I can’t believe that I have to say this again…
COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.
You would think this subject matter would be pretty easy to digest for most folks. But due to the recent scandal featuring cosplayer, Momo-Kun, I felt that it would be necessary to bring it up again. In August 2014, I had interviewed cosplayers MapleCakes and Dreamkitty who spoke on the subject matter, and their own experience as cosplayers just starting their career. If you want to check out the full article, you can click here to read it. The below will reference some key points from that article, in comparison to the recent transgressions from cosplayer Momo-Kun.
For now, let’s focus on what we know regarding the Momo-Kun scandal, and what we can learn from it.
At this time, both male and females in the gaming, anime, and cosplay communities have come out to say that Momo has harassed them in one way or another. From making rude comments to removing someone’s top at a con, to grabbing a stranger’s ass for the sake of video content… There is a lot of evidence piling up. And most of this is only stuff that has been caught on camera. What has happened behind closed doors seems to be even worse.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in costume, or out of costume, at a con. No one reserves the right to touch you without your consent. If you think it’s ok to touch a cosplayer who’s outfit is revealing, think about it this way. Would you grope an innocent bystander at the mall? What about the cashier at the checkout at your local grocery store? No? Didn’t think so…
On July 5th, 2018, The Creators Guild canceled the Momo-Kun “Meet and Greet” at their booth, and pulled her badge for Anime Expo after a lot of people came out with their stories of harassment, involving Momo-Kun. To try to mitigate backlash, Momo-Kun claims that she had reached out to The Creators Guild to cancel it herself, but TCG mentioned the cancellation prior to them going public with it.
She eventually apologized for her actions, how it poorly reflected upon her and made a big deal out of the fact her ADHD made her do it… Yes, you read that right.
Since then, a lot of other things have started coming out against her. From claims that she steals credit for others hard work, claims against her original characters as stolen as well, and many others gathering the courage to speak out about harassment and other disgusting behavior.
Let’s talk about that apology…
First, while mental illness can play a major role in the way you act – it’s not a scapegoat to completely dissolve responsibility. Many of us struggle with lack of impulse control daily, but we apologize for our part and take responsibility for what consequences may arise from it.
To me, it’s insulting. I have ADD and I have never sexually harassed anyone. Impulse control is an issue I struggle with daily. But it’s never been so bad that I felt the need to inappropriately lay my hands on friends or strangers because of it. I do understand that everyone’s case will be different, but to use a mental illness to shield yourself from criticism is childish and just insulting to those who struggle daily with it.
Whether you’re a cosplayer, an attendee at a con, or just a random person… COSPLAY IS NEVER CONSENT.
One more time for those of you in the back… COSPLAY IS NEVER CONSENT.
Just because you’re famous or even just well-known within a community, it doesn’t give you the right to invade someone else’s personal space.
While the apology above left me wanting more, I truly hope that she takes this as a learning experience to reflect on how her actions impact others and to apply some critical thinking before speaking and acting in the future. Apologies are meaningless if you don’t follow through. And while this apology felt more like making excuses, we’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope to see a change in her attitude about this and a change in her actions in the future.
Let’s talk about con culture…
When I was younger, I was super into two things, raving and anime. Attending raves and anime conventions, you grew very close (and very quickly) with similar minded folks who enjoyed being loud and obnoxious for attention. It was an adaption of the culture around them. They saw how others acted and reacted, and they imprinted it into their personality for events. For many of us, there would be over affectionate behavior, like running to someone you knew to “glomp” them, or give them a massive hug, head or back pats, etc. The take away on this is these were individuals that you were close with, and you knew how they would respond to specific behavior. And since you were close with them, if you ever overstepped the boundary they’d more than likely tell you so, or slap you to get the point across. There’s a good general rule we all like to follow within my circle of friends…
If you ever have to question if what you’re about to say or do would make someone uncomfortable in a bad way, the best thing to do is to not follow through with it.
When we look back and reflect on our first article of “Cosplay is Not Consent” the recurring theme from both cosplayers statements was that we need to get awareness of this issue within the community. It’s been a constant uphill battle from when we first posted it, to now. And it feels like the constant awareness and discussions within the communities are finally starting to pay off. Everyone is working harder to make cons a safer place, and we’re all becoming more comfortable with speaking out if we’ve been wronged and helping others to find their voices to speak out for themselves.
So, what’s the deal with her “Original Content”?
Momo-Kun has claimed that her overly sexualized cow-girl cosplay is original content. However, if you’re a fan of Hentai (I am!) you would know that it isn’t original content or even an original character. The fact that she claims things are OC, when they aren’t, is really insulting to her fan base. It sends the message “My fans are idiots and will believe anything”. We have no idea to know if this is actually what she’s thinking. Believe it or not, I’m not a mind reader. Shocking, I know. But it’s the perception that gets created by the actions she takes.
Finally, there’s the issue of her taking credit for other people’s hard work. To put it out there, there is nothing wrong with having someone else make your cosplay or even buying a cosplay. Cosplay is about having a good time and showing your love for a favorite character. There’s such a massive stigma around this within the community. We shouldn’t be shaming her or anyone for wanting to buy or commission a cosplay.
But, I do condone shaming for taking credit for someone else’s work when you do not have the right to do so. If you pay a cosplayer extra to buy full rights to that cosplay and your contract states you can claim it as your own, fine. But part of what makes this community so wonderful is how uniquely talented the creators are within it. We have so many who specialize in different trades, such as foam, metal, special effects, wigs, etc… That we should be working to build each other up. Networking is a big part of owning a small business, and taking that away from others in the community who pours blood, sweat, and tears into something for you to show off is just low. Especially when so many content creators are just starting out and sell themselves short for “The Exposure”. I can’t pay rent with exposure, I’m sorry… But, with the right exposure, I might take in new clientele who can keep me living the dream of creating things I’m passionate about. So, let’s do each other a favor and give credit where credit is due.
I strongly believe in giving people an opportunity to change. Whether that happens today, or in 5-10 years. I believe that everyone has the ability to change, should they wish to. Do I think her career is over from this scandal? No. I highly doubt this will end things for her.
Will her career take a hit? Absolutely. Even a month after the scandal first broke within mainstream media, her Patreon subscribers are down nearly 11%.
My plea for you, Momo-Kun, is that you take a moment to reflect on how your actions and reactions to this affect your fans perceptions of you as a person. I’d also hope that you take this time to do some soul-searching, or whatever the cool kids are doing these days, to identify how you will be able to better manage your impulse control in the future. And finally, I hope that you can use this negative experience to bring more positivity back into the work and the community, and find ways to better highlight your achievements, and incorporate those who you work closely with to get there.