Costume is not consent – or a free pass to behave badly

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) happening this week has reminded me of something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.  There has been a lot more dialogue in recent years about harassment of cosplayers and the wonderful campaigns to stop that, such as the “Costumes/Cosplay are not Consent” movement – the idea that just because someone is dressed as ‘slave Leia’ or a short-skirted Sailor Moon does not mean that it is ok to ogle or touch him or her.   And more cons are taking measures to enforce safe environments.

There have been some very high profile incidents of harassment of cosplayers in the last couple years, and all too often some even nastier backlash against those who stood up for themselves.  Fandom has seen several new (and growing) movements in recent years to combat discrimination and harassment of many kinds that happens at cons, within professional and fan organizations, and online.  The conversation to date is overall good, and progress is slow but gaining momentum as far as I can tell.

Another, less visible issue, though, is that of certain cosplayers themselves behaving badly towards their fellows – the idea that a costume allows the wearer to get away with things for the sake of ‘being in character’ that are actually unacceptable.  Costumes, especially those that allow some bit of anonymity due to a mask or other covering, can sometimes embolden the wearer and result in behavior ranging from annoying to absolutely reprehensible.

For example, someone dressed as Iron Man might have a bit more swagger than usual, and think it’s ok to actually act like Tony Stark in real life – that’s the minor end of the scale.  On the uglier end, though, the costume is an excuse to harass someone from the same world/book/show/movie/comic.  An Eleventh Doctor cosplayer feels entitled to walk up and kiss a stranger dressed as River Song, for example.  Or a Han Solo thinks he gets to grab and grope anyone dressed as Leia.

In each case she didn’t remotely consent to that, but for some reason a lot of people think it’s ok – both the offender and frequently the bystanders as well.  I even heard a tale this week of a woman who was thrown to the ground and assaulted on stage during a masquerade by a fellow cosplayer, whose excuse was that he was “just re-enacting a scene from the book so the cosplay would be more authentic.”  Except it was without her consent or prior knowledge.  Costume is not consent, and cosplay is also not permission.

Those who use their costumes as an excuse to behave badly or as something to hide behind while they harass or even assault others are cowards.  They need to be held accountable for their actions while they are dressed up – yes, for things they do even while they are ‘in character.’

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#DetCon1 Wrap-up – thanks, @DetconOne!

Ok, now that we are finally mostly done with the massive road trip home, here’s the rest of the recap of DetCon1, the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) held in Detroit last week.  The other entries relating to DetCon1 are here and here.

In a word: awesome.  This was by far the smoothest-run con I’ve attended.  Smoother than the two WorldCons I’ve been to.  Three cheers for the staff and volunteers!  I did not run into a single programming snafu or any people having a shouting match.  It was all smooth sailing, and I had a lot of fun.

For the most part my panels were good.  There was one that devolved into that dreaded one-panel-member-and-that-one-guy-in-the-front-row-hijack-the-whole-thing, and another (“Teens Talk to Scientists”) where we only had two teens show up, but the other four panels I was on went really, really well.  So four out of six ain’t bad.  Even the one in the last slot of the last day was interesting and well-attended.  Those were some hardcore audience members – clearly exhausted but still enthusiastically participating.

The “Designing Fictional Spacecraft” panel went so well that people were still commenting to me two days later on how much they enjoyed it.  So that made me feel all warm and fuzzy – plus it was a really fun panel to be on.  Kudos for that to the excellent moderator, Philippe McNally, for skillfully steering the questions and conversation.  If anyone from programming is reading this, I highly recommend him as a panel moderator in the future.

The hotel was great.  Having inexpensive options at the food court was a nice change of pace from overpriced hotel restaurants, and the variety was good.  The hotel bar/restaurant was also nice, with decent food and less exorbitant price inflation than many places I’ve been.  I rarely had to wait more than a minute or two for the high-speed elevators, and the room was comfortable.  Navigating the facilities was a little confusing at first, but quick and easy once I got the hang of it.  It especially helped that the con staff put up more signs after the first day.

The attendees were well behaved – better behaved than I have ever seen.  The code of conduct was taken very seriously by the con-runners, and it showed.  A couple panel audience members made some sexist comments, but they were not as overt or hostile as I’ve heard at other cons.  And many people jumped in to shut them down quickly.  Even the rowdier parties felt like completely safe places to be, and the staff made themselves very visible walking around, making sure party hosts were carding, asking if there were any problems, etc.

I’ve already written about John Scalzi’s ’80s dance but it bears repeating: bodacious, dude.  Totally radical.  Some folks dressed up, some didn’t, but I still smile at the memory of one of my favorite authors rocking out in a tiara, and executing a pratfall-roll off of a chair he’d been dancing on.  I even broke out the neon headbands and entered a dance floor for the first time in… well, let’s not go there.  A long time.

The panel topics and panelists were interesting.  My favorites I attended as an audience member – identified by the fact that on the road trip, my husband and I were still talking about our favorites and these kept coming up – were the “Science Education Roundtable,” “What Am I Looking For,” and “Gender Roles in Genre Fiction.”  I’m not an educator but I am a parent and I do STEM outreach, so it was good to hear what’s new in science education from the “Science Education Roundtable,” learn what difficulties our educators are facing, and  pick up new ideas for improving how our kids learn science.

The “What Am I Looking For” panel featured editors and agents who work with both short and long fiction, non-fiction, pro and semi-pro.  They talked about what they are looking for, what they don’t want to see, what they would really love to see, and common mistakes/habits/crazy things authors do that drive them nuts.  This was really valuable for my writer husband, and interesting to me, as a reader.  “Gender Roles in Genre Fiction” I’ve already written about as well, but in a nutshell: it’s time to get rid of the nastier anti-woman tropes, and Jim Hines is really serious about it.

The programming track had great variety, and I routinely faced the dilemma of how to choose between three or four things happening at the same time that sounded  great.  I also wished I had the kiddo along as an excuse to attend some of the amazing-sounding kids programming events.  Ditto for the teen programming track.  I still look so young I always get carded, so maybe I should have just gone to the teen stuff anyway!

Not too many hall costumes or masquerade entries at this con compared to most, but the costumes I did see were excellent.  The masquerade evening, a combination event with the Golden Duck and YA awards, was the one absolutely painful time of the whole weekend.  I have no idea what took the masquerade judges so long to judge so few entries, but they probably should have just told everyone to go away and come back, rather than continue to have people try to stall… and stall… and stall.  I do like that they started some YA & middle-grade SF awards, though.  About damn time, and hopefully they get added as a category for the Hugo awards soon!

Overall, great con.  Kinda sad that this isn’t one they do every year because it means I can’t go back.  But now I have high hopes for next year’s WorldCon in Spokane, if the schedule and budget allow for us going.  They and LonCon both have a tough act to follow…

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Nature studies galore at Estes Park

After our adventures at DetCon1 last week, we met up with my wonderful in-laws at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center, where they were cabin-camping with the kiddo (hence letting us have our first kid-free vacation in many years).

I had no idea a place like this existed.  It was simply mind-blowing, how big this family camp is and how many activities they have.  I only wish we hadn’t been so tired and eager to get home, as we could have enjoyed it even more.

Many of the activities were free classes, and plenty of others charged a reasonable fee.  There’s also a day camp for kids age three and up on weekdays.  Free classes included things like tree art (gather your own twigs, leaves, pine needles, etc. and glue them to paper), photography, exercise classes, you name it.  The complex had a pool, tennis courts, craft center, mini golf, pony and horse rides, exercise track, picnic areas, miles and miles of hiking trails, restaurants, lodges, cabins… I could go on and on.

We had two wonderful days of watching a little girl take in nature.  We went hiking around a high mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park just a few minutes’ drive away.  We hiked around the huge YMCA campus, and attended a cookout.  Precious treasures were collected, in the form of sparkly pebbles, a ceramic horse she painted herself at the craft center, and countless twigs and dandelions.

Wildlife sightings included deer, hundreds of blue dragonflies, a baby rabbit, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, ants, roly-polies, deer, birds, and fish.   We ended each day exhausted by both the hiking and the high mountain air, and thoroughly enjoyed it all.  I love watching my little budding scientist at work, discovering the world around her.  If time off and budget permit, I would love to go back for a full week next summer and let her experience the day camp.

Where is your favorite place to experience nature?

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Departing Detroit and #DetCon1

DetCon1 is over and the Con Crud has caught up with me at last. The recap of the last couple days of the con is unfortunately going to have to wait a bit.

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#DetCon1 Highlights so far

I really, really appreciate how supportive of the military Baen books is.  I know they have a program for sending boxes of books to deployed troops, but was very surprised when they kicked off their roadshow by asking anyone active duty to come up and grab a free book.  Then they invited reservists, veterans, schoolteachers, first responders, and librarians.  It gave me a warm fuzzy.  And of course I enjoyed getting to see all their new books, new covers, etc.  I wish Tor was here doing the same!

The “Designing Military Spacecraft” panel yesterday was simply awesome.  We had a highly capable moderator, a very interesting mix of panelist backgrounds, and an enthusiastic audience that gave us some great questions to work with.  Best panel I have been on, and I hope I can do as well with my two panels today: “Women in STEM” at 2:00 and “Military SF” at 7:00, just before the awards ceremony and masquerade, followed by ’80s dance with John Scalzi as DJ.  I can already tell this  evening will be epic.

The best panel I have been an audience member so far was yesterday’s “Gender Roles in Genre Fiction.”  The panel discussed the past and current limitations on gender roles, and ripped apart some of the most damaging tropes out there (rape as a plot device or character-defining feature, the one strong woman who stands out among a society of weak and suppressed women).  Jim Hines made me want to hug him for his righteous indignation and rage over how often and how horribly these tropes are used.

They also talked about who isn’t well-represented in the currently conservative mainstream market (strong men who don’t have to show that strength with violence, minorities and people of color, and LGBT characters, to name a few).   Overall a great panel and I walked away with some new book recommendations to check out and hopefully find something new and different.

Due to our kid-free status at this con, this is the first time I’ve been able to check out the late-night con party scene.  About what I expected, except I actually had fun.  Normally I’m way too antisocial and awkward for that and end up bored and/or terrified in a corner, but I am among my people here.  Meaning it doesn’t matter if I can’t dance and don’t fit the mainstream media’s definition of pretty.  Rather, I found people who appreciated my Uhura impression, walked around showing off their lovingly and carefully made costumes. and didn’t care what anyone thought of their dancing.

At the Helsinki in 2017 bid party I enjoyed their spread of Finnish food and beverages, spent a few minutes mesmerized by the club lights at the Barfleet party, and observed the fireworks after the Tigers came from the 69th floor Con Suite while pigging out on cheese and crackers.  Fireworks viewed from above are awfully cool.

Ok, enough writing, I am off to hunt down breakfast and more panels to attend.

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DetCon1 is in full swing

So far I’ve scored some free books (thank you freebie table and Baen), chatted with the usual mix of highly interesting people, drove down Michigan Avenue with a local pointing out the highlights, and sat on a “Teens talk to scientists” panel where the audience was extremely small but very precocious.  Without a designated moderator (oops) or list of questions, we wandered across topics ranging from how to become a zoologist to whether or not time travel is possible.

The hotel layout is great for getting around once you get the hang of it, and so far there has been no massive elevator congestion – that may change on Saturday and Sunday, but fingers crossed the sailing stays smooth.  The dealer’s room is better than most, and I’m tempted by at least six of the t-shirts in there, but will probably limit myself to two.  Probably.

The view from the con suite (69th floor) is amazing, so even if you don’t want to partake of the company and free food, you can see all of Detroit from there.  I also recommend the view from the fitness center, which is on the 40th floor and looks out over the water.  The tail end of the sunrise this morning was absolutely gorgeous from up there, albeit a little blinding.

Overall it feels like a really well-run con and is off to a good start.  Now I’m heading down to my “Designing Fictional Spacecraft” panel.

 

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What’s So Great About Princesses Anyway?

I’ve always wondered how princesses got to be such a hot thing.  Obviously it’s been a brilliant marketing strategy for Disney for decades, but what is really the appeal?  A princess isn’t in any real kind of position of power – at best she is second in line for the throne, at worst she is never considered eligible for the throne.  And this is, of course, assuming the throne is even something worth having.

The princesses in the stories never have a particularly nice life, and the ‘happily ever after’ part is assumed but never actually seen/heard.  Princesses in stories don’t seem to have much fun, and often deal with curses, evil relatives, being prisoners, being forced into manual labor and slavery, cases of mistaken identities, and plain bizarre stuff like living with a bunch of mining dwarves.

The princes who do the rescuing of these princesses are bland, overconfident, and not usually terribly bright.  So much so that many princess movies poke fun at those brawny men while still following the same basic princess story formula (I’m looking at you, Shrek and Beauty and the Beast).  Most of the heroes make me genuinely fearful for the futures of the countries these idiots might someday lead – like the idiot who couldn’t recognize Cinderella after the ball.  You really want him as your sovereign?  Is he really going to be a big step up from the evil stepfamily for Cinderella?

Being a princess in real life seems pretty boring, too.  You’re basically a glorified spokesperson for your family/country, and the most anyone expects of you is to produce heirs, smile a lot, support a few charities, and show up to ribbon cutting ceremonies.  You may be rich, but you’re stuck with a job you can’t quit, ever-present security, and constant media scrutiny.

So what is the appeal?  Does anyone know the history behind this particular selection as the supposed ideal of what a girl can be, and why so many people go crazy obsessive over it?

 

 

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Rocks rock

Long day on the road, so I’ll just say this: road trips that go through Utah and Wyoming on I-80 are great for pointing out different types of rocks, talking about how mountains form, etc.  Some beautiful scenery plus a curious kid equals some good road trip conversations about geology.  

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Geekness Day with #SingleHopGeeks

Apparently I’m kind of a failure as a geek because I didn’t even know there was such thing as Embrace Your Geekness Day, which is July 13th (not to be confused with Geek Pride day on May 25th, by the way).  But since a very nice lady from SingleHop was cool enough to ask me to do some interview questions to celebrate Geekness Day, well, now I know.  And the more you know

I do think we’re probably starting to take this new multitude of made-up holidays a little far.  Like is there a “Cats on the Internet” day yet?  There seems to be one for just about everything now.  But in the spirit of fun, here we go with the questions.

1.    What makes you a geek?

I’ve been in love with space and SF&F (books, TV, and movies) since I was a kid.  My dad pretty much raised us on SF&F – to the level of bringing us along to Star Trek conventions from the tender age of seven or so.   We were always encouraged to help ourselves to anything on the many bookshelves around the house, and my mom took us to the library at least once a week to restock.  Let’s just say my love of books is very well rooted.

I’ve always been huge space enthusiast, other than a brief stint around age five when I, for some strange reason I can no longer remember, wanted to be a dentist.  Now I have masters in both Aerospace Engineering and Space Studies.  I may never get to be an astronaut, but maybe if I’m a successful enough engineer I can afford that ticket on Virgin Galactic someday!

I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to marry a fellow geek, and now we are those people who decorated our daughter’s nursery with a space theme. I will probably embarrass her horribly when she’s a teenager by wearing a Kaylee costume in public or showing people the pictures of her dressed as GIR for Halloween (her request!).

2.    What is your proudest geek moment?

Every time I am able to participate in STEM outreach events of any kind.  Whether it’s being part of a SeaPerch competition or sitting on a “Women in STEM” panel at a con, I love getting to be an advocate for STEM education and let kids – girls especially – know that STEM fields are not only really cool, but well within their reach if they work hard and ignore the haters.

Also, memorizing the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

3.    What is your geek motto/favorite geek quote?

Laugh it up, fuzzball.

4.    Who is your geek role model?

Anyone who likes what they geek out about enough to be vocal/visual about it in public.  It takes a special, brave kind of person to dress up in costume or tell the whole world that they love something geeky and why.

5.    Which SingleHopper geek do you most relate to? Why?

Is it bad if I admit I had never heard of SingleHop before?  I am apparently failing at all kinds of geek stuff today!

6.    How familiar are you with SingleHop’s product offerings (dedicated servers, private cloud hosting, managed hosting, etc.)?

See above.

7.    Anything else you think we should know?

These questions made me think of the days of those email surveys we young people all sent around to each other in the heydey of AOL.  Oops, did I just date myself?

Share your answers to these questions in the comments if you like!

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My Little Aspiring Astronaut

Tonight my daughter asked me one of the inevitable questions of childhood: how do you go to the bathroom in space?  To answer, I naturally turned to… ok, this is embarrassing for someone with three space-related  technical degrees to admit – I turned to YouTube.  I thought about getting out some books, making explanations, drawing pictures.  But I figured the internet would not fail to provide a video, which would do a much better job of explaining than I possibly could.

The internet did not fail me.  The first thing to come up in the search was a marvelous video of astronaut Sunita Williams giving a tour of the International Space Station.  The video had not only a tour of the bathroom facilities, but also all the rest of the living facilities.

This was a double win, as my daughter and I got to see the kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping areas on the ISS and we also reinforced the whole “if she can see it, she can be it” concept by watching an excellent female STEM role model in action.

Here’s where the story gets really great.  After watching the whole video with wide-eyed enthrallment, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, will you buckle me in and take me to the space station now?”  Oh, kiddo.  Would I ever love to do just that.

So it turns out explaining how astronauts go to the bathroom in space is pretty easy.  Explaining to a four-year-old that we can’t just head off to visit space right now is hard.  I think I lost her somewhere in between “do well in school” and “work hard” but the spark is there, at least.  I have definitely passed the ‘space fever’ on to my kid!

Oh, and here’s the video:

Tomorrow I think we’ll look for some good Chris Hadfield videos as well.

Guess it’s time to start saving up for that first trip to Space Camp?

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