While my other-half and I were at Kitacon this past weekend, we decided to attend a panel early on Saturday morning entitled Body Confidence in Cosplay. Neither of us are cosplayers ourselves but after overhearing someone say that ‘cosplay is for skinny girls’ at a different event back in March, it’s a subject that has resonated with me. We could all do with a little more confidence in ourselves and support from others.
We expected to go to a panel which promoted self-confidence and feeling good about yourself in your costume. We wanted the host to tell us it’s ok to not look like the stick-thin models we see in magazines and on television, and inspire everybody in the audience to feel comfortable in their own skin. We thought we’d leave the room empowered, and believing we could take on any cosplay outfit and absolutely rock it.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. What we got instead was a half-hour session on how to make costumes to hide the bits of your body you don’t like, cover up scars and get skin treatment, and that it’s ok to manipulate your photographs if you feel the need to.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) August 19, 2017
The host deserves respect for being brave enough to step forward when the Kitacon organisers asked for volunteers to host a panel. Public-speaking isn’t something everyone is able to do but he had the balls to stand up in front of a room full of strangers, provide advice and share his personal stories. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were presenters who pulled out at the last moment due to stage-fright so much kudos to him for doing it.
I’m just not convinced the message above was the right one to send, particularly the presentation slide that included the words ‘don’t be afraid to use Photoshop if you want to’. Alterations made through applications like this can have a negative effect on both the person in the photograph and others who see it, setting unrealistic expectations for body-image and making us all feel horrible in our own skin.
I totally get it: in 2017 we should have finally learnt to be more accepting of one another regardless of our size, shape or sex (or anything else for that matter) but sadly that’s still not the case. Unachievable standards put forward by the beauty industry and hostility from others puts us all under pressure to change the way we look and present a ‘better’ version of ourselves online.
But diversity is a thing that should be celebrated, not something that’s ridiculed or used for ammunition. Instead of using material, makeup and image-manipulation to cover up our flaws, shouldn’t we learn to embrace our imperfections and reject the standards that push us to edit ourselves? If we begin to do this and encourage those around us to do the same, unachievable definitions of ‘beauty’ will slowly transform into something more positive.
It would have been good to see a panel at Kitacon that promoted diversity and an uplifting message. That’s not to say the host didn’t offer some good advice though and some of his ‘final thoughts’ are definitely worth highlighting here. As said on one of his slides, cosplay is all about having fun and you don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with; and at the end of the day, we’re all amazing just the way we are.