Whew…what a month it’s been since our last post. Social media is more of a war zone than it’s been in a while for me. To be fair, my news feeds are pretty well curated with people that I know and love IRL, businesses that I lucked out in being able to trust, and pages that provide a beautiful background when I want to escape. But, ooh child, the comments sections have had me clicking out of groups and unfollowing with a righteous fury! Grab your Hot Toddy and have a quick sit with me.
All of our fandoms are on fire, and they
ducking should be.
As I’ve mentioned at some point, renaissance faires were my gateway drug into this costume hobby. I could already sew, I just needed an outlet. I hung out on the RF message boards and found a lot of cool humans, a couple of whom I still interact with online. Other than the “you’re such a beautiful couple” compliments that pictures of my husband and me would garner, which I’m not going to get into right now (yes, we are, but no, that’s not what they all meant), I felt like I was able to just learn and share without incident. Not once in all those years did anyone suggest that I try a “Moorish look” or provide primary sources for the trim I used on a gown. Y’all…I’m not even in “the society” yet–like, back the AF up. It wasn’t until I finally attended a rennie meetup that I felt even a little out of sorts about being a participant in the online [pseudo-historical] costuming community. When we gathered for a group photo after hanging out all day at faire, there were still people staring at me, wondering why I was there and to whom I belonged. I’ll admit that this mostly came from the non-sewing people on the board, with whom I did not interact much. That day left a sour taste in my mouth, but FB became a thing and so I faded into the hedges like Homer.
Soon after my intro to ren faires, I was informed that comic conventions were also places that allowed playing dress-up. I attended my first con in plain clothes and haven’t done that again in the decade since. In that time, I’ve been called “Black [character]”, “Chocolate Covered [character]”, “Ghetto [character]”, and received an innumerable amount of “Who are you supposed to be’s” while dressed in the obvious iconography of my fandom. Part of that is absolutely fanboy trash, but the phenomenon is exacerbated when similarly attired white female cosplayers don’t get asked the same question. People get real obtuse when We dare to be black and in costume. I know that I exist in predominantly white spaces, and I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my dignity to do so. I shouldn’t have to dress as a black character to get a weekend of peace (mostly by being entirely ignored). Through microaggressions, back-handed compliments, and staring, I’m supposed to smile and take it as if I’m being paid to attend these events. Newsflash: I’m not. In the few FB cosplay communities that I’ve joined, there is a noticeable variance in the attention and accolades that dark-skinned cosplayers receive in comparison to light-skinned cosplayers. There are additional factors to be considered including, but not limited to gender, content, and skill-level, but all elements being equal, content from white members gets more engagement.
It’s one thing to be called out for not “fitting the profile” by gatekeepers, but it’s something else to be told by your family that you shouldn’t do a thing because it’s “not what We do.” Well, I’m doing it, so I guess it is something that We do. Wanna know how I know? BlerdCon has exploded into a cornucopia of beautiful geeks and the most inclusive space I’ve visited.
CLARIFICATION: My little brother and my mom are also costumers, and my dad shares my photos with immense pride. Once I step out of my immediate family and friend circle however, results vary.
I get a stupid number of questions about “how long” I’m going to “waste [my] money on that stuff”. They don’t seem to understand the concept of a hobby and would prefer that I spend my time doing normal stuff like watching reality TV or sewing curtains or working myself to death…for fun. Many, if not most, hobbies are expensive for both time and resources–events cost money, travel costs money, costumes whether homemade or commissioned cost a piece of your soul. If I’m willing and able to cover those costs, then that’s my business. Stepping onto the con floor, browsing the crowd, and playing “Count the Black People” (no, really) while I check my exits just in case
sugar goes sideways, is something I’ve unconsciously and consciously been doing since I was small. People know when and where they’re not wanted. Online, especially in FB groups, it’s always been easy for shy, little me to get lost in the crowd, lurking until a WIP post goes up or a completed project post drives an abundance of likes and comments from the membership. Lately, the racists and the ALM idiots in the costume community have been showing their collective ascot with great fervor. Protests and quarantine have people jumping over that decency line, spouting nonsense about the apolitical (HA!) nature of historical costume–when we all know that they only joined the group under the guise of a “Victorian” ballgown to show off their battle flag wedding. Their behavior is uncalled for, and unfortunately, lines absolutely have to be drawn if we’re going to be able to have inclusive and welcoming events when this pandemic is all over.
All of the previously closeted
sugary people considered, I have never questioned my place in this hobby. I move back and forth between different circles and fandoms, but in the end, I just like wearing fancy [colonizer] fashion and fulfilling my olde tyme princess fantasies. I accept my naivety when I first dove in (maybe I shouldn’t wear that jeweled headpiece with my wench bodice), but today, armed with a plethora of historical sources and context (yas, I am, in fact, a hard cider queen), I stand firm. History is fascinating. Comics and video games are a lifelong passion. I’m a Ravenclaw. I’ve been noted as an anglophile. I am a multi-faceted gem of costumed geekery and I will never apologize for it.
People who aren’t even in the costuming community (like…not even adjacent to it) are jumping into public feeds just to start
sugar with allies who are doing a damned good job of calling out the longtime issues in the hobby. This isn’t even a stay-in-your-lane moment. This is a who-the-f-is-this moment. No one is telling you to stop doing what you love. We’re telling you to look at your hobbies, acknowledge the problems, and AT LEAST stop ducking making it worse for people who have already been trying to make the best of a tough situation. Are douche canoes being called out? Yes. Do they deserve it? Yes. So many of you don’t see that you’re wrong, and you lash out. Well, now you too can feel the rage and “otherness” that so many of Us experience internally every time someone says,“There were no black people in the Renaissance” (false news). Just let people enjoy things.
You know what? It’s okay to be mad. I was obsessed with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the movie as a kid. When the series came out and the heroine’s entire life didn’t revolve around cheerleading, I was filled with the rage of one thousand teenage suns, and to this day, I haven’t watched the show. But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t start harassing fans of the show online. I don’t walk up to actors at cons and scream that Merrick was a better watcher than Giles. Because I’m not an
ascot tie. I have opinions (that happen to be right, Go Hogs), and I believe that people (bigots are not people) should be allowed to enjoy things.
Black Lives Matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. Down with the Patriarchy. Wash your
dang hands. Wear a mask. “Take a chill lozenge.”