Monday, June 1, 2015

Harassment is Alive and Well at MomoCon

Since it's creation in 2005, Atlanta's MomoCon has grown to be one of the largest anime conventions in the Country. According to their webpage, this all-ages convention prides itself on being a welcoming and fun environment for everyone:  
"From parents bringing their curious “young’uns” to the most dedicated old-skoolers, everyone is welcome.  Based out of Atlanta, extending Southern Hospitality is important to us.  We would like everyone to enjoy what we do best: having fun!"
For many attendees, however, the harassment they experienced at MomoCon made the convention far from hospitable. One cosplayer in particular, Luna Lanie, took to YouTube to share her experience and the reaction she received from security and the convention organizers:

First and foremost, the harassment Lanie describes in the beginning of the video (specifically, people touching/fondling her without consent) is not only creepy and scary and all around wrong, according to Georgia law (O.C.G.A 16-6-22.1) it's Sexual Battery and punishable with up to 1 year in jail. That, in and of itself, should have meant that such claims would be taken seriously and addressed immediately. Apparently, however, they were not. In the video, Lanie goes on to describe a meeting she had with some of the MomoCon organizers, including Co-Chair, Chris Stuckey, during which they seemed (to her) to be more concerned that she wasn't praising the convention on social media than the fact that she (and others) had been experiencing harassment. Had nothing further occurred, I would probably be applauding Stuckey for meeting with Lanie, asking for her advice, and giving her a direct line on which to reach him. (I do, however, have to wonder if he tried as hard to reach out to others who were harassed who don't happen to have 19,000 followers on Facebook and 60,000 Twitter followers...)

After their meeting however, according to Lanie, the security staff themselves began harassing her about her clothing. Lanie was cosplaying Officer Caitlyn from League of Legends that day, and though she was given approval from the Costuming Director and was not in violation of any published MomoCon policies, she was told to change, shamed for wearing revealing clothing, and told that the harassment she had been victim to was her fault. For reference, here is the MomoCon dress policy as found on their webpage and the costume Lanie was wearing:
"MomoCon is an all-ages event, and as such prohibits extremely revealing costumes and attire.  A good rule of thumb is full-coverage bikini top + shorts for women and shorts and shirt for men.  If men are cosplaying a shirtless character, we ask that they only remove their shirts for photos."
Photo: AzHP Photography, taken from Lanie's Facebook page.
Full coverage bikini-top? Check. Shorts? Check. Violation of MomoCon policy? Nope. So, why was she suddenly being told that her outfit was inappropriate? When Lanie phoned Stuckey to ask, she was reportedly told, "maybe you shouldn't be posting on social media about the con negatively, and you wouldn't be having these issues."

Now, this is clearly one side of the story, but it is an all too familiar and sadly believable story. Lanie is not alone in her reports of harassment at this year's convention, and if even half of her claims are true, MomoCon has a serious harassment issue that needs to be addressed. Joining the 'Cosplay is not Consent' movement (as many other major conventions have done), and properly training their security staff would be huge steps toward handling these issues, nothing is going to change until the organizers are willing to stop victim blaming and acknowledge the issue for what it is.

It is important to note that I was not personally in attendance at MomoCon this year. While I do not normally report on a convention unless I was there myself, the severity and number of harassment allegations at MomoCon have made it impossible to ignore. She-Geeks has reached out to MomoCon for comment via email and Facebook, but has yet to receive a response.

1 comment:

  1. Here outfit was no more revealing than Yaya Han's and Yaya was an invited guest!!!