#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:
- Is the individual a legal adult (18 years of age or older).
- 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.
- Wikipedia Elitism Article
- Urban Dictionary Elitism Article
- Ray Park & Daniel Logan Both Quit the 501st Legion Costume Club
- Costume Club Destroyed from the Inside Overnight
- Why Costume Clubs Fail: A Learning Opportunity
- What qualities separate good #CostumeClub leadership from bad leadership?