Cosplay for Real Bodies

[NOTE: I did not name this panel, formerly “Cosplaying While Fat.”  All bodies sizes and types are real bodies.  For the purpose of this post, though, we are speaking of people with large bodies or those not possessing the idealized shape/size of a character.]

Fellow panel members: Richard Stephens (M), Theresa Halbert, Kat Marier, Bethany Roullett

Large bodies are often overlooked in media and fashion.  When large people are portrayed in books, shows, and films, they’re stereotyped as having poor hygiene, low intelligence, villainous intent, or as bumbling, humorous sidekicks.  They’re the butt of jokes or something to be pitied.  While these trends are slowly changing, most fandoms do not include positive representatives of large-bodied people, which can seem limiting to fans who want to show support but can’t find a character who suits their style and personality.

There are two paths: cosplay from a limited, but growing selection of large-bodied characters, or cosplay whoever you wish regardless of your size.  Personally, I do both, and so do my friends.  Sure, you might see me dressed as Rose Quartz (SU), Radagast the Brown (LotR), or Pam Poovey (Archer), but you’ll also see me portray River Song (DW), Pinkie Pie (MLP), and Toby (Unico).  The best part? Cosplaying with caring, supportive friends or family members.

Yes, there are cruel people in the world who think fat people shouldn’t exist, or if they must exist, they should be meek and ashamed of their bodies and accept the limitations of stereotypes and a narrow selection of characters to portray.  Those who wish to deride others for their size (or any other feature of their body) can be found everywhere, including sadly, among members of conventions.  Thankfully, these bullies are a shrinking minority, as more people normalize cosplaying at all sizes.

If, however, you’ll be attending an event in an area prone to narrow-minded opinions, or you’re new to cosplaying, it always helps to go with one or more supportive friends.  Numbers make an excellent impact against bias, bigotry, and harassment.  Also, it’s just more fun to make, build, and wear costumes with friends.  You’ll be able to help one another out from measurements to wardrobe malfunctions, and crack jokes all along the way.

While more conventions are shedding light on cosplay etiquette, pushing back against harassment and bullying, our fan-filled community still has a lot to learn. (Some conventions are handling it much better than others.)

But what if your greatest harasser is in your own head?  It’s time to have a conversation with yourself about internalizing the negative images about fat or even average sized bodies, and by proxy, the bodies “allowed” to cosplay.  As Shoshana Kessock said in her post Too Fat to Join the Fun:

Let me get this straight: there aren’t any such unwritten rules? Cosplay is open to anyone who might want to be involved, regardless of who they are or what they look like? That it’s a culture based upon geek celebration and creative displays of fabrication and not the perpetuation of horrible beauty stereotypes that we encounter in every part of our society? You mean there’s a place in cosplay for someone that looks like me?

Read that again.  Cosplay is open to everyone.  If you love a character enough to want to dress up like them, go for it!  If you’re still struggling to love your body, you might want to check out The Fat Word, Dances with Fat, or Fuck Yeah Fat Cosplay to see positive examples of large bodied people loving themselves and having a good time.

Cosplayers need to stick together.  There are enough people outside of fandom communities and outside of cosplay who don’t understand the passion, creativity, and downright courage it takes. So, if you’re being harassed, or you see someone else being harassed it’s time to take a stand.  You can use logic, remind them you’re all fans out to enjoy yourselves.  You can use humor to shut down cruel statements or bullying behavior.  You can also document the harassment using a phone or video recording device in the moment, letting them know their despicable actions will be held accountable.

And if the harasser doesn’t back down?  It’s time to take the issue to convention staff, or if there’s been physical contact, report the harasser to the police.  

While a lot of us might be introverts and not wish to confront bullies in a direct way, we strengthen our community by addressing rather than avoiding conflict.  Speak up and speak out, and this should include all cosplayers: people of all sizes, ages, races, skin colors, abilities, and level of skill.

More Related Links:

Bullying in the Cosplaying Community

How People with Thin Privilege Can Fight Body Terrorism

Why Cosplay Bullying Really Sucks