An Open Letter to Tony Harris

Like many of my compatriots, I saw your post regarding “COSPLAY-Chiks” (sic). Before responding to your diatribe against women in the cosplay community, let me elaborate a bit on who I am. My name is Stephanie Lalonde, and I am a Master’s student in Theatre Studies at York University in Toronto. My thesis will focus on cosplay and the construction of identity. I have been reading comics for nearly twenty years. I play D&D and a few other tabletop games. I play video games. I’m well-read and well educated. I’m an actor. I’m a pinup model. I make etched glassware that I sell in Artist’s Alley at conventions. I work at the same types of conventions you do. I taught elementary school for seven years, during which I used comics in the classroom to generate discussion and to give students a different medium in which to work. I am a cosplayer, and have achieved the rank of Regional Master through years of time, money, hard work and dedication. That said, my nerd cred is not in question; your perception of the situation is.

I will break down your argument, such as it is, and offer counterpoints. 

These “few” cosplayers that you know: how did they respond when you wrote off the entire community? Please have them comment either here, or they can contact me. I would love to hear their opinions, as I’m certain they have a number of them.
Here’s an interesting point. What do you define as a “REAL Nerd”? Is there a standardized test that every nerd must take to quantify their nerdiness? Is there a licensing bureau? Who is in charge of licensing people before they can call themselves a “REAL Nerd”? Please point me to the URL or nearest standardized testing facility. If this is the case, I propose that every person coming in to the convention must have their nerd card readily available as a form of ID before being allowed to purchase a convention pass. This will eliminate the not-true-nerds, or the ones just getting in to the culture, or the ones who are there to support their nerd friends. There’s no sense in trying to expand one’s fanbase with new fans in this way. 

Additionally, you make a point of assuming you know how these “Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girls” are thinking about the people who are similarly attending conventions. Have you ever asked a female cosplayer, regardless of the level of attractiveness you perceive them to possess, what they think of the people around them? Until you actually speak to a person and ask them their opinions, do not presume to know what they are thinking. I could be mistaken, as I am assuming you are not a psychic with mind-reading abilities. 

From your division between “Big Boobies” and “GREAT Boobies”, I am led to believe that you perceive yourself to be the authority on what is considered to be great breasts, and are defining it on behalf of someone, though I’m not certain for whom you are speaking on behalf. I would like to see your accreditation.

You greatly generalize about the men you refer in your post. You assume that a LOT of comic books fans are “ALL unconfident when it comes to girls”. These are sweeping statements, and I can literally name about fifty men off the top of my head that would have a huge issue with being labeled incapable of speaking to women. According to you, there are “a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls.” They are more than welcome to speak to us. We are human beings: not aliens, not anthropomorphic beings, not robots, though the costumes may fool some. I’m certain that a grand number of these individuals have mothers, sisters, aunts, female cousins, female teachers, and neighbours to whom they speak. It’s not that different. Here’s a great icebreaker: if they are at a convention, and are dressing in costume, ask the woman about the character or the series the character is from. Most are willing to talk about them. Please keep in mind that sometimes we may not have the time, as we may be running to a panel, or are rushing to get in line for an autograph or gaming tournament. It’s not personal. We are there to experience the con as well, not simply to stand and converse when it is convenient for the men. We all pay admission, and ticket prices are not cheap. 

Further, you generalize again when you say “The are being preyed on by YOU.” You make all cosplaying women seem malicious in their desire to dress in a costume. Newsflash: it’s not about you. You have strange comments about what you think women think about: “You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate.” I can guarantee you with absolute certainty that every female I know, cosplayer or not, does not think like this. Again, please ask those “few cosplayers” you know if they have wanted men to pleasure themselves at a distance while thinking about them. Ask your female relatives if they think this, too. The answer might surprise you.

You say that you “put this together” watching from your booth at conventions over the years. Again, have your observations ever led you to asking a female attendee? 
You continue to generalize in all caps to really drive your point home: “BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.” I will refer you to my nearly twenty years of reading comics. I will refer you to the countless women I know who would not dare to put together a costume without knowing in great detail the character they are portraying, and their relation to other characters in the series. I will refer you to the growing number of women in the comics industry. There are a few who have already weighed in on your post. 

You call women liars, two-faced, deceitful. It makes me wonder what women you have approached to give you this idea. Again, you generalize a lot with these comments, and then put down whatever we may have to say in our own defence by silencing us (“Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face.”) You are not interested in hearing a female point of view. We may be visually appealing, and brightly-coloured costumes are what the “Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons” find interesting to put on camera. Is it that you want the interviews instead? Then talk to the press. I’m sure some would want to interview you.

Perhaps you are confused by the creation of a cosplay outfit and its purpose. Notably, they are not cheap. Good construction, materials, and time go into these outfits. Paying that, and then paying for price of admission to a convention, for the simple act of walking around? If we wanted to do that, we’d walk around in a park instead of on concrete floors. We are there for the “real reason for the Con … the Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up.” This is the only point on which we agree. 

We are legion, too. We have voices, education, and knowledge. In our knowledge we find strength. We will speak out against injustice and cowardice, against misogyny and hatred. We dress up because we want to, because we like the character, because we like comics (or sci-fi, or anime, or gaming). We do not owe you anything: not our bodies, however you choose to visually deconstruct it, not our minds, not the time of day if we so choose. We are not there to please you; we are there to please ourselves. We continue to do this despite the abuse, despite the harassment, to which you have just contributed. We are there to enjoy our time at a convention, how we choose, because we paid to be there just like you. We paid to see the comic book writers, artists, and dealers who will sell us these comics and related paraphernalia. Our desire to dress in a costume, or dress in a t-shirt and jeans, is none of your business. 

It saddens me to see that someone in the comics industry has such a negative view on a great number of people in the cosplaying community, as many are women. As it stands, there are a vast number of women that you have just alienated, and they will likely not pick up a comic done by you anymore, because of your views on the gender. In a community that gets slandered, bullied, and denigrated simply for liking what it likes, you choose to spread hate. I would love to interview you for my Master’s thesis, and to be able to open an honest, well informed dialogue about this subject. Please get in touch as soon as possible, and I can inform my supervisor that I have an “expert’s opinion” on the matter. 


Stephanie Lalonde
Master’s Candidate

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