Campaigns, Events, Pop Culture, The Movement, User Submissions

Cosplay =/= CONsent: Costumes aren’t an invitation for Harassment.

HollabackPHILLY released another CNN iReport, this one about our Cosplay =/= CONsent efforts at national comic cons. The below video was pre-screened on October 19 at GeekGirlCon 2013, and now it’s officially available in Site Leader Rochelle Keyhan’s iReport:

The above video is part of HollabackPHILLY’s effort to work with national comic conventions on improving the scope and efficacy of their anti harassment policies and procedures. Sexual harassment at comic conventions has been documented online for the better part of a decade, but most mainstream convention circuits still do not have formal and thorough anti-harassment policies. In the above video, you can see cosplayers’ visceral reactions to our question about how they would feel about conventions adopting formal harassment policies: some loosening the tension in their shoulders, even smiling, at the thought of a convention setting that was set up to be an inclusive and safe space for all fans.

 

To read the full post about our efforts and the scope and impact of cosplayer harassment, click through!

 

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L and S’s Story: Harassed on the way home at night.

We were coming home late from a party. As I parked, my friend got out of the car. I heard someone trying to hit on her. She replied “Hi, sorry, not interested”. When I got out of the car I saw it was a car with two guys, stopped in the middle of the road. I said “Leave my fucking girlfriend alone” and they said “Yeah, you’re right we should have paid attention to you.” We rushed down the block to her apartment.

 

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Nikki’s Story: She stands up to a serial street harasser near Rittenhouse Square.

photo 3I was walking with my dog through the Farmers Market on Saturday at Rittenhouse Square, which happened to be a gorgeous warm Fall day, naturally there were plenty of people out. A man in a bright yellow vest yelled at some young girls, maybe 12-14 in age, walking in front of me “A $1 for the homeless.” When none of them looked up and kept walking, he yelled “F*** you, I don’t need your dollar, a** holes.” I turned and told him it is completely inappropriate for him to say that to anyone. He goes “F*** you, b****.” I said, “you know,  last week you asked me if I had a boyfriend and I just kept walking, ignoring you and didn’t say anything. It’s not ok to talk to people that way!” He goes “What? I don’t want you, you ugly, you look like my dog. Get away from me.”

I called the police as did another man who was telling him to “just calm down”. Since several people watched this happen, two girls from one of the fruit stands asked me if I was ok and told me I could stand with them while I waited for the police. Since the stand was not that far from the guy, he kept yelling and waving at me and then seemed to be pretending to laugh at me, while pointing and jumping around. I thought this was a good time to take photos to send to the organization he works for and for my own documentation. He yelled some more-stuff like “ew, you look like my dog, you smelly, go away”. We waited for at least 20 minutes for the police. Of course, he saw them coming and they did not catch him. I was however able to contact the organization he works for, One Step Away. I sent them a detailed story and photos and they promised to handle it and understood that this person would likely recognize me if he saw me again. I will be following up with them.

 

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Sarah’s story: The harassment is so constant, she has to brace herself every time she leaves the house.

I don’t leave my house without headphones so I don’t have to hear what they are saying to me.

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Dani’s Story: “Since when did a “Hi” become an invitation?”

A strange man approached me in the parking lot at school, after greeting him and smiling – as I try to do with most individuals, out of courtesy. He then began asking me a series of questions: i.e. Was I a professor at the school? Attempting to make it clear that I had to get to class, he then commented on how “beautiful” I was, followed by the suggestion that “my husband must tell me that all of the time.” I left for my intended destination. Since when did a “Hi” become an invitation?

 

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Liz’s Story: Harassed the entire ride on the regional rail.

Some guy on the Media/Elwyn line began interrogating me, trying to get my number and find out where I go to school. Despite saying I was on my way home from my boyfriend’s place, he didn’t relent until we both got off the train at Suburban Station.

 

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Erin’s Story: “Now I have to wonder if I’ll get propositioned every time I see their neon yellow vests”.

A man selling papers for a local homeless organization started asking me rather personal questions, like if I’m single and why didn’t I have a boyfriend. I told him it’s because I prefer girlfriends, which is both true and got him to leave me alone, but now this charity’s name is damaged for me. All of my previous experiences have been positive. Now I have to wonder if I’ll get propositioned every time I see their neon yellow vests.

 

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Phone App submission: Harasser doesn’t get the answer he wants, starts hurling insults.

 

Having a smoke waiting for the bus and a large white man with an Italian flag shirt on came up and asked where I was from and if I was single. I said no, I’m French and engaged. He called me a whore and walked off.

 

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Launch Party Harassment, at the event and online afterward, and Locust Moon’s stellar response.

While our launch party this past May seemed like a fun, festive occasion, with a great outpouring of local support for our comic and our CONsent project, some people were harassed by someone who was not only at the event, but who purchased a comic and showed support for the anti-harassment cause. Our entire comic-con anti harassment movement is geared towards shifting the culture of conventions and comic book stores to be inclusive of more than just straight male fans. Part of that inclusive culture means firm responses and zero-tolerance policies toward gender-based harassment.

Now that things have settled down from the release party, and we have brought the issue to the attention of Locust Moon who reiterated they have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, we want to share the story with you all from beginning to end.

Anonymous’ Story: First off, I had a great time at your event last night. You all were so pleasant and your cause is one that has my full support. Oh, and the comic is awesome! It really exceeded my expectations.

Unfortunately, that’s not why I’m contacting you. I’m contacting you because a friend sent me this:  http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/mis/3830982425.html which is clearly about me. [Anonymous requested the post be removed, which Craigslist actually honored. So we’ve attached a screenshot]

Creeper (1)

At first, I thought it was really funny, maybe a joke. But the more I think about the sad irony of attending an event to end harassment and winding up on Craigslist’s missed connections, the angrier I get. If it’s the guy I think it is, I literally spoke one sentence to him. He seemed harmless enough at the time. To think that in those brief seconds he made my heart go pitter patter is insulting to me and the serious relationship I am in. He clearly mistook my excitement of purchasing your comic for “something very real.” And the end? How creepy is that?

This is exactly what Hollaback stands against. He reduced me to “a killer set of tits,” made vastly exaggerated assumptions about me, and removed my choice in the matter. And to top it all off, I am now hesitant about returning to that amazing comic book store.

Locust Moon seems a very woman-friendly store. That’s why I was so upset about this guy practically saying he’d be waiting for me there. Locust Moon is by far the most welcoming comic store I’ve found since I moved to the area, and I definitely plan on visiting whenever I can. But, of course, I want to feel safe.

I assume he is only a regular customer, not an employee. I realize this is completely out of your control and appreciate your support as well. I mostly just want to feel comfortable when I visit Locust Moon, and him to understand his behavior is totally unacceptable. I’m not entirely sure how to even handle this. I certainly don’t want any contact with this creep. But I would really like to feel comfortable the next time I visit Locust Moon. Any suggestions?

We’ve had nothing but excellent, supportive interactions from Locust Moon, so we sent them this information, including the name and photograph of the offender, and asked for their opinion on what they were willing to do as a store that seems to pride itself on being inclusive and welcoming. We also sent Anonymous an email letting her know how we planned to respond.

Anonymous response reminded us why we do this – because you should never be made to feel that you are overreaction when harassment upsets you; because you deserve support and a community that has your back.

Anonymous: Thanks again for getting back to me. I hope I didn’t blow this out of proportion, like some friends accused me of. I’m just very tired of the onus being on the victim though, not the aggressor. And I hate when people use the Internet as a way to anonymously threaten others. That’s why I want to take a stand alongside groups like Hollaback.

And Locust Moon’s response reminded us that men are often allies, and we if we trust them enough to talk to them about these issues, we give them the opportunity to be equally horrified enough to stand alongside us as we speak out against harassment.

Chris from Locust Moon: We’re glad you brought this to our attention, and only wish we had gotten this information sooner. We definitely want Locust Moon to be a welcoming place for everyone, and take the safety of our patrons seriously. This guy  has no idea how to deal with women, and I’m sorry this had to happen at our store, and that such a good night was sullied by such ignorant and childish behavior. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this guy DOES NOT come to the store often. While currently there is nothing we can do (none of our staff even recognize him), but he is no longer welcome at Locust Moon. This guy will NOT be allowed into the store if he tries to come by again. We will keep his photo on file and try to look out for him. This applies to more than just this one man: any person who harasses or makes threats against any of our patrons is not welcome here, and we do want to be made aware if any such behavior occurs again.

Please let Anonymous know that we’d love for her to come back and see the kind of place we are. We’d hate for some random creep to ruin her, or anyone’s, perception of Locust Moon.

While we were heartened by this response, and appreciated the re-affirmation that they strive to be a comic book shop that breaks the “boys only” mold, what was more important, we wanted to be sure Anonymous was comforted and supported. Happily, she was!

Anonymous: Comic book stores can be kind of intimidating to women, what with the whole “fake geek girl” thing many of us have to overcome. Dealing with some creepy guy who swears his love to me because we made eye contact is just one more hurtle I don’t want to jump. All I want is to enjoy some good literature. I’m very pleased with Locust Moon’s response. They clearly care about my happiness and safety.

So, if you are looking for a women/LGBT friendly comic book shop in Philadelphia, look no further than Locust Moon. And know, if any harassment is to occur, they will have your back!

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Phone App Submission: Man driving by in car taking pictures of her.

I was dog walking when a man in a white van appeared to be taking pictures of me. I flipped him off and walked away. He drove away and I went back to walking when he drove past screaming ” I have your picture”.

 

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