The Longterm & Ongoing Problem of Costume Club Elitism and How to Stop It

#Elitism occurring in #CostumeClubs is nothing new. For as long as costume clubs have existed, so has the problem of elitism within those clubs. The question is “why?”.

To begin to understand the problem of elitism, we must first define what elitism is. So, let’s start with a very simple definition:

  • Elitism is the belief that an individual or group is somehow better than a different individual or group based upon one or more differences that exist between those individuals or groups.

The definition is a variant of ones written in Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary. Those differences can range from differences in ancestry, race, political views, religious beliefs, wealth, intellect, special skills, experiences, or other intrinsic differences. This also means that there are different types (or flavors) of elitism, but they all share that same simple definition that we wrote above. What makes elitism bad is the negative “I’m better than you” attitude that it can lead to, as well as people may be mistreated as a result.

Interestingly, it’s a standard practice for costume clubs to clearly specify in their written charters (provided that they have written charters) that obtaining membership within the club and how members are treated within the club won’t be affected by their race, political views, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

So, costume clubs do acknowledged and address specific types of elitism already; but these types of elitism are also the same types of elitism that are addressed by most societies today as a whole. In other words, listing that these specific types of elitism won’t be permitted by the costume club is simply complying with existing societal expectations.

What these written charters fail to address are the actual types of elitism that have and continue to occur within costume clubs today, but what are the types of elitism that occur in costume clubs today? That may sound like something that is too complicated to identify, but it’s actually very simple.

In general, what requirements does an individual have to meet in order to join a costume club? While some variations in requirements can exist, they usually boil down to only 2 common requirements:

  1. Is the individual a legal adult (18 years of age or older).
  2. Does the individual own a wearable costume that meets with the standards of excellence and accuracy that are defined by the costume club.

That first requirement exists for obvious legal liability reasons, but that second requirement is, in reality, the starting point for all costume club elitism:

  • The very process of joining a costume club means that the person who’s joining is suddenly different from the billions of other people in the world who don’t own a highly accurate wearable costume and, therefore, can’t join the costume club. (In reality, 99.9% of them probably aren’t interested in joining anyway.)

Now, just because someone has been approved for membership within a costume club doesn’t mean that they are going to develop a negative elitist attitude towards people who aren’t part of the club; but potential is there. And it doesn’t end there either.

  • Becoming an approved member of a costume club means that the newly approved member has access to forums and information that non-members don’t have access to.

Having access to private costume club information that non-members can’t view further separates costume club members from non-members and increases the potential for negative elitist attitudes to develop. And, again, it doesn’t stop there either:

  • Being a costume club member means being able to participate at events while wearing the approved costume. Someone who isn’t a member or isn’t invited to participate with the costume club members can’t participate at the event in costume.

For most costume club members, this is where most of the separation between themselves and the general public (the non-members) ends. But, for any costume club member who are local chapter officers, they are likely privy to additional forums, information and decision making that members who aren’t officers can’t access or do. This can then be taken even a step further with club-level officers who may have access to pretty much all of the club’s most private and typically inaccessible information.

In other words, gaining access, participatory privileges and potentially decision making privileges within a costume club are multiple levels of stratification. Stratification is often at the core of what creates the situation for elitism to occur, as we wrote in that simple definition earlier in this blog post.

Thus, the potential for negative elitist attitudes to occur are interwoven within every single level of a costume club. Yet, not one written costume club charter that we have ever read has ever explicitly mentioned elitism, nor have any of them explicitly stated that negative elitist attitudes resulting from being a member of the costume club are inappropriate and potentially subject to disciplinary action if problems result. Further, most costume club officers and founders that we have communicated either don’t want to discuss elitism or admit that it occurs within their clubs.

Problems don’t go away when you ignore them; instead, they usually get worse and can eventually manifest as even bigger and more embarrassing problems.

Case in point: last week’s highly embarrassing and humiliating situation for the 501st Legion Costume Club when “Star Wars” actors Ray Park and Daniel Logan both quit being honorary members of the club because of how poorly each of them have been repeatedly treated by elitist Legion members. Could this have been prevented? Well, ignoring the problem of elitism didn’t make it go away.

But this isn’t the only example: 1 year ago this month, the elitist leadership of one “Star Wars” costume club, without warning, decided to abruptly shut down the club. How elitist were these now former costume club leaders? They never at any time considered or obtained the wishes of the costume club members at large. In fact, they shut down that club in spite of the wishes of its members to continue operating the club. Those now former leaders did not care one iota how anyone else felt. They saw themselves as having the power alone to destroy that club with absolutely zero remorse.

Can Costume Clubs Stop Elitism?

We’ve posted before about how costume club leaderships often fail to address problems, as well as the qualities that separate good costume club leadership from bad leadership. We’ve also effectively already said what costume clubs need to do, but we’ll make very clear here.

Any costume club that wants to stop elitism from occurring and creating problems need only do the following:

  • Amend their written costume club charter to define what elitism is and to explicitly prohibit members from acting in a negative elitist manner towards others or face the possibility of disciplinary action.
  • Enforce the rules against elitism.

That’s it. Now, that won’t necessarily stop all elitism from occurring, but it will not only force it out into the open, it will ensure that people who choose to engage in negative elitist activity and attitudes may face unpleasant consequences. In other words, create a deterrent. That’s what all of the other written rules and codes of conduct are about: deterrents.

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References

 

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Ray Park & Daniel Logan Both Quit the 501st Legion Costume Club

Only hours ago late yesterday (Oct. 5, 2018), #StarWars actor Ray Park (who played #DarthMaul) announced on his #Instagram account that he has quit being a member of the #501stLegion. (The “501st Legion” is the largest & oldest “Star Wars” #CostumeClub and Ray Park has been an active member for many years, as has actor Daniel Logan.)

On his Instagram, Mr. Park wrote the following:

“iamraypark #announcement I AM NO LONGER A 501st legion member. Reason: Disappointed!! However, A certain or a certain member spoiled it for me in Edmontont, 501 legion. I AM A STAR WARS FAN. I AM A FAN BUT NOT A FAN OF THIS! #sithlife #raypark #cancelled

Ray Park's Announcement Quitting the "501st Legion"

This same message is also posted on Mr. Park’s Twitter account:

Ray Park's Announcement to Quit the 501st Legion on Twitter

In response, the “501st Legion” on its #Facebook page issued the following apology:

“Ray Park, please accept our most sincere apology, from the almost 14,000 members of the 501st Legion. You deserve the utmost respect and courtesy, always. We hope that you and Daniel Logan can help us make this right. Thank you.”

"501st Legion" Apology to Ray Park

After learning about this, “Star Wars” actor Daniel Logan (who played the young Boba Fett and is also a member of the “501st Legion”) announced his solidarity with Ray Park Instagram and that he, too, was quitting the “501st Legion”:

Daniel Logan's Announcement Quitting the "501st Legion" on Instagram in Response to Ray Park

While not all of the facts have been publicly presented (but there’s a lot of hearsay), a recent article on Yahoo that was published only in September, 2018 may shed light as to the nature of what may have caused Ray Park to decide to quit:

“Ray Park, the British actor who first played Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, has defended his appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story after receiving “a few fatty comments” about his return to the role.

Maul made a surprise cameo in Solo where it was revealed that he had survived his “death” in The Phantom Menace, and was behind the shadowy Crimson Dawn crime syndicate that looms over the spin-off film.

On Instagram Park says that, although he doesn’t care about the comments and he doesn’t need to justify his appearance in the film, he “worked his butt off” to play Maul once again. He’s also shared photos of himself looking absolutely ripped to silence the haters.

Unfortunately, Mr. Park removed that Instagram post to which the article referred, but we are definitely appalled that anyone would “fat-shame” Ray Park.

One individual wrote the following on Instagram. While we cannot verify it’s accuracy, it’s description is aligns with some our and others own experiences:

Unverified Statement

Since we first created our Facebook page and, later, this WordPress blog, we’ve posted numerous times about toxicity and bullying that occurs “behind closed doors” within costume clubs, and that includes the “501st Legion”. This situation with Ray Park and Daniel Logan is the most public display of just how toxic some superfans within these clubs can be. Poor & weak costume leadership is clearly a factor, which is something else that we have discussed in the past:

As we posted on our Facebook page on January 22, 2016 (also linked above):

“Being part of a costume club can be an enormously rewarding experience, but it can also turn into one of your worst nightmares in the blink of an eye. As long as things go smoothly and morale is high, you can be an active member for potentially years. But if things go awry with conflict & drama, regardless of how much time and effort you have invested into being an active member of the club, you have to know when it’s time to quit. This can be an extremely difficult reality to accept, especially for anyone who has been a member for years and invested considerable time and effort into the club. The key to remember is this: if the conflict & drama is causing a significant amount of stress for yourself, what impact is it also having on your family? We have witnessed several marriages end due in large part to unremitting costume club drama that one spouse is unwilling to step away from. Is a costume club filled with drama more important than your family? Probably not. Try to keep that in mind that sometimes the only realistic solution for yourself and the well being of your family is to walk away from the club. Not being a club member isn’t going to inhibit you from continuing to be an active costumer or cosplayer; but it will very likely restore it into being a fun an rewarding experience again.”

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The Ugly Side of Fandoms, Cosplay & Costume Clubs

#Fandoms, #cosplay & #CostumeClubs can be wonderful things: each draws a wide assortment of people together who share a common interest or love. Unfortunately, that wide assortment of people also means the potential for widely different points of view, temperaments, psychologies, beliefs and understandings (among other things) that can lead to a very ugly side of fandoms, cosplay & costume clubs: conflict and drama.

While this ugly side isn’t always active, it can brew just beneath the surface waiting for an opportunity to manifest, sometimes rearing its ugly head on the smallest of issues that can occur among groups of people that are only connected on a single activity of interest.

The ugly side of fandoms, cosplay & costume clubs isn’t something that members of these groups generally want to acknowledge or talk about publicly, but after it starts it can potentially become a public spectacle if it escalates. And guess what: escalation of drama & conflict within any of these groups can occur very rapidly. Further, once conflict & drama starts, it can go on for months or even years with little or no abatement.

But why does such intense conflict and drama occur within fandoms, cosplay & costume clubs? Consider the word “fan”.

From Fan to Fanatic and Fanaticism

The word “fan” was originally a shortened version of the word “fanatic”, but now there’s a fine difference in definitions between these two words:

  • A fan is “a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.”
  • A fanatic is “a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity.”

Thus, the difference between a fan and a fanatic is that a fan has a “strong interest”, whereas a fanatic has an “obsessive interest”. In other words, if a fan’s enthusiasm & strong interest for a fandom, cosplay or a costume club transforms into an obsession, then that person is no longer simply a fan: that person has become a fanatic. And guess what: fanatics have a much larger propensity to initiate and escalate drama and conflict than a typical fan. This description from Wikipedia really sums it up best:

“The fanatic displays very strict standards and little tolerance for contrary ideas or opinions.”

From personal experience and personal observations within various fandoms, groups of cosplayers, and (especially) costume clubs, unreasonableness and obsession are nearly always at the core of the drama and conflict when it occurs.

And here’s something very important to understand: when you think about how intolerant a religious or political fanatic can become, unfortunately, fanatics within fandoms, cosplay groups & costume clubs can experience similar levels of intolerance. This is why conflict & drama can become so intense within these groups and why it can last for months or even years.

And that, ladies & gentlemen, is what drives the ugly side of fandoms, cosplay & costume clubs: fanaticism and the intolerance that it generates. But how does the conflict and drama get started? Let’s explore that.

How Conflict & Drama Often Begins

On June 4, 2018, Mandalore the Uniter posted the following statement on Facebook:

Words are typically the weapon of choice that most often instigates drama & conflict within a fandom, a group of cosplayers or between costume club members. Words are typically also the weapon of choice that leads to escalating the drama and conflict for months or even years at a time. Whoever said that words can’t harm others obviously never saw the harm that they can and do cause, including when they’re used as weapons on the Internet.

Now, for those of you who might attribute the start of a conflict or drama to a particular action, just remember: it’s often how the involved parties react to the offending action immediately afterwards that may determine whether it erupts into a full-blown conflict & drama. And, more often than not, those reactions will probably come in the form of words.

But words aren’t the only weapon that may be used. There have been cases where inappropriate phone calls have been made to employers to try and get people fired. There have been instances of falsifying evidence to get people in trouble when they did nothing wrong. Sometimes a conflicting party might even spy or get someone else to spy on the person (or people) that they’re fighting with. We even know of a case where an individual attempted to have another party arrested by claiming that that other party had stolen something even though there’s absolutely no evidence. Just imagine police coming to your door and asking you to go to a police station to be questioned for something you didn’t do. In the case that we know of, the police ultimately apologized to the party and no charges were ever filed because the person was innocent even though the accuser continues to make the false accusations years later.

The Different Parties Typically Involved in Conflict & Drama

When conflict erupts within a group, it usually starts between 2 of the group’s members. These individuals are typically referred to as the primary participants or the initiators.

As knowledge of a conflict begins to spread within the group (as it so often can), additional parties who weren’t present when the conflict began may allow themselves or they may feel compelled to also become involved. We refer to these individuals as secondary participants.

Together, the primary and secondary participants on both sides of a conflict can be collectively referred to as the active participants.

Now, not all conflicts are two-sided; some are one-sided. In a one-sided conflict, one or more individuals who are actively perpetuating a conflict are directing it at someone else (or possibly an entire group) who isn’t actively responding to the conflict. In this type of situation, the person (or group) that’s on the receiving end, but not actively trying to perpetuate any conflict themselves, can be referred to as an inactive or involuntary participant.

Beyond the active (and possibly involuntary) participants is a third group: the bystanders. Bystanders are people who may be unaware of the conflict, or they may be individuals who do know about it, but have chosen to not take sides and remain neutral.

To remain neutral, a bystander must avoid showing any favoritism towards either side of the conflict. A bystander can express a desire to see the conflict end, but anything beyond that has the potential of drawing the bystander into the conflict itself as an active participant. It’s not uncommon for active participants on one or both sides of a conflict to approach bystanders in an effort to get them to take sides and become involved themselves.

Within a conflict, active participants can take on one or more roles. Some of these roles are more common with the primary participants, while others may be more common with the secondary ones. Some of the roles are listed below.

  • Initiators are the individuals that started the conflict in the first place. These are the primary participants.
  • Defenders are typically secondary participants who become involved to defend one of the original primary participants in the conflict.
  • Instigators may be primary or secondary participants, who want to intensify an existing conflict.
  • Trolls are primary or secondary participants who attempt to attack one side of a conflict online. Sometimes they attempt to do so anonymously.
  • Stonewallers are primary or secondary participants that perpetuate the drama & conflict by ignoring people perceived to be on the other side of the conflict.
  • Fault-Finders are primary or secondary participants that look for fault (real or fabricated) with anyone on the other side of the conflict with the intent of exploiting it for their side.

Recent Ugly Examples in the Public Eye

Some ugly, obsessive, unreasonable, racist and even threatening “Star Wars” fans recently made it into the news when actress Kelly Marie Tran decided to delete all of her posts on the social media site Instagram because of continuous abusive posts that she had been receiving from disgruntled fans who didn’t like her character. Some of the harassment that Tran faced online includes an incident in which her character’s description on the Star Wars ‘Wookieepedia’ website was altered to feature offensive, racist language.

Similar to Kelly Marie Tran, fellow “Star Wars” actress Daisy Ridley completely deleted her Instagram account in 2016 after she began to be harassed by people over a post she wrote about gun violence.

“Star Wars” actor John Boyega was attacked in 2014 for being the first on-screen black stormtrooper, and this was coming from franchise fans; but he effectively defended himself.

And let’s not forget about what happened to “Star Wars” prequel actor Jake Lloyd. In 2017, renowned “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill expressed his dislike regarding how Jake Lloyd was treated by critics following the 1999 release of “The Phantom Menace”:

“I couldn’t believe some of the things they wrote about the prequels, you know. I mean really, beyond I didn’t like it. I’m still angry about the way they treated Jake Lloyd. He was only ten years old, that boy, and he did exactly what George wanted him to do. Believe me, I understand clunky dialog.”

And that doesn’t even include how the fans have viewed him or his performance. Not only did Jake Lloyd quit acting after “The Phantom Menace”, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Could all of the verbal abuse that Jake Lloyd received due to his acting in “The Phantom Menace” have been a contributing factor to his schizophrenia? We may never know, but words can cause a lot of damage.

Then there’s the recent public admission from “Star Wars” actor Ahmed Best (who played Jar Jar Binks) that he became suicidal at one point from how angry fans were with his character. Thankfully, other fans came forward to express their support and he thanked them.

Director Christopher McQuarrie has publicly said that he now never wants to direct a “Star Wars” (or superhero) movie because of how ugly the fans can become. In his own words, the toxic fandom has “cured” him from wanting to become involved in the franchise.

All of This Conflict & Drama Is So Unnecessary

Even though we have posted in the past that all of this obsessive, ugly behavior is completely necessary, it can be very difficult if not impossible to get fans-turned-fanatics to stop their negative behavior. What you can do, however, is to avoid becoming embroiled in any conflict & drama yourself as the damage that can ensue may be unrepairable. Friendships destroyed and people leaving the cosplay & costuming hobby altogether are not uncommon results from excessive conflict & drama.

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Whatever Happened to RainFurrest?

There used to be a fairly large #furry convention in Seattle called #RainFurrest. RainFurrest conventions occurred annually beginning in 2007 and ran through 2015 for a total of 9 conventions. Attendance for the inaugural 2007 convention was 370. This grew steadily until it reached its highest attendance of 2,704 attendees in 2015. Unfortunately, 2015 was the last RainFurrest convention to occur. What happened?

RainFurrest 2015 was a 4-day event that began on Sept. 24, 2015 and ran through Sept. 28, 2015. From what we have been able to uncover, a myriad of problems that occurred at this final convention is what brought about the end of RainFurrest. While not all of the information that lead to RainFurrest’s demise has ever been published, enough information exists to get a good idea as to what probably occurred. What it essentially boils down to is multiple types of inappropriate behavior & activities that some of the convention attendees had engaged in while at the convention’s venue: the Hilton Hotel located near the Seattle-Tacoma airport (known as Seatac).

The full extent of what had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 came out in small chunks, the first of which appears to be a letter to attendees from the RainFurrest board that was posted on Reddit. While the letter begins by mentioning many of the good things that occurred at the convention, it includes a list of problems identified by the RainFurrest board that occurred at the hotel:

  • For the last few years, the Hilton sustained more damage during RainFurrest than it did from every other event at the Hilton the entire rest of the year. This doesn’t even include damage to guest rooms or other incidental wear and tear like the elevators.

  • This year’s incidents include two plumber calls, a flooded bathroom that soaked the offices underneath, towels stuffed into a hot tub pump, and multiple petty vandalisms and thefts. A final damage report is still being compiled.

  • We had to send three people to the hospital and call the police twice.

  • By Sunday morning of con this year, the hotel was so exasperated that they were threatening to evict attendees for single noise complaints.

But this wasn’t all. Hilton’s headquarters sent a letter to RainFurrest that included a long list of complaints:

* Two attendee drug overdoses that required medical response and hospitalization for both attendees;
*Over 2000 spend nitrous oxide cartridges which are used as an illegal inhalant were found discarded in a guest corridor after the group checked out;
*A drug arrest in the adjacent parking lot of a person that police believe had ties to the RainFurrest group;
*A RainFurrest volunteer staff member was reported to have sexually assaulted a female attendee (the responding Sheriff charged the man);
*A guest room smoke detector was tampered with and discarded in a guest corridor;
*An elevator inner door cable was broken by an attendee trying to force the door open;
*A RainFurrest security staff member was seen using marijuana;
*Hilton received a phone call and follow up e-mail from an attendee complaining about rampant drug use and alcohol consumption that was allowed by RainFurrest staff.

While we’re not sure when Hilton’s headquarters sent their letter, it was probably sometime in October, 2015 as suggested by a Feb. 5, 2016 post on the RainFurrest website explaining that RainFurrest organizers had been looking for a new venue for 2016 since October, but had failed to find one. A snippet of that post is listed below:

“As many of you know, RainFurrest has been in search of a new venue since October 2015. We have discussed and explored facilities in many wonderful areas, finding options with a number of excellent venues in Greater Seattle and western Washington state. Our hard-working hotel team has fought for every possible option that would suit what our fans want out of RainFurrest. Tonight, the last of those options has closed to us.”

Hence, RainFurrest 2016 never occurred. After the search for a willing venue in western Washington (which is closest to Seattle) had been exhausted, attempts had even been made to move the event to Spokane, which is in eastern Washington; but according the Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa), someone had sent letters to the hotel in Spokane that encouraged them not to sign a convention contract with RainFurrest. (That is further explained in the video that we posted below.) RainFurrest was then completely shut down in or before February, 2017, which is when the final tweet was made on the RainFurrest Twitter account saying farewell.

The following video is from a 2016 convention panel in Vancouver, B.C. with Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa) who was one of the organizers & board members of RainFurrest. He gave a rather detailed look into what happened at and after the final 2015 RainFurrest convention, as well as the attempts to have a 2016 convention at a different venue.

Another YouTube video was posted in early 2017 summarizing everything that had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 and why the convention could not find another venue. Some of the things in this video are exaggerated, but it still gives an idea as to what was occurring:

A longtime RainFurrest attendee & helper also posted a video blog regarding his thoughts on RainFurrest in Feb. 2016.

From everything we’ve seen, the number one problem that got RainFurrest shut down was drug use by some attendees at the final 2015 convention. Residents of Washington state had approved the use of recreational cannabis in 2012 and the first recreational cannabis stores in Washington opened to the public on July 8, 2014. That, however, didn’t obligate hotels like the Hilton to permit the use of cannabis at their locations. Unfortunately, some attendees chose to ignore this prohibition by the hotel and used cannabis anyway, along with a variety of other prohibited drugs and inhalants.

The question is, did all of the attendees truly understand that drugs couldn’t be used at the hotel? When we read the RainFurrest 2015 Code of Conduct, there is actually no mention of drugs in the Code of Conduct at all. While there is a reference to following the hotel’s rules and policies,

“As a convention attendee, you are a guest of the hotel and must abide by the hotel’s rules and policies whenever you are on the premises.”

there was no link to what those hotel rules and policies were as of 2015. This, in our opinion, was something that the RainFurrest board failed to publicize.

While tampering with a smoke detector was probably a major issue for the hotel (due to liability), we strongly believe that the lack of adequate security provided by the RainFurrest board was the other major contributing factor to the demise of the convention.

Thus, drug use and lack of security (plus all of the vandalism that occurred at the hotel) greatly damaged the reputation of the RainFurrest convention, its attendees and its board. While the problems were likely only due to a small number of attendees, it was enough to harm the entire convention.

As we posted in April of this year, the public perception of costumers, cosplayers & furries is the responsibility of all costumers, cosplayers & furries. Once reputation has been damaged, it’s usually very difficult to rebuild.

References

Public Perceptions of Costumers, Cosplayers & Furries: Who’s Responsible?

All #costumers, #cosplayers & #furries share one common responsibility: public perception. That public perception applies to the fandom(s) being represented by costumers, cosplayers & furries; the perceived reason(s) why costumers, cosplayers & furries dress up in #costumes; and (most importantly) the types of activities that costumers, cosplayers & furries engage in while in costume.

Any time that costumers, cosplayers or furries are in costume in a public space, members of the general public who are not costumers, cosplayers or furries themselves will also be present and they will be able to observe what the costumers, cosplayers or furries are doing while they are in costume. A public space could be a public park, a city street, a convention center, a hotel lobby, etc.

Who are the members of the general public? They are, in all likelihood, a combination of adults and underaged children. Also, members of the general public are going to be a cross-section of society itself, which includes a myriad of beliefs, as well as a myriad of ethical, moral and political points of view.

While there will always be a wide variances in the points of view that different people have, there are also going to be some points of view that are probably going to be commonly held by most people when they pertain to intimate behaviors between people who are in a public space and how acceptable those intimate behaviors are.

  • Some types of intimate behaviors that are likely going to be regarded by most people as being acceptable while in a public space include a couple holding hands; family members or friends hugging each other; someone kissing another on the cheek; a brief kiss on the lips between adults; etc.
  • Some types of intimate behaviors that are more likely going to be regarded by most people as being unacceptable while in a public space include very long passionate kisses on the lips; physical contact that is more than a simply embracing or hugging; touching parts of the body that are never shown while in a public space; etc. At this level, these types of intimate behaviors can cross over to being regarded as sexual; and anything construed to being a sexual activity or imitating a sexual activity while in a public space is probably not going to be an acceptable behavior.

Let’s ask a question: what may happen if people (the ‘participants) are observed by others (the ‘observers’) while they are actively participating in unacceptable intimate or sexual behaviors while in a public space?

Obviously, many (if not most) of the observers are going to quickly develop a very poor opinion of the participants. But it doesn’t end there: if the participants are identified as being part of a specific group, there’s a good chance that many of the observers are also going to associate other members of that same group with that behavior, then apply the same poor opinion to other group members even though they weren’t involved. It also won’t necessarily matter if the group as a whole doesn’t condone that type of unacceptable public behavior: they’ll still bear the burden of that low opinion caused by the actions of a few.

Now, let’s take this up a notch. We live in a very interconnected society thanks to the Internet and smart phones that include cameras capable of taking both pictures and videos. If an observer takes out his or her smart phone and takes pictures or or video of the participants as they are actively engaged in an unacceptable public behavior, then that observer shares those pictures or video on the Internet, what’s going to happen? Within a matter of seconds the total number of observers will increase from a handful of people to potentially millions of people.

As we have discussed in past posts, some costumers & cosplayers are members of costume clubs; and many costume clubs have written charters that include codes of conduct that define specific types of behaviors that are not acceptable for costume club members to engage in while in costume or otherwise representing the club. Why? To maintain a positive public perception of the costume club and its members. Members who engage in an activity that violates the costume club’s code of conduct face potential punishment that could include suspension from the club or even banishment.

Similarly, many businesses and corporations require their employees to take annual training in order to prevent the employees from engaging in behavior that could potentially cause a negative public perception of the company,  which could undermine the company’s bottom line: it’s ability to conduct business and make money. If an employee violates a company’s policies, he or she may be suspended, be put on probation or possibly be terminated.

So, who then bears the responsibility of public perception in the costuming, cosplay & furry communities? We all do!!!

Are there any examples of what could go wrong when one or more costumers, cosplayers or furries engages in unacceptable behaviors while in a public space? Unfortunately, yes; and the most recent occurrence that we are aware occurred at “Furry Weekend Atlanta” (FWA) two weeks ago. Ironically, our previous post was about the dance contest that occurred at FWA.

2 weeks ago, 2 individuals (presumably men) dressed as human pups (by wearing what is typically viewed as being fetish attire) started to play with each other as puppies in the hotel lobby where FWA was occurring. The 2 individuals wrestled with each other and then one got on top of the other and remained there for roughly 30 seconds, which gave the appearance that some sexual stimulation was occurring in that position. As these 2 individuals were engaged in this actively, other furries were walking by, as well as members of the general public. Then, one of the FWA attendees who was on a balcony overlooking the lobby took video of the 2 individuals and did what? Posted an edited video emphasizing the 30-second period when one of them was on top of the other onto their personal Twitter feed. The backlash was immediate and includes an unflattering article in a well-known British publication.

We learned about this incident from the World of Rooview YouTube channel:

One very important distinction that Roo points out is the difference between fursuiting and the adult activity known as “pup play”:

  • Fursuiting is the creation of anthropomorphic characters through costuming. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, including animals and animal characters.
  • “Pup play” is an adult activity in which one or more humans behave like a puppy. It is a type of zoomorphism, which is the attribution of animal behaviors and characteristics to humans (or other things). Thus, it is the opposite of anthropomorphism.

While the 2 “pup play” participants that were publicly wrestling with each other in the hotel lobby were not wearing fursuits at the time they were filmed, there is a presumption that they were also FWA attendees because they were wearing fetish pup play attire. Whether or not they were actually FWA attendees, they’re costumes associated them with FWA, other furries in attendance and the broader furry community at large. Had these 2 individuals only engaged in this activity in a more private location (such as their hotel room or some other site away from FWA) then this would not have become an issue. Also, had the person who filmed their questionable public activity taken their concerns to an FWA representative instead of posting it online for millions of people to see, then this would not now be associating FWA or the furry community as a whole due to the actions of only 2 participants.

Our request here is simple: if you are in costume in a public space, please do not engage in behavior that could be deemed as sexual, imitating sexual activity or be otherwise interpreted as being inappropriate or unacceptable in a public setting. Because if you do, it can reflect poorly on everyone in the hobby.

References:

Inappropriate & Unacceptable Cosplays

At the end of 2017, we posted a topic regarding the rules of #costuming & #cosplay. Beyond those rules (that are based on actual laws, venue rules, etc.), some #cosplays are inappropriate and unacceptable because of cultural standards. While some jurisdictions and venues prohibit these types of cosplays & practices listed below, not all do; but that doesn’t mean that they are any less inappropriate & unacceptable.

The reasons why certain types of cosplays & practices are inappropriate & unacceptable will become clear as you read the examples below.

Blackface

For anyone unfamiliar with this term, blackface refers to the practice of non-black individuals (usually performers) putting on dark makeup in order to appear black. Dating back to the 18th century, blackface was used by white performers to create demeaning, stereotypical caricatures of blacks for minstrel shows. The practice continued until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the United States, but continued elsewhere for several years or decades longer, such as the U.K., where it continued until 1978. Some occurrences continue to this day in some counties.

Blackface is widely regarded as being completely inappropriate & unacceptable due to its demeaning & racist portrayal of African Americans. Movies and cartoons that were filmed with blackface scenes are no longer broadcasted in the United States, even by cable-only TV channels.

Any cosplayer that decides to apply dark makeup in order to appear to have darker skin than they actually do may be accused of being racist even if there was no racism intended by the cosplayer. We therefore highly recommend that no cosplayer use any form of blackface.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2016:

From Twitter.

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation can be defined as the appropriation of elements of an oppressed culture by a people who have historically oppressed those they are taking the elements from and who lack the cultural context to properly understand, respect, or utilize those elements. Thus, it is not a a mutual cultural exchange that has occurred in an equal manner, nor was any permission granted by the oppressed culture.

Within the context of costumes, the wearing of anything that represents a cultural or racial stereotype should be avoided. Anyone wearing a costume that is deemed blatantly racist & stereotypical may be called out as being worn in poor taste or the wearer may be accused of being racist. Examples would include the following:

  • Traditional Native American dress.
  • Mexican sombreros and ponchos.
  • Jamaican dreadlocks.
  • Japanese geisha or samurai.
  • Dressing as a homeless person.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2015:

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From Twitter.

Nazi Symbols & Uniforms

Nazism began as a 20th century political party in Germany before the outbreak of World War II. It’s leader, Adolf Hitler, adopted a symbol (called the swastica) originally used for peace in Buddhism and reversed its direction to represent the Nazi Party and its extreme racism and antisemitism. Under Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany started World War II in 1939 by invading neighboring Poland, which then escalated to consume nearly all of Europe and parts of North Africa in war. But, even before the war started, German Jews and others that the Nazis didn’t like (including homosexuals, communists, people with disabilities, etc.) were systematically rounded up and sent to concentration camps where Nazis began to murder them in large gas chambers that were disguised as showers. By the time Nazis were defeated in World War II, they had murdered at least 12,000,000 people in the concentration camps. Of those 12,000,000, half were Jews.

Long after the end of World War II and the Nazi Party in Germany in 1945, white nationalists in the United States and elsewhere have adopted Nazi symbols and continue to spread similar racist, homophobic and antisemitic hatred. Thus, anything associated with the Nazis, including its symbols and uniforms, is highly inappropriate and unacceptable. In fact, some conventions have banned the wearing of any Nazi symbols on cosplays.

Unfortunately, there are some who do actually wear Nazi symbols and uniforms to comic, anime & even furry conventions. In fact, one such incident just occurred this weekend in Houston at Anime Matsuri, an anime convention.

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Cosplayer dressed in a Nazi uniform at Anime Matsuri 2018.

References

Cosplayer Explains First-Hand Account of Recent “Cosplay Is Not Consent” Incident

#CosplayIsNotConsent: #cosplayer #AlchemicFox (check out her #YouTube channel) has published a first-hand account of how she was #groped & #punched while attending an anime con in a #Naruto #costume by a female cosplayer:

 

If you are ever inappropriately touched or attacked at a convention, report the incident immediately to the nearest convention staff, security guard or police officer.

Cosplay is never consent.

References:

For further reading, we have posted on this topic before: