The 19th Annual Gender and Sexuality Lecture presents: Nina Huntemann
Mon, April 1, 2013 • 4:00 PM • Belo Media Center (BMC) 5.102
Attention Whores and Ugly Nerds: Policing Gender at GameCons
"Attention Whores and Ugly Nerds: Policing Gender at GameCons"
Nina Huntemann, associate professor of media studies at Suffolk University
Huntemann theorizes how “women’s work” in the form of cosplay, or costume craft, is changing male-dominated comic book and gaming fan convention spaces. A robust DIY network of cosplay participants, populated overwhelmingly by women, thrives online. As Huntemann documents, the increased presence of women at fan conventions has also fueled a misogynistic backlash; attempts to police the playful participation of women in this realm reinforces masculinist notions of femininity, authenticity and fandom
Cosplay, a portmanteau of costume and play, is a popular social practice at comic book and gaming fan conventions. While men have historically dominated these spaces, women have, through cosplay, gained access to these realms and often feel accepted, even welcome, by the community. Cosplay legitimizes female participation because the work of creating wearable costumes that accurately reproduce comic book and game characters relies on traditionally feminine crafting skills: pattern and wig construction, embroidery, beadwork, sewing, etc. A robust DIY network, populated overwhelmingly by women, thrives online, featuring how-to videos on YouTube demonstrating difficult construction techniques, blogs documenting the often months-long process of designing and making a costume, and Flickr photo streams showcasing the final product. All this work pays off at fan conventions, where the accuracy and creativity ofcostumes is highly valued by the community and rewarded at best-in-show competitive costume contests. However, the increased presence of women at fan conventions has also fueled a misogynistic backlash. Female cosplayers experience sexual harassment, are accused of being “attention whores” whose fan knowledge is questioned, and “fat and ugly” cosplayers are ridiculed for not matching the attractiveness of the characters they portray. In this talk I theorize how “women’s work” in the form of cosplay craft is changing male dominated fan convention spaces, and how attempts to police the playful participation of women reinforces masculinist notions of femininity, authenticity and fandom.