Thursday, March 19

Booth Babes, Cosplay, and fat-shaming.

Here I am again - and, yes, I’m actually still alive. This post will be about booth babes, cosplay, and the inevitable fat-shaming that comes into play when you’re dealing with that kind of thing. I might get loud in some areas, because some stuff still pisses me off, but that might make this a good post for waking “Feminism Wow!” from its long slumber.

There has been talk of a convention banning both the booth babes usually used to promote new video games (and some other stuff) and cosplayers who look too sexy in their costumes (which means a lot of cosplayers, because the female costumes they copy usually are supposed to be sexy). I guess, as a feminist, I should have a positive outlook on this, but I don’t. Let me explain why: it is, essentially, reverse fat-shaming. And then, it’s not.

Let’s have a look at the booth-babe issue first. Companies pay models to wear skimpy costumes taken directly or indirectly from their games or comics or movies to promote said games or comics or movies. Usually, those models are female, hence they’re called ‘booth babes’ and not ‘booth persons.’ Some people say they don’t actually boost sales, others say they do, which reminds me very much of the saying ‘50% of advertising doesn’t work, but we don’t know which 50%.’ In essence, if a company believes scantily clad females boost their sales, there is no real reason why they shouldn’t have them. The models are paid for their job, it’s not as if they’re forced to wear those costumes at gunpoint. And the job of a booth babe is hard enough.
Companies could, perhaps, expand their customer base by also employing some ‘booth boys,’ also in scanty costumes. Or, perhaps, in suits, since ‘a good-looking man in a suit is to women what a good-looking woman in lingerie is to men.’ Thinking about it, scrap the suits, give them Victorian gentlemen’s wear, but forego the sideburns, only few men can pull them off (and they weren’t that fashionable in Victorian times, either). A poll might help you find out what would make women buy your games or your comics or watch your movies.
Of course, then you might have to make your heroes a little more diverse than they are at the moment:

No, this is not a ‘spot the differences’ game.

Moving on to cosplay now. For those of you who are not into this subculture, cosplay is a combination of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play.’ People spend a lot of money and time recreating the costumes of their favourite characters from video games, comics, movies, or TV shows (and probably other sources as well) and wear those costumes during conventions, impersonating their favourite character.
As you can imagine, not all of the cosplayers (people doing cosplay) have the same physical shape as the character they’re impersonating. And especially female cosplayers who sport more volume than their (usually very unrealistically drawn) characters take a lot of flag from others for not being ‘pretty’ or ‘slim’ enough to wear the costume.
So what? Fuck you! Honestly, if someone spends hours upon hours (and quite a bit of cash) to look like a character they adore, they have all the right in the world to also wear that costume in public (if they have the guts for it, I don’t)! It doesn’t matter whether they are the wrong shape, gender, colour, or whatever! Give me a Snow White with hair as white as snow and skin as black as ebony … that would look enchanting, I’m sure. Hell, please copy the ‘historically accurate’ Disney Princesses costumes for the next convention. Perhaps not Pocahontas, that one might be against rules in quite some countries (her being topless), but definitely do the others.

Cosplay might be your thing or not, but there’s no reason to tell someone else they’re the wrong ‘whatever’ to impersonate a character. It’s called creativity, you know, being a female Hades (from Disney’s “Hercules”) or a male Maleficient (from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”).

See anything wrong with those? Because I don’t.

So, finally, we arrive at the topic for fat-shaming which does deserve a post of its own, so here the gist: Don’t do it!
You might be one of those who think ‘people who are fat can stop being fat by just losing weight, so they shouldn’t complain about people making fun of them or telling them they’re lazy slobs.’ Well, first of all ‘just losing weight’ is probably the understatement of the millennium. It’s extremely difficult not just to lose weight (depending on what kind of diet you do, that might work out quite well), but to keep it down afterwards. Which is why most people regain their former weight and even some more pounds. We have our bodies to thank for that. In the long run, losing and gaining weight is more stressful for the body than just being overweight, by the way.
And in modern times, with the medical means available, you’re not going far enough, either. If you tell fat people to stop complaining about being shamed about it, you can also tell people of colour to just bleach their skin, so they won’t be catching more racism - or tell women to undergo a sex-change surgery, so they will be treated like men. Yes, it is essentially the same from the point of view you’re displaying!
We’re all different. At university, I knew a woman who was very thin, but not because she dieted or had an eating disorder, she was just one of those people who have a very high metabolism and don’t gain weight easily. She was often faced with people who suggested she had an eating disorder, just because she was thin, even though I know she was a healthy eater and had a weakness for chocolate. She probably ate more than I each day, but she stayed thin and I was tubby. Unfair? Certainly, but that’s life for you. Under other circumstances, in a world with little food, she might have perished and I might have survived, because I would have fared better during famines, being capable of gaining weight more easily.

Yet, banning booth babes and attractive cosplayers, just because they are ‘sexy’ is the wrong message to send. Sure, they’re not shamed for their looks the way fat people often are, but it’s the same message: ‘you don’t look right in those clothes.’
The idea of booth babes might be sexist (it is, until companies also put out booth boys), but as long as we have scantily clad women on every second billboard, promoting everything from food to cars, there’s no point in banning them from a convention. The marketing industry still hangs on to the principle of ‘sex sells,’ even though it has backfired on them in the past. And our society still sees it as more ‘normal’ to show a scantily clad woman than to show a scantily clad man, so most of those advertising campaign will not feature an almost naked man next to the new sports car, but a woman who looks like she just came from the beach (because where else would a woman normally wear a teensy bikini?).

Yes, objectifying women like that is wrong. No doubt at all about that. But objectifying them even more by saying they’re now ‘too sexy’ to be shown isn’t any better. It’s even worse.