Anti-harassment group Hollaback Ottawa will be organizing Ottawa Comiccon’s first-ever anti-harassment workshops to help create a safer space for cosplayers.
Hollaback organizer Julie Lalonde said the idea is to make “scantily clad” superheroes feel they can enjoy the historically male-oriented event without fear of being groped or having their photos taken without consent.
“Our goal is to be a visible presence, so if someone is harassed at Comiccon they know that they can come to us and we can report it with them,” said Lalonde. “(By) hosting this workshop we’re hoping to open up the conversation about safety for women in geek spaces.”
Cliff Caporale, Ottawa Comiccon programming director, said he was on board with the idea right away when contacted by Lalonde.
To help out, he said he is going to put up his own posters throughout the Ernst and Young Centre marked with “Be respectful” or “Cosplay is not consent” to drive home the message at the May 9-11 event.
“We wanted to make it clear that we are there to make sure that everybody feels safe in our environment and we found that Julie was a good person to help people know what to do in case those things happen,” said Caporale. “Just because they dress in a certain way does not mean it’s an invitation to say the wrong things or touch.”
Caporale said he could not recall any reports of gender-based harassment in previous years, but as Jordan Danger points out, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
“The majority of sexual harassment and sexual assaults in our culture (are) not reported,” said Danger.
Danger, who is also the president of Ottawa’s Capital Geek Girls, said two men verbally harassed her when she was dressed as The Green Lantern at a convention last year.
“I ended up with the two of them shouting at me (about) whether or not I had any right to dress up as Green Lantern because I was a woman,” recalled Danger. “I was really shocked and I didn’t expect it because they were there as volunteers.”
Caporale expects the workshops will be held on May 9 and 10.