Sexual Harassment is Comic-Con’s Poorly Kept Secret

It's no surprise to The Shadow League when sexism shows it's ugly face in the comic world.

RELATED: Comic Books and Sexism: A History of the Second Class Caped Crusader

The latest news detailing acts of sexism at the San Diego Comic-Con is not new. It's been a documented problem at comic book conventions in the United States. In 2011, when Ms. Magazine writer Natalie Wilson wrote the article, "A Feminist Visits Comic-Com" she stated: 

"It was quite off-putting to see the many young children in attendance staring wide-eyed at animated porn. Also troubling to witness were the many women “cosplay” (those costumed as characters) with massive fake boobs and massively thin bodies posing for photos with leering men. I watched in dismay as one man who appeared to be in his seventies shuffled after a human Jessica Rabbit, practically drooling as he tried to get close enough for a good picture."

As the old saying goes, "boys will be boys." But when that juvenile nature crosses the line into criminal behavior, it tarnishes a reputable event and its innocent beginnings. Thrust upon the national stage recently with revelations of sexual harassment in the form of unwanted groping and rape at comic cons across the United States, it's a sad fact that according to the UK Telegraph, 40 percent of convention attendees are female. Yet problems with unwarranted attention, along with “upskirt” photos and video, continue to proliferate and grow. 

On the surface it appears that part of the problem stems from the way many male attendees react to the revealing nature in which some women choose to interpret their favorite comic book, science fiction and fantasy characters.  Costumes often have deep, revealing cleavage, and a skin-tight appearance, accentuated by large breast cushions sewn into the costumes themselves.  Fans are fanatical by nature.  For some, the sexualized nature worn by convention attendees makes that fanaticism even more apparent. However, the inability of certain attendees to control themselves is no reason to vilify the victims.

Once upon a time, comic book conventions were male dominated by a wide margin.  However, with the growing popularity of comic books and science fiction, more women are attending conventions every year. The reality of the circumstances were hammered home even further during a survey of San Diego Comic-Con attendees on sexual assault, created by Comic writer Janelle Asselin, of the 3,600 respondents, 55 percent were women, 39 percent men, and six percent refused to identify their gender. A vast majority of all respondents said they were more likely to be photographed against their wishes. While 13 percent said they had to deal with comments of a graphic sexual nature.  Eight percent said they had been groped, assaulted or raped.  Another survey taken by B***h Magazine, said that 59 percent of all respondents believed sexual harassment was a problem at comic con, while 25 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the comic book industry.

Though the problem is apparent, the outside world continues to scoff at the problem of sexism and sexual harassment at comic book conventions. Just a few days ago, on July 24, MSNBC Ronan Farrow Show discussed the issue. Readers who are familiar with MSNBC know that the network is generally no nonsense on issues of sexism and sexual harassment.  However, guests of the show that day were comedian Chuck Nice and comedienne Lea Delaria of Orange is the New Black.  Whenever one invites comedians to discuss a topic, it’s a sign the subject matter is meant to not be taken completely seriously.  Nice and Delaria were true to form, although offering some serious commentary, they of course squeezed the funny out of a serious matter, a move that's indicative of a subconscious notion that sexism and harassment are not serious matters. But some are smart enough to see red flags.

 The group GeeksforConsent has created a petition at designed to pressure comic convention organizers to take measures against sexual harassment and sexism at their functions by placing them in writing.  At press time, there are over 2,600 signatures. 

This October, the Comic-Con phenomenon will head to New York City. The Shadow League will be in attendance watching the world of comic book and sci-fi happenings, we'll also be on the lookout for proactive damage control in making sure that what happened in San Diego, never happens again.

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