3 lessons in feminism from my first big anime con
When Liz went to her first big con as Princess Serenity she was pleasantly surprised with real-life proof of some of her fave feminist ideals.
With movements like Cosplay is Not Consent being undeniably necessary, you wouldn’t think I’d find my first big anime convention to be a haven for feminists — especially since it took place in one of the most conservative states in the U.S. However, despite a couple of hiccups, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter real-life proof of some of my favorite feminist ideals.
1. (Truly) Strong Female Characters Mean a Lot to Women
If you ask me to make a list of my favorite fictional characters, Sailor Moon will always take the number one spot. I was first exposed to the show and comic as a 13 year old in the late 90s, and the story of a group of teenage girls protecting the universe captured both my heart and my imagination.
The main character, Usagi Tsukino, was my hands-down favourite. Yes, she was a badass — she had physical strength and used magical powers to fight monsters and villains alike. But she was also real. She didn’t do well in school, slept too late, and ate too much. She idolised celebrities and shirked homework to play video games every day after school. She was a bit of a crybaby and whined constantly. She was also kind, giving, and intensely loyal to those she loved. Above all, she was willing to sacrifice everything to protect the universe.
She was a soldier, a princess, and most importantly, a fully fleshed-out female character.That’s why I decided to dress as Princess Serenity (Usagi’s royal alter ego) for my first big convention.
Liz cosplays Princess Serenity from Sailor Moon
I was approached constantly by women telling me how much they loved Sailor Moon and what the show had meant to them. One woman asked me for a picture together and thanked me profusely afterward. She said it was like meeting her hero in person. Another woman told me my costume was her dream cosplay, to which I replied that it was mine as well. There was gushing and compliments and so much joy.
Through it all, I became aware of the amazing impact strong female characters have on girls — and how important it is that we keep creating them.
2. Little Boys DO Like Female Heroes
Female heroes are being erased from existence when it comes to toys, and according to an industry insider at Hasbro, it’s because “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.” I hollered bullshit on this long before my convention, but something I witnessed there only proved my point.
My friend Kate was dressed as Rey from Star Wars: the Force Awakens — and she looked fantastic. As we were walking through an outdoor courtyard, a small boy caught my eye. He was looking at Kate, his eyes as big as saucers. Then, with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, he started yelling, “DAD, DAD, LOOK! DAD, IT’S REY! DAD LOOK, IT’S REY!”
Kate waved at him, and he smiled even wider. She absolutely made his day.
So yeah, boys clearly like female heroes.
3. Women Can (and Do) Support Each Other
While most of the convention was lovely, I did encounter one creeper who I couldn’t seem to shake. He followed me from one room to another, insisting on talking to me when I was clearly trying to get away. After he had cornered me yet again, my friend Mandi approached us and said, “We have to leave now or we’re going to be late!”
Thanks to her intervention, I was able to make a quick exit without risking the situation turning violent. From that point on, we stuck together and were able to avoid any more uncomfortable conversations. It reminded me how important it is that women support each other, especially when situations seem dangerous.
I learned a lot from this convention. I found the people who ask permission before taking pictures or touching your costume are the coolest (and most considerate) fans. I discovered that cosplayers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. I found out that my hometown has a giant cache of Sailor Moon fans. Most importantly, I witnessed women owning their place in pop culture fandom — and that’s worth far more than the price of admission.
Wish you were there? My friend Langarang made this joyous video of our time at the con.