There was a hashtag doing the rounds on Facebook a few days back. Perhaps it still is. It was #MeToo. Using this enabled social media to turn into a platform where people shared or just accepted that they had been through sexual harassment.
I’m Rhea, and I’m popularly known as Rheality Lapse in the world of cosplay. And this is my #MeToo moment right here.
“So you have a BF? He is one lucky bastard,” he whispered in my ear – and then continued, “All the costumes you must have worn that he must have torn off of you..”
I stood frozen, in the middle of a crowded comic con. Before I even turned to look at who had just uttered those words – boom! He was gone!
Them: “Can I take a picture?”
Me: “Yeah, sure.”
After two minutes…
Them: “Can I take another?”
*Places camera at a higher angle, to get a’ better view’*
Them: “You are just so beautiful.”
After a few minutes, he arrives with his friends and requests to take pictures…
Declining politely does not work.
“I am a little busy can we take it later?”
“Please please – just a few more with my friends.”
*Starts taking pictures from a variety of angles without permission*
“No,” I say firmly and move away, and they continue to take pictures while I’m literally abandoning the venue.
Don’t get me wrong – I love getting my pictures clicked. But I have a problem when I say ‘no’ nicely, and then, one keeps on clicking pictures without my permission. That is a serious breach of my privacy. I love it when people come up to me, recognise me and compliment me. I love the love and attention I receive. Heck, that is a huge part of being a cosplayer!
But there is a line – a very obvious one too – that people keep crossing.
Yes, I cosplay and I love bringing fictional characters to life. But I’m still me. I’m a real person. I want to be treated like one. I have rights. I have a personal space you cannot barge into.
“I love how sexy you look on this.”
A hand closes around my waist – and before I know it, he is cupping my butt cheek.
I grab his hand and turn to him, “Mind keeping your hand to yourself?”
“You’re getting cheeky, aren’t you?”
“Keep your hands where it’s safe,” I smile and walk away.
I’ve heard people tell me that I should beat these people up or shout. But when I’m at an event, I try my best to get these things sorted by myself. The events are busy, and creating a huge scene disrupts its pace. I am not undermining anyone who does raise a voice. I just have my approach, which is definitely sober – or too sober perhaps.
Hear me out. This is not a justification. This is just an explanation that some of us are not comfortable with raising the issue on the spot. This is not me crying about how things are unfair. I know life is unfair – and when I started cosplaying, I accepted that this was something I would face. But, never for once did I accept that I would be treated like a non-person with no dignity – as a sex object. Never! I stand in favour of every cosplayer (irrespective of gender) who wants to lend their voice against narrow-minded people who have sexualised cosplay beyond belief.
Yes, I am a cosplayer. But I am also a person, a woman who is proud of her sexuality – and I take my stand here and now. ‘No’ means ‘no’. When I say ‘no’ to you taking photos, it means ‘no’. When I say ‘no’ to you coming too close, it means ‘no’. When I say ‘no’ to you touching me it means ‘no’.
How difficult is it to understand a simple ‘no’?
This is just my little voice, no matter how little. A ‘no’ screamed out or a ‘no’ whispered – it all boils down to meaning ‘no’!