the learning begin? Do we have to wear Irony at all times as well? Our motivations, even the ones we are not really aware of, can be more important than we realize.

    Yes, it is easy to just tell men, grow up, this isn’t for you, this is just me and I don’t care what you think. It should be that simple, but that isn’t really explaining why we do it in the first place, and it doesn’t answer the problem of perpetuating sexist attitudes – unconsciously – because we’re wearing the fantasy. What we’re not talking about is very telling.

    • Considering Nichelle Nicholls was one of the people responsible for the TOS minidress design I’d say the odds were good that she was, actually, in love with it.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It is refreshing to see such insight. I too feel that people should feel free from any sort of persecution for any reason and to blame impulses is a poor excuse. At the same time i do agree that some female sci/fi fantasy costumes are sexualized and find it curious of the popularity. For example “Slave Leia” an interesting choice of costume despite what happened to the character. But a friend of mine suggested that it may represent for some the heroic act of Leia freeing herself from Jaba the Hutt. Perhaps it is a matter of context of costuming.

  102. *applause* Well said. Some day I dream that this will be a non-issue. As a fellow costumer, If I happen to see you at Dcon, I’ll gladly buy you a bourbon.

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  104. First of all, nice costume.

    Secondly, you are blaming men for women’s behavior. Women who felt you made them look less good by comparison, went out of their way to try make you feel uncomfortable, unwanted, unwelcome, and slutty so… you turned around and blamed the male oriented culture of conventions.

    This post should really have been split into two separate ones: the ways women interacted with you and the ways males interacted with you.

    The males apparently did nothing wrong. In fact, they were treating you just like one of the guys – which you purport to desire. Males grill other males on trivia. Males look affronted when other males correct them. Males ignore other males they have no interest in talking too all the time. I have no idea why you are complaining about this, unless you want males to treat you differently than they treat other men.

    Additionally, you seem to be falling into an excessively binary dichotomy: either men are interested in your brain or they are thinking you are attractive but never both! That’s not the case. Not all men will find intelligent, educated women desirable conversation partners, but most men will admire attractive women. That’s genetically hardwired into them, and isn’t going to change, so if it bothers you, you can either shun male company, or dress in those shapeless sacks you decried earlier or…learn that when a man compliments you on your appearance, he is not saying he thinks you have no brain.

    Most men think “Hey, she went to all this effort to dress up as this character. I will compliment her on her appearance”. When they do so, and you snap “Eyes up here, you sexist pig, I have a brain too you know!” you are not making navigating the social landscape any easier for your average nerd.

    Other men probably thought “Well, she’s dressed as a star trek character. Instead of being a shallow male who cares only about her appearance, I will discuss our shared love of star trek together!” Which, for males, almost ALWAYS descends into talking about trivia. Have you ever listened to guys talk about sports?

    Then you get angry that they are ‘grilling you’.

    You can see why most nerds are hopeless with women. I think one of the biggest ways to improve this situation is for women to learn to accept the male attention in the spirit with which it is given.

  105. Gosh, if I had been there, I would have had a very curious reaction. I’ve seen the uniform patterns and they are challenging! So I would asked the Lieutenant if who her tailor was! Who the heck cares what people wear, as long as it doesn’t bring out the fracking SWAT team (this has happened at cons) or ticks off the hotel (not good for repeat business or relationship building). And if you were a hot guy in a nice tight Fleet uniform, I might also ask for your phone number. Come on people, its the weekend and it’s a con. Let’s have some fun, talk with some cool people (regardless of how they dress, speak, walk, etc), and enjoy.

  106. “Also, misandry is not a thing so stop.”

    It’s true that misandry is not a thing in the same way that racism against white people is not a thing. For example, Japanese are not racist against Koreans, because that would mean racism could occur amongst non-whites, and that’s a contradiction in terms.

    Or perhaps people can be prejudiced against members of a particular sex, and we label it misogyny when it’s against women, and misandry when it’s against men.

    • The thing you are terming “misandry” is an individual prejudice. The thing that is termed “misogyny” is an institutionalized oppression that is fed and feeds individual prejudice.

      The problem with the term “misandry” is that it it erases this vital difference between how the two phenomena exist and operate.

      • “The thing you are terming “misandry” is an individual prejudice. The thing that is termed “misogyny” is an institutionalized oppression that is fed and feeds individual prejudice.”

        The only way you can make misogyny mean what you want is if you write your own dictionary.

        http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/misogyny

        misogyny
        Pronunciation: /mɪˈsɒdʒ(ə)ni/
        Definition of misogyny
        noun
        [mass noun]

        dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women:she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny

        Derivatives

        misogynous
        adjective

        Origin:

        mid 17th century: from Greek misos ‘hatred’ + gunē ‘woman’

  107. ” Nichols had always insisted on wearing a skirt; although the standard female uniform used slacks, the costume designer created a skirted version specifically for her.[7″

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_III:_The_Search_for_Spock#cite_note-okuda-7)

    “Nichelle, however, had her own ideas of how to answer her fan mail. She left it to us to answer the standard “please send me a phaser” requests with photos of her in Starfleet uniform. But she wanted all her mail with a military return address. She had photos of her in her sexy, skimpy singer’s costumes, which she sent to “her boys overseas.” From the military fan reaction, those photos were very much appreciated!”

    “Whenever we’d see Nichelle at event or conventions, she would make some remark about sexy men and hug or kiss John. After being flummoxed the first few times, he got into the spirit of it and would kid her about doing this sort of thing will all men. She’d laugh and assure John that it was just him.”

    (http://www.startrek.com/article/bjo-john-trimble-share-nichelle-nichols-anecdotes)

    She was quite happy to be ‘sexualised’. Maybe the problem is that puritans under the feminist banner was her to be desexed? She owned her sexuality! How dare people try to disempower her, neuter her, make her a victim?

    Some women enjoy the sexual attention of men. Now if only there was a term we could use to describe the attempt to silence them… something alliterative… starting with sssss.

  108. Everyone knows that is an exact replica of the stewardesses outfits on the Pam Am Clipper flights from San Francisco to Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, Bangkok and Calcutta. The skirts were so short because there is no gravity in Calcutta, which is a Black Hole, and not because they were Playboy bunnies. Let’s have no more startling lies about “Star Trek.”

  109. I thought your outfit was fabulous! When you came by our table in the dealers room, I was impressed with the detail of the costume. To me, it was wonderful that someone wore a costume from the Star Trek series that I grew up with. Thank you!

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  111. I wonder if the context of what happened has been lost here.

    1) Not all cons are for cosplay. Balticon hasn’t been the most cosplay-friendly place. There are others, like REadercon for example, where it’s discouraged because it’s not the focus of the con. You will generate negative comments from people if you choose to cosplay like it’s a divine right. It’s not. You’re not accepting responsibility for your actions by calling some comments “concern trolling.”

    2) Your costume was flashing people — several of my friends pointed that out to you. If anyone was flashing people, no matter what they looked like, someone is likely going to say, “Hey, you are flashing people. Is that your intent?” If you say “you’re slut-shaming me about my costume” as a response, then they are likely going to wonder what the point of your costume was aside from it being a “regulation” Starfleet costume. You wore that costume poorly if that was not your intent, and now, you are upset about the comments it generated. It is not “concern trolling” to question someone about whether or not they intended to show off their undies to the world.

    I personally think that people should be able to accept constraints, and unfortunately, most geeks tend to disagree. This article shows how it works both ways: geek men tend to say and try to take what they want, but geek women do the same — it’s about boundaries, and ow messy it is when we don’t establish them. Stop complaining about it, and make sure you learn how to sit down in an Old Trek costume before wearing it again.

    • What exactly was she flashing? Aren’t you a little old for “I see London, I see France, I saw Emily’s underpants?” Watch the damn show. You do get the occasional glimpse up a female officer’s skirt, and what she’s wearing under it is designed for that to be OK. Like a tennis dress. Or a figure-skating costume. For you to suggest that Emily’s intentions were anything other than to rock a well-made costume IS “slut-shaming.” Your comments are uncalled for.

      • Is it possible there was more than one tall lady in a very well made Star Trek uniform, complete with hairdo? The lady whose pantyhose reinforcement strip (the bar that goes front to aft to protects the center seam) was showing as she walked by the elevators near the piano on Saturday night had a fairly distinctive walk; I’m pretty sure she is the only one I saw around the con all weekend.  She was wearing something relatively long the next day, blue again, I think, with the same boots and walk. 

        (I figure it was a combination of the dress riding up and posture changes from perhaps unfamiliar high heeled boots and walking fast.  Had it not involved running down a hallway after someone and potentially making a scene I might have tried to figure out how to say that ‘btw the underwear you are showing implies you might not be meaning to’* particularly if it was earlier in the day when the mall was open.)

        * Because if I’m 5’4″ and that was my view standing, the seated view is the whole crotch of the pantyhose in all it’s utilitarian glory.   /That/ said, pantyhose, even semisheer, are a covering, particularly over underwear - just that sort are not usually chosen for viewing.  Ref embarrassment levels when a woman manages to tuck her skirt into something opaque not meant for view at that moment.

        • I’ll give you that one. Part of the pantyhose reinforcement area was showing. I lost my dancer’s tights in my recent move, so I had to make do with drug store hose which had a strange vertical strip that ran down the leg, and while I tried to keep it pulled out of sight, it didn’t stay there.

          That said, I had cheerleader shorts on *over* those tights.

          Also, the “distinct walk” isn’t the heels, it’s my limp. I just walk that way.

          • Weird. I wonder if the shorts had ridden up (I have a number of dance ‘shorts’ I no longer wear because they fail to actually cover my butt once I’ve been moving in them) and I wasn’t the only one to see only the hose reenforcement strip – it really looked like you weren’t expecting anybody (or at least not most of the time) to see the underside of your butt, as opposed to it being expected. Some of the patterns actually come with matched panties. (Although until this thread I had never noticed it on screen.)

    • Except Balticon strives to be costumer friendly. There’s an entire costuming programming track. There’s a Masquerade. There is a hall costume contest. To try and say that Balticon hasn’t been cosplay friendly doesn’t hold up once you look at the actual facts of the convention. And as for the appropriateness of her costume, I have seen much more revealing costumes at Balticon over the years, and to be frank, it’s none of your damn business what someone is wearing so long as they aren’t breaking public decency laws. If you truly have a problem with what someone is wearing, Con Ops is down at the end of the hall behind the curtain. Go complain to them.

      However, there have been less costumers in recent years. There have been less entrants into the Masquerade. I wonder if it’s because costumers are getting reactions similar to what Emily got – from people like you who do not see Balticon as costume-friendly, when from all appearances the people who put on the con want it to be.

      • Yeah I don’t get the “balticon is not for cosplay” comments.  It’s nowhere near as usual as at Dragoncon or even Arisia, so maybe folks get more attention when they are dressed up, but what with a masquerade and hall costume contest and a huge costuming track it is a strange conclusion.

      • Obviously your inner thigh is quite offensive. Jesus Em, learn to conform to Quezz’s personal dictates of modesty and shut up already. GWAD.

    • 1. “Balticon hasn’t been the most cosplay-friendly place.”
      I totally disagree. The founder of Costume Con chairs our masquerade. We have built our Hall Costume Contest up to the extent that while we had 14 entries in 2010, we had SIXTY entries in 2013 at Balticon 47. We allotted 34 program hours to costuming/cosplay and masquerade. I would hardly call that a failure to be cosplay friendly.

      2. “Your costume was flashing people — several of my friends pointed that out to you.”
      Who appointed you and your friends the crotch police? FYI, it is common these days for costumers and, indeed, young woman in street clothes, to wear shorts under their short skirts so that they are NOT flashing people. What your and your friends saw was her modesty garment, not her underwear. IMHO if you didn’t see hair or mons, you didn’t get flashed.

      “You wore that costume poorly if that was not your intent, and now, you are upset about the comments it generated.” Again, I disagree. She constructed and wore the costume exquisitely and had an appropriate modesty garment in place. Her hair was perfectly coiffed to match the period of the outfit and her footwear was a perfect match.

      “I personally think that people should be able to accept constraints, and unfortunately, most geeks tend to disagree.” What we geeks are concerned about is who is to decide what those constraints are? People like you who can’t tell the difference between a pair of underwear and a pair of modesty shorts?

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  113. I saw her at Balticon and thought “Cool Old School Trek uniform. Oh wow…the appropriate updo totally nails it!” Sure it had a little sex appeal, but it wasn’t the primary focus. Yes, there have been costumes where sex appeal was job one….and yes my eyes and thoughts ran exactly in that direction. Hell, I’ve been annoyed at being in costume contests and losing to inferior costumes because of sex appeal. None the less, this wasn’t no chain mail bikini, and I can’t see WTF was the problem.

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  115. Maybe they got their manners from spending to much time online. Or it could be that an attractive woman in an appealing costume is always going to be more interesting than everything you know about tri-corder functions, battlestar construction or the Hulk’s true original color.

  116. I would have hit on you. Maybe I’ll go to one of these conventions and see how I do there, I like memorable women.

      • How dare he approach a woman?!! Shame that slut immediately!

        What’s wrong with hitting on someone, provided you aren’t crude about it. Unless they wear a engagement/wedding ring or are holding onto someone, you don’t know that they are unavailable until you try. Unfortunately, available people on Earth don’t display Horga’hns, more’s the pity.

    • Also, what I was doing under my costume! (And what most other short-costume wearing costumers do, given then prevalence of guys trying to take pictures up our skirts. (Not at Balticon, but at bigger and more costume-heavy cons.

      • In which case, maybe the problem was a fear of a potential event so dreaded they never noticed the real situation.

      • Emily,

        My husband is the Balticon Hall Costume Contest director/photographer. He has been trying to reach you since the last day of the con. You WON the popular vote, you know. Please write to HallCostumes@Balticon.org and tell Brian where to send your ribbon and prizes.

        Thanks!

  117. I’ve been to three conventions my entire life (I’m 24 and so I am a late bloomer) and I have run across this more times than I would have liked. It’s saddening to me. Once I have tried to step up for other people and have been in turn ridiculed for the way I dressed (my thrown together Sansa costume I had less than a week to do and I thought was awesome, but apparently not because it wasn’t ‘just like the movie’). I wish that we could rise above and be kind to one another and be happy for the effort and the time that we do put into our costumes. Yours probably looked so cool and spot on like the tv show. It’s like we are so influenced by the world that it leaks into the world we create.

  118. Thank you for writing that article. I remember that exact sensation many years ago when I would wander the halls of Balticon in costume. I had a costume I loved, but when I put it on, I had to gird my mental armor as well. It was exhausting to wear.

  119. I saw you and complimented you on this costume at Balticon but I want to say it again: You rock! Thank you for writing this. I have stopped wearing costumes at cons mostly because I lack to time to make them, but I know part of it was the awkward stares and drunken psudo come-ons.

    There is one man a Balticon who looked out for me when I was too young to look after myself (14-16ish) and I will forever be grateful for his intervention. Bless all of the men and women who speak up for those too embarrassed or confused to do so for themselves.

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  121. I took my 6yo daughter to her first con a few months ago. She proudly sported her Legend of Zelda shirt and when she saw older girls cosplaying Link she stated emphatically that at her next con she was going to as well. I was tickled when she talked to a few guys at a booth about her LoZ knowledge and they seemed duly impressed -she’s cute, she’s 6, and she knows her stuff – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about her future cons and the battles she will face. I don’t want her love to be ruined by those who might be put out that she’s a female.
    Thank you for helping to make her path a little easier to traverse.

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  124. I’m probably not the first to point this out (I didn’t have the patience to read the whole thread), but a basic problem here is that the author is dressing up as what was already a sexist, objectified portrayal of women. Star Trek was forward thinking in many ways, but those tiny skirts were not the leading edge of feminist progress; rather, they were to make men like looking at the show that much more.

    The author speaks of other conventions, other costumes. Another unfortunate fact is that roughly 95% of how women are visually portrayed in sci fi and fantasy, whether it be comic or film, is highly sexualized. The outfits are skimpy, and what there is of them is generally skintight. Again, this was done to appeal to a primarily male audience. Women who are fans of the genre may like these costumes from a design standpoint, but their appeal to men is and always has been primarily sexual.

    My main point here is that the author is dressing up as something that was designed to reduce women to eye candy. It was meant to be ogled. It is inherently sexist, period. Male sci fi fans have been ogling these images for as long as these characters have existed, so to be shocked that they do the same thing when they see them in real life is to me a little surprising. I am in no way saying its OK that they do this, or that author was “asking for it.” It just to me seems unavoidable, especially when the whole point of ANY costume is to make people look at you; the problem with deliberately making yourself the center of attention is that you rarely get to control HOW people look at you.

  125. “…a basic problem here is that the author is dressing up as what was already a sexist, objectified portrayal of women”

    Wearing a miniskirt was seen as liberated by the women of the time, and Nichelle had input into the costume design. Certainly, right-thinking people denounced those libertines back then, as they do today, but the fact is Star Trek was a 1960s show with the values of the youth of the time. I understand you find that upsetting, but there’s nothing stopping you from watching something less unsettling.. “Downton Abbey” is a ripping yarn by all accounts, and the women are always properly attired.

  126. I’ve never worn a costume to a Con, but i’m so glad you posted this. I’ve avoided doing so, just like I’ve avoided going into comic and gaming stores alone. This may seem ludicrous, but I’ve been stalked for over an hour through a large comic store, had people ask me multiple times if I were looking for a different store, and had to endure the angry stares when I wander in unknowingly during a miniature-based rpg tournament. The one time I went to DragonCon, I went with a group of friends that were all male. I threw on an old Halo shirt and some jeans, some eyeliner and chapstick, and wandered into what I assumed was going to be a safe geek zone. Throughout the Con, guys wandered up to me and asked to have their pictures taken with me. Perplexed, I shrugged and said “Sure”. After a few hours of this, and finding several crumpled $20s and someone’s number shoved in my pocket, I asked my friends what was going on. Some of them began to tear up, laughing. One of them explained that at Cons it was customary for people to get their pictures taken with people in costume or people they found attractive, sometimes paying them for the privilege. Horrified, I wore an over-sized sweatshirt the next day. Not only had I been objectified without understanding the situation, but those that I assumed were my friends had been complicit in shaming me for being a female in a male space. Needless to say, I do most of my geeking out behind closed doors now. I had expected this at fraternity parties, or in the company of high school jocks, but I had hoped that my shared love of sic-fi/fantasy would be enough to help others treat me as a person, not a prop.

  127. Ciara, the message I get from that is “men finding me attractive is unsafe”. If you had had a woman do that to you, would you have then denounced female society? Because i know from the cosplayer tales that they are sometimes approached and even groped by women.

    It doesn’t sound like anyone did anything improper, from what you said. Why are you so scared of being desired?

    • If you don’t find stuffing money (when not in a strip club) and phone numbers into someones clothes to be improper then I would like to ask that you do not come into society.

  128. This is why I stopped going to cons; the little degrading/belittling comments. It comes from both men and women. After the 2nd year I was basically told a number of times that I had no talent – despite the fact I had a full college scholarship in costume design and had been encouraged in my art by major talents in the biz – I desided it wasn’t worth the $$ to be abused. I didn’t want to be a part of a fandom that ate it own like chum in the water. EVERY uber geek starts as a newbie and we should learn to encourage each other.

    So my daughter can only name the Avengers from the movie and doesn’t recognize all the incarnations of the Dr yet…she’s 4…does that make her less of a fan?

  129. This is something you don’t get because as a guy, you’re far less subject to it. Random strange men hitting on you in a public place is indeed threatening, because you have no way of telling which one will take “no” for an answer gracefully, which one will verbally abuse or threaten you, and which one will take it all the way to sexual assault or even rape. (Side note: being groped IS sexual assault, and some cons are beginning to address this.) Believe me, if men came with signs about that, women would be far less likely to do what you’re calling “over-generalization”.

    Here’s a little thought experiment for you. Imagine yourself at the Gay Pride parade — I know, you’re not gay, but a lot of straight people go to demonstrate their support for equality — and suddenly you’ve got random gay men hitting on you, many of whom are significantly larger and stronger than you are, and some of them not taking “no” for an answer very gracefully. How is that going to make you feel?

    • “How is that going to make you feel?”

      Haaahh-choo! (*sniff*)

      Sorry, strawman arguments trigger my allergies.

      The actual situation would have to be me going to an area of gay pride, and instead of being groped or threatened, men pose with me, give me tips for the privilege, and slip me their phone numbers.

      Oh noes!!! I am so threatened! The horror! (*shriek*)

      By the way, female friends of mine who have gone to rallies have had their tits fondled and worse, by women, and they still managed to walk out the front door the next day without collapsing in a heap.

      In the scenario described by Ciara, the men behaved correctly. Had she been harassed or threatened, I’d understand the panic (and advise her to talk to others about dealing with it positively), but as it stands, I’d say they are doing exactly what free humans should do, pursuing happiness as is their right, by approaching others for love and sex, and it worries me that you have judged them all pre-emptively as rapists and thugs, and wish to crush the freedom of their speech.

  130. Oh FFS, not the “censorship / freedom of speech” strawman argument again. Nowhere in either the Constitution OR the body of law surrounding it does it say that (1) PRIVATE ENTITIES are not allowed to control what kinds of speech they endorse (only the government is subject to that stricture), or that (2) freedom of speech includes freedom from consequences. How about taking on a little of that “personal responsibility” people like you are always going on about, and recognizing that if you make an ass of yourself, people are going to point and laugh?

    Better yet, LEARN about your magic-word arguments before you deploy them, and then smarter people won’t have to explain stuff to you that you could find in 10 seconds of Googling.

  131. Never said anything about freedom of consequences. If you want to jeer at anyone who finds you attractive, go thee forth and have at it. Just don’t try and stop others from having the right to even ask…

    I happen to agree with the opinions of these people http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/drafters.shtml

    ” Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

    Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”

    Of course, you can argue that ‘Free Speech’ is irrelevant for Americans, not some universal right, heck, you can argue that slavery is good and that Htiler didn’t go far enough… because you have free speech, a right you are happy to trash for others. But don’t lie about it.. have that much decency, at least.

    • Well, if nothing, he can certainly bloviate. The thing that so many people that cry “freedom” don’t understand is that when you are given freedoms, it is your duty to exercise those freedoms with personal responsibility . And that it isn’t your right to abuse those freedoms to limit the freedoms of others. The adage “your rights end were my body begins.” He doesn’t want freedom, he doesn’t want the responsibility of it; he wants conformity and maintenance of a status quo, he wants rules for everything clearly defined (as long, of course, as they are in his favor). He doesn’t want freedom as an ideology, he wants it as a label. Freedom requires critical thinking and personal accountability, and that shit is really difficult.

    • Wow, SERIOUS reading comprehension problem here. First off, get it through your head once and for all that freedom of speech does not even begin to be an issue here, and you can’t make it apply no matter how many times you repeat your magic-word phrase.

      Secondly, deploying the “freedom of speech” Magic Word in defense of the attitude that a woman cosplaying in public has declared her body to be public property says a lot about you, and none of it is attractive. That line of argument tends to go with a whole suite of other entitled assumptions.

      Thirdly, once again, the fact that someone is calling you out on assholic behavior does not mean that they are “against freedom of speech.” it means that they are in favor of YOU NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE. Now grow a pair, own your words, and stop making a fool of yourself.

    • Nowhere in the UN Charter of Human Rights does it say that a person has the right to treat another person like a piece of meat, or to abuse them, whether physically or verbally.

  132. Saw this on io9. I really enjoyed the article. I’ve been largely ignorant of this sort of thing as I’m not really a convention goer. I’m not going to lie, I think you in that skirt looks really awesome. That said it would never occur to me to think I had some right to make you feel uncomfortable or even ashamed of yourself because you might be a bit out of my league. I don’t get that mindset. If I was talking to you I’d be thinking of ways to make myself seem more interesting and fun, not trying to knock you down a peg because I felt like your existence was somehow an insult to me. Or a threat as some of those passive-aggressive comments from women show.

    I think most people at these cons would probably not want to make you feel bad. Most probably think you’re costume looks great and it’s cool that you’re there. I can’t say that for certain but I’m really up on people these days. And as much as I’d like to stick up for any cosplayers I might come across in the middle of this, unless they are a close friend it really isn’t my place to do it. Somebody says “white knight” and suddenly I’m the asshole. The women are going to have to take this one on themselves. And honestly you don’t need my help to it. But you have my support.

  133. I feel the need to apologize for my gender. I really think it boils down to social akwardness the male geeks feel threatened by women and the trivia thing is a defense mechanism. I am not trying to defend their behavior I am just attempting to explain it. I’m all inclusive I say the more the merrier I might try the trivia thing just gauge how much of a geek you really are. But if I find you worth talking to then you think I’m creepy so I guess I can’t win

    • I’m increasingly dubious about the whole “socially awkward / clueless” argument. Why? Because I’ve known a number of guys who were genuinely socially awkward or clueless, and there was one thing they all had in common: if somebody actually TOLD them how they were screwing up, they would STOP. They didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable or angry. All too often, though, I see those words used as excuses by guys who don’t want to have to alter their behavior in any way — they just want people to give them a free pass because they’re “socially awkward” or “clueless”. That’s not someone who’s really clueless, that’s someone who’s gaming the system, and I think we should stop accepting it as an argument unless the person walks the walk and actually attempts to change what they’re doing that pisses people off.

    • LOL NERDS WILL BE NERDS! SORRY LADIES, LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE STUCK!

      We’ve heard every explanation. It means nothing to explain it to US. The next time you see one of your friends making these “socially awkward” remarks, call THEM on it – apparently, these folks will only listen to men, because when women speak up about it, they get reasons and explanations and NERDS WILL BE NERDS and nothing ever changes.

      As for the trivia gatekeeping, there’s a difference between, “Great costume! What was your favorite episode?” and a sneered, “Did you even WATCH the show, or did you just want to wear a short skirt and get attention? Really? Then who was the alien of the week in Space Seed, huh?” I bet 20 Quatloos that women get more of the latter example than the former. Share your enthusiasm. Don’t hoard it like it’s some finite resource only doled out by people you find “worth talking to”.

  134. Thank you Emily for this thought-provoking post. You are very right to point out the problems with these kinds of microaggressions and how they can be subtle yet impact women very deeply as they accumulate. I write about these types of issues for women traveling abroad and am very happy to see others speaking out against this kind of problem. Keep defying stereotypes, keep wearing awesome costumes, and keep writing and sharing about your experiences.

  135. I was there, and I didn’t get a chance to speak to you, although I did see you several times and I wanted to–I was super busy at Batlicon. As a first-generation trekkie–I thought you looked awesome. Screen perfect. And anytime you want to come up to Philly–be welcome.
    –Elektra Hammond, Philcon Masquerade Director

  136. Wonderful essay, and wonderful costume. I’d love to see more pictures of your hair, and maybe a tutorial!

    Also – do you have a script yet for your planned responses at the next con? It might be helpful to write down a few good comebacks to the top ten most anticipated comments. Post them here, and we’ll help!

  137. I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t see you, and sorry that people were shits to you. What disturbs me is that I don’t recall this from when I started doing cons in the 70s.

    I don’t know why it’s changed, but it feels like the world is more slut-shaming than it was. That, or I was more blind,and people talked less.

  138. You look fantastic. I am 100% behind your love of Star Trek and your right to wear whatever you want. Thank you for a very well-written post, and I’m sorry you had to deal with flak at the con.
    I made a gold version of that same dress, and I’ve had some of my best con moments wearing it. I’ve only rarely been interrogated on trivia, but it’s really satisfying to answer their questions correctly and snappily. (“Who wore yellow on Star Trek?” was my favorite question, where by favorite I mean most puzzling.)

  139. You wore a short skirt with leggings and got comments from both genders, but according to your article, it’s the fault of the patriarchy? I don’t want to seem dense, but if I see someone I find attractive, I look, and even say something to them. I know that sounds crazy but life is too short to ignore a natural attraction. Now, not to cut you down, but I wouldn’t have looked twice at you. Just my natural impulse and desires. However, if you are going to wear something like that you should be expecting commentary. I know quite a few gals who go to cons wearing much less than that and much more revealing, and maybe because they are young and attractive, they know what they are doing. They don’t complain about the attention, they just have their time. You said you felt perfectly safe, then what are you complaining about? Some cats saying you look hot and some j bird gals talking smack? They probably weren’t saying half you thought they said, but it makes a boring story. Congrats, you are 1 in like 4 billion.

    • Thank you, really – thank YOU for taking the time to condescend to us lowly women about which ones of us you think is attractive and which ones you don’t because this is THE most important issue I think facing women today – Am I attractive enough for dudes with Leprechaun icons on the internet to stare, judge, and comment on my appearance because of manly “natural impulses?” If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not a woman whom you would ever find attractive (mostly because of my capacity for abstract and independent thought, but also my thighs are fat) and clearly that has left a lot of my days free since I don’t have to worry constantly about what you think and feel about my appearance. I don’t know maybe I should take up knitting.
      I think what we all can really learn from you “Rojo” (if that is your real name) when you say ” if you are going to wear something like that” could you provide a list of clothing that a woman could wear that will not invite comment from you? I am terribly interested because I am thinking of starting a clothing shop featuring moderately priced comfortable clothing like the “I-want-to-stand-on-a-subway-platform-and-not-get-groped cardigan” or the “I-hope-my-ankles-aren’t-too-revealing-but-I want-to-be-able-to-run-from-you ballet flat”
      Let’s see if you can resist coming back to call me a nasty slur you saw on 9gag while you were trolling the upskirt shots because you clearly have no capacity for understanding or mature discussion about how women are individuals capable of commanding the same respect afforded men.
      Congrats you exemplify rape culture.

  140. Word, Emily.

    I stopped costuming in 2007 to concentrate on writing, but I’d been costuming up to that point from 1986. I’ve been every size and shape, fluctuating from thin enough to wear a Starfire suit to heavier, but still wearing costumes.

    And what you say? I’ve experienced most of it. One thing that I had going for me in regard to comments and interface was that my husband and friends and I costumed in groups, so we women (two of us, usually) had some insulation in terms of friends. Still, I’ve been backed into a corner by geeky men grilling me about comics or anime. Once, Julius Schwartz pinched me on the butt. I was appalled, but was only 19 and had no idea what to do next.

    So…at 48 and pursuing a career in writing, I’m not likely to return to costume wearing any time soon. I do have a couple of active suits I’ve pulled out (and probably will wear my Disc World assassins suit at CONvergence this year, as it’s very lowkey), but I do appreciate that YOU are taking the time to confront.

    Love the vintage hair, and hope to meet you at Convergence.

    Cath

  141. Pingback: Interesting Writings — 6/12/13 | The Open Window

  142. Hey girl, it’s me, GermanCityGirl!

    I think you should hop a plane and check out GeekGirlCon… great article, by the way. I’ll post it on our feed tomorrow!

    Cheers,
    - GCG

  143. Someone dear to me who is involved with Balticon sent me here. As a guy who is a geek and is still fond of the original Star Trek, I will say these things: the costume rocks and is definitively a great example of original Trek costuming. You rock the costume. What you want to wear is your business. I hope people behave better next year. And please, as somebody who does not do cosplay but admires those who do, I hope nothing dampens your enthusiasm to make more costumes.

  144. Pingback: INFINITE CROSSOVER – Issue X: The Cosplay Conundrum | CapelessCrusader.org

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  146. I admire Nichelle Nichols; she was a strong, smart and courageous woman trying to be a role model, a successful actress and a determined good sport at a time when there were almost no people of color on television. God bless her. But her acceptance of the uniform should not be used as proof it wasn’t sexist and demeaning. The show was a product of its time; dominated by men and their fantasies. I do think there’s a highly combustible discussion to be had about why so many feminists celebrate sexist costumes that were designed for male viewers to enjoy.

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  148. Wow, good read I’ have known plenty of geek / gamer / nerd girls who said almost word for word what you told us here over years. It is great to see it online and where people can share you thoughts widely.
    Thank you for doing this.

    Also: You should come join us at Steamcon, where Girls with awesome costumes are the norm and not the classic “boys being annoying, girls being passive aggressive” when they see the crazy awesome effort you put into something.

  149. Pingback: INFINITE CROSSOVER – Issue XI: Is This Your Father’s Superman? | CapelessCrusader.org

  150. Pingback: On Harassment and the SFF Genre | Inspiration Struck

  151. I don’t cosplay but I have friends who do…were you wearing the costume in this picture? With the black stockings? Goodness, I know Baltimore is not L.A. but come on. You look great. Your costume was not/is not too short!

  152. What a great article! You make so many good points. The one that hits home with me is the idea that women can be seen as experts or as eye-candy, but not as both. This is true for professionals at cons, too, not just for fans.

    I am a writer and have attended some of the more literary-oriented cons, including Balticon, in the company of a group of friends who are also writers. I am completely average-looking. I have also written many published novels. The other woman in our group is stunning, with looks that turn men’s heads everywhere she goes. She is an excellent writer and is articulate about the industry, but she is unpublished.

    We both notice how differently we are treated in a group of male writers at a con, no matter what we are wearing. She is instantly drawn into the gathering. The guys make a fuss over her. Everyone wants to talk with her and be near her. But if she tries to talk about writing, they immediately change the subject to something light and social. They want her there, but only for flirting with (or, sometimes, for blatantly hitting on).

    My experience is completely different. I stand at the edge of the group and am ignored; they don’t even step aside to allow me to get closer, or turn their heads to acknowledge my presence. I try to break into a conversation about writing by making reasonable, relevant comments. The men don’t seem to hear; they talk right over me. Finally I get fed up and begin in what seems to me to be an unnatural, awkward, and obnoxious way, prefacing my comment with something like, “Well, I have 28 books out, and I think….” I never have to say it more than once. After that, they listen and accept me as part of the group, and speak to me the way they speak to each other. I just hate that it’s necessary.

    The men in our group — published or not, and regardless of looks — simply walk up to such a gathering and start talking. They are accepted without question. Only women have to pass the litmus test: looks or brains. If you’re female, you’ll have to prove the brains part. And the assumption is that you can’t have both.

    I used to let this bother me. Now I try to remember that the men who are treating us this way are not bad people. Most of them do not usually come across as sexist; they probably have no idea what they’re doing to us. I try to see it as amusing, and to do my best once I’m “in” to pull in other people in a less discriminatory way.

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  154. It’s very charitable of you to attribute the trivia grilling to wanting to share geek knowledge, but the tone of voice, body language and word choices give the game away every time.

    Believe me, when you’re on the other end of it you can tell the difference between the cheerful enthusiasm of “Yay, someone shares my interests!” and the hostility of “Prove yourself, girlie.”

  155. Pingback: Afro Commentary: Sexism in Geekdom is No bueno, man… No bueno at all » Geek Soul Brother

  156. Just found this – excellent!

    My 15 year old son is getting into the Con thing (as I was and may be again).
    I’m going to strongly “suggest” he read this.

  157. I just like the valuable information you supply on your
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  158. our costume was totally appropriate as a daytime con wear. It does not even begin to approach the risqué. I have not been to a con in years, but I can’t imagine the rules changing. Maybe you were dealing with 1 day ticket people who were not even staying in the hotel.

  159. You’ve made some good points there. I looked on the internet for more information
    about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

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