I’ve been a geek all my life. From the time I was a little girl I grew up on Star Trek and had a deep, undying love for Sherlock Holmes. I lived blissfully unaware of the mocking geeks get as I grew up because I was homeschooled. My peers were fellow kids at church and clubs. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realized I was different. A girl at summer camp teased me for using large words, which I thought were normal, every day words. It was also around that same time I started getting teased for being overweight.
I’m not going to say that I’ve been brutally teased like some people I know. My incidents of being bullied for my weight are very few (several have happened online with extremely rude comments or emails). We’re talking a handful of incidents over a very long period of time. Personal attacks are rare, but the general overall feeling about overweight women, especially in the geek fandom is intense.
While my body image and confidence are usually fine, going to a big convention filled with scantily clad hotties sends my shields up. I’ve been in earshot of people who snicker and laugh at the plus-sized Batgirls or other cosplayers who don’t fit the skinny actresses they’re portraying. Once I asked one of these curvy girls to pose for a picture and genuine shock crossed her face. Other times it’s been a large man in a Roman gladiator outfit who gets laughed at or the plus-sized Princess Lei. Every time I heard these snickers and laughs I was less comfortable with dressing up.
I’ve only dressed up at a convention once, despite having attended many. It was DragonCon, I was on a panel for my audio drama podcast and I dressed up as my character, Anya. My mother made me a skirt and I painted a shirt to resemble her Once More With Feeling costume. In a large group of costumed people (my best friends were Buffy and Drusilla), I felt more able to handle my perception of dressing up. It helped my costume wasn’t too far out there (I mean, it was a skirt and shirt). Even so, I was ill at ease despite the euphoria of celebrating an amazing production and having a packed out room to hear our performance. I rushed back to my hotel room and changed as soon as I could.
So when I saw all of the Doctor Who cosplayers at Gallifrey One again this year it brought up those emotions. I remembered the poor girl who asked on a forum who she could dress up as being plus-sized, the only answer she got was ogre Princess Fiona. I wanted to scream.
I can’t even say it’s Hollywood’s fault per say. When I considered dressing up as an actress who is plus-sized and was figuring how to do her costume I read a glut of nasty YouTube comments and the emotional response just flared up again. Here was a wonderful actress, who I so admired, being skewered online because of her weight (I know, I know it’s YouTube, what should I expect, but still it’s awful).
Cosplaying is supposed to be, at least for me, an escape. It’s a chance to be someone else for awhile and to live in their skin. I love walking around Gallifrey One and seeing the responses people get to their costumes. One girl, dressed as Sherlock, was walking away and another girl caught a glimpse of her and yelled out, “I believe in you, Sherlock!” It was like when little kids see their favorite characters at Disney and believe, in that moment, that they’re real. It warmed my heart. But, I can never have that experience because of the reactions I have heard in the past.
So, I won’t cosplay. It’s the one area of fandom I’ve barely tried and it kind of makes me sad.
So why write about it here? Well, I didn’t want to really. I’m not a big fan of pity parties or being vulnerable in a public forum. I finally realized I should get the conversation going and perhaps make people think twice before they snicker at the plus-sized costumed fan walking through the hallways of your next convention. The cosplayer you save might just be me.