Overwatch, video game, Zarya, female, woman, armour, muscles

Kitacon 2017: body confidence in cosplay

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.

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.

Kitacon, cosplay, masquerade

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.

14 thoughts on “Kitacon 2017: body confidence in cosplay

  1. It sounds like the content didn’t match the title. That’s a shame as I’m sure it would have hit much better if it had a more honest name.

    I very much agree with your point, it should be the case that anyone should feel comfortable dressed as whatever character they want. Part of the fault lies in how women in most video games are portrayed, although I feel this is gradually improving.

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    1. We’ve had some really great female characters this year: Aloy, Emily Kaldwin, Senua… Overwatch seems to have made a big impact too and there were plenty of characters (particularly Mei) on display at Kitacon. It certainly feels as if we’re heading in the right direction.

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  2. It’s a shame that wasn’t quite what was expected. As someone that is trying to get a bit more into cosplay I do feel quite stressed out about trying to do a cosplay that would reveal more, I have loads of ideas for costumes that would show my stomach off or my legs but I always get a bit worried about it and go for something more covered up instead. The first time I went to Comic Con dressed as Zelda I actually felt that there were a lot of other cosplayers that were quite judgemental (especially other girls dressed as Zelda) and remembering that made me feel a lot more self conscious about it the next time I went and I put loads more effort in to try and minimise that.

    I think that everyone should feel comfortable dressing as whatever they want and there shouldn’t be any need to manipulate pictures, doesn’t that just defeat the purpose? I suppose the one exception would be that if you are imitating a costume completely and are really going for it, spending loads of money and want to enter competitions and stuff and you are going as a character that has a body shape which is basically part of their look, like Kratos from God of War for example, then the entire thing can be let down if you don’t have any muscle. That’s only if you’re imitating it completely though, and even then pictures still shouldn’t be manipulated, you might as well just photoshop the costume onto you if you’re going to do that. Everyone should be able to wear cosplay, enjoy themselves and appreciate everyone else’s efforts no matter what shape or size you are. On the surface it seems like such a fun, inclusive activity and it is for the most part, but when you see some of the toxic attitudes towards it then it can be really off-putting. I still enjoy doing it though and there’s enough support and community around it to keep encouraging me!

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    1. I’ve always been told how ‘inclusive’ the world of cosplay is so it’s really surprising to hear that some cosplayers can be judgmental, particularly towards others dressed as the same character. It’s such a shame: we’re there to show our love for our fandom and surely the more people involved, the better? We’re all part of the same community and need to support each other in having the confidence to join in.

      The host of the body confidence panel did talk a little about competitions and mentioned something similar to yourself. Unless you’re entering a contest where you’re going to be judged on accuracy, does it matter if your costume isn’t 100% spot-on? Just wear what you feel comfortable with, and enjoy it and have fun!

      The Photoshop comment really bothered me though. I understand the reason why some people feel the need to manipulate their photographs but I think it’s really damaging; my stepson is male (obviously) but I can see how he’s starting to be affected by images he sees on television and in magazines, in terms of his self-confidence.

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      1. When I say they were being judgemental it was a minority of them and I don’t think it was intentional, I think it was probably a case of “is that costume better than mine?” which you can’t help thinking really if you put a lot of effort into yours and then someone is dressed as the same character with a lot of effort put in to theirs as well. Although it didn’t bother me when someone had a better cosplay, I’ve only done it a couple of times. Still made me a bit self-conscious though.

        I don’t think Photoshop should be allowed to alter images of people in the media, especially when make up artists and hairdressers are all brought on anyway to make them look good, I’m pleased a lot of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Meghan Trainor and Chloe Grace Moretz have been speaking out against it recently though.

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        1. Oh I see what you mean. Yeah, I can completely understand measuring yourself against someone who’s wearing the same character costume! There was somebody at Kitacon wearing a Velma outfit on Saturday and I’ll admit that the thought of whether I was actually brave enough to wear my own in the evening did cross my mind…

          The media puts us under so much pressure to be perfect all the time – the ‘best-dressed’ lists, ‘who wore it better’ articles, ‘bikini body’ features. There needs to be more people in the public eye who speak out against all that, and show us that it’s ok to be who we are.

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            1. Agreed: people are having these conversations, and that’s a step in the right direction. Let us know if you decide to do Comic Con in October and we’ll look out for you! 🙂

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  3. Sounds like absolutely the wrong message to me, although I wasn’t there so it is difficult to judge!

    I enjoy following the world of cosplay, I’ve never done any of it myself, but I appreciate the art and craft which goes into it. The way they make some of the props is incredible.

    Unfortunately, there’s definitely an element of body shaming within the culture, sometimes between the cosplayers themselves, but I’ve observed it to be the “fans” more often than not, in the online space at least.

    Meg Turney very recently put it quite eloquently on Twitter, although it’s not necessarily about body shaming, she has struck out against that in the past too: https://twitter.com/megturney/status/898325736146182144

    It’s good that we’re having these conversations at least, thats a step in the right direction.

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    1. There were some absolutely fantastic costumes at Kitacon this weekend. I can only imagine how many hours had gone into making them, particularly the armour; some of them were just so intricate!

      I’m pleased to say that we didn’t witness any kind of negative behaviour ourselves. Everyone seemed very supportive and the cosplay masquerade itself was really inspiring – there were people of all different skill levels and backgrounds getting involved. As Meg herself said, cosplay is for everyone. 🙂

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    1. I completely agree! There’s so much pressure on us nowadays to be ‘perfect’; what’s wrong with promoting the message that we’re all perfect just the way we are?

      Oh, I forgot. Profits.

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