What Men’s Fitness’ Hate-On About Cosplay Teaches Us: Sexism Hurts Everyone

Superhero Cosplay by Karl Palutke
Superhero Cosplay Parade. Photo by Karl Palutke.

When I first saw the “article” about cosplay from Men’s Fitness, I shrugged it off as immature linkbait.1 It wasn’t worth my time to argue with a troll, and I’m sure as hell not linking back to it. (Which is what the author, Jordan Burchette, wants.)

Then I thought for a second and went, great, now next time we bring up a systemic oppression in geekdom (as geekdom is part of society), male geeks with +20 privilege are going to bring this article up and say they are oppressed by society. (First rule of talking about oppressive systems, check your privilege at the door. Second rule, don’t derail. Third rule, don’t compare oppressions in a hierarchy of oppression; it’s all bad.)2

But because I spend my time around wonderful people who try to find the teaching and learning moment in everything, I instead did my best Wesley Wyndam-Pryce3 impersonation and said, “Eureka!”

Men’s Fitness actually illustrates beautifully why sexism hurts men too.

Burchette spends most of his time making snarky comments, not perpetuating ridiculous beauty ideals for women, but mocking male cosplayers who lack the same idealized male bodies as Thor, Batman, or Captain America.4 Unrealistic ideals found in the pages of Men’s Fitness. Burchette says that there’s something innately missing in these cosplayers that causes them to dare to dress up their less-than-perfect-by-Men’s-Fitness-standards bodies like comic book characters. No one will argue that spandex — superhero fabric du jour — shows everything and that many male superhero costumes are cut to show off uber muscled bodies.5

The problem, however, is not the cosplayers or even the fabric choices. The problem is the beauty ideals perpetrated by sexism and put in the media.

Surprise! Men’s Fitness is the media, and a magazine that sets Western body ideals. Men’s Fitness literally has the power to change these stereotypes and male beauty myths. But they aren’t, because they make money off telling men (and women) that their bodies are not perfect enough. Why would you buy Men’s Fitness unless you somehow felt bad about your body?6 At least this is the misguided logic used in editorial and advertising decisions.

Ridiculous men’s beauty standards are just as dangerous as ridiculous women’s beauty standards. They hurt people.7 They promote ridged gender coding and make unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for how people are supposed to look and act. Born out of sexism, these male stereotypes have progressed and grown right along female stereotypes, and they hurt individuals and society.

Male geeks with +20 privilege are right; they are being bullied by Men’s Fitness. The way to stop it isn’t just to call out the author or the article, but to call out media, like Men’s Fitness, every single time they pull this false beauty ideals out, even when it doesn’t directly affect geeky male cosplayers. Because in the end, unrealistic beauty stereotypes affect everyone.

  1. Linkbait: An article purposely written in such a way to draw lots of attention and comments. In this case, this is the bad kind of linkbait.
  2. I completely made these rules up. Though they are what I try to operate under, especially when I am in a space where I have privilege.
  3. This would be Wesley from Season 2 of Angel, who’s actually a great example of a character who early on does not conform to masculine stereotypes and is the “girly” or “wimpy” one. (I love Wesley in all his incarnations from adorkably dancing in sweaters to grizzly and shotgun-wielding.)
  4. As long as none of them are penciled by Rob Liefeld because no one wants 1) a 74-pack; 2) that many pouches; 3) no feet. <– This is how you snark like a comic book geek.
  5. This is not even getting into women’s costumes, which often have a whole layer masturbation-fodder attached to them. (Not literal layers as that’s what the clothing lacks.)
  6. Other motivations for buying magazines include actual journalism or real health tips, which are both harder to write and (sadly) harder to sell (which is the media’s own damn fault for giving us junk food and guilt).
  7. There are almost 1 million men and a little over 7 million women in the United States who suffer from eating disorders.

P.S. Yes, I am a cosplayer. But you can make fun of me all you want about that.

GeekGirlCon 2011: Some Presidential Thoughts and Other Things

Erica McGillivray at GeekGirlCon 2011
Me talking at the Women Running Geeky Businesses Panel

I am pretty much beyond biased about how awesome GeekGirlCon was. Along with my staff, I’d worked since August 2010 to make the dream of GeekGirlCon a reality, and I believe that it truly happened. I fought back happy tears all weekend; only to finally cry Sunday evening after reading what Greg Rucka wrote in my Batwoman trade. (Don’t worry, at that point, I was surrounded by people who care and love me and hugged me.)

I still am beyond the moon at how many people showed up. (A rough estimation of 2000 per day.) I can’t believe we sold out. I am still so touched by all the smiles, all the packed panels, all the cosplay, and all the new friends made.

Being the woman in charge is a weird role because in many ways I did not have an actual “job” at the convention. I had a few things I had fixed on my schedule — set-up, meet King 5 news, go to the PR event, host the masquerade with Julia, moderate the Geeky Business Panel, give a ‘thank you’ at the Labyrinth showing, and tear-down — but mostly, I wandered around fixing things. My staff is really awesome, so it was less fixing and more lending a hand, making a decision, or sending someone on a mission.

That said, you know what sucks about being president, I missed all the really awesome panels I wanted to see and I missed meeting many people I wanted to reconnect with or meet for the first time.


Some of my favorite things:

— My mom came to help me out, and I really enjoyed the look on her face (she worked registration) when she realized just how long the registration line was before the doors opened. It was also fun to see her get that proud mom glow when people complimented GeekGirlCon and my work.

— Crossplaying as Sherlock with my lovely Watson. And having lifelong friends not recognize me in costume, not to mention a few GeekGirlCon staff doing a double-take. (I think my mom was a little freaked out.)

— Tiny crossplaying Jack Harkness posing in front of the TARDIS, while mostly annoyed at her blue tooth as her guardian took photos. (I still have blue paint under my fingernails from finishing the inside of the TARDIS the Wednesday before.)

— Getting to play with Tammy’s amazing Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth puppet, hearing Karen Prell talk, and listening the audience get excited every time David Bowie’s area flashed on screen.

— Being dressed up as Wonder Woman while Trina Robbins told me about the Wonder Woman lunchbox from the ’80s she’d found at a thrift shop recently. (Also having multiple friends tell me how they just wanted to have tea with Trina.)

— Chatting with Chase Masterson, who’s all around amazing. I’ve been a die-hard Trekkie since I was 4-years-old.

— Watching an entire audience sing along with Molly Lewis’ song about wanting to have Stephen Fry’s babies literally.

— Getting to finally meet panelist Karen Burrows, whom I’ve known online since 2003. Plus, getting to reconnect with my long-time fangirl friends who live in different parts of the country/in Canada/in England, including Erin, Tania, Bridget (and her partner Joe), Jen, Matt, Anna, Katelyn, Bill, and Lisa.

— Being able to provide people with an experience of a lifetime, and geeky women a safe space to geek out all weekend long.

Some things that did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped:

— I forgot the masquerade prizes in my kitchen. Seriously, they were sitting between my cast iron pan and fruit basket. Plus, I’d sent my partner Jason to search for them at the info booth, and he missed the masquerade completely.

— Registration lines were a little longer than needed to be. Plus, some vendors, panelists, and sponsors waited when they shouldn’t have. (You might’ve seen me walking the line and calling out for them.) I’m just so freaking glad that Seattle had awesome weather.

— Not having transport for people with disabilities or tiny children to get to and from the two locations. I’m not quite sure what could’ve been done, but I’m sure there were some kind of option.

— While this was a known issue before the con started, having to tell a nursing mother that the only available private space was a bathroom. (Why aren’t there more convention having spaces in Seattle with more rooms?)

— Not getting to reconnect with/meet the following people properly: the women from Hello Earth Productions, Jen Van Meter, Sarah Kuhn, Anita Sarkeesian (with whom I had an awesome post-con lunch, book shopping, and ice cream fun time with), and everyone else I didn’t get to say hi to.

Random things you might not know about GeekGirlCon and me:

— 100% of our staff are volunteers. All money made by GeekGirlCon goes directly back into the organization.

— As much as I hated charging for some events, the only way we were able to have a masquerade was by throwing a separately ticketed burlesque show. We also worked in partnership with the EMP to do part of the convention there, including bringing Jane Espenson.

— I’m a completely crazy person, who spent the month prior to GeekGirlCon interviewing for a new job (see GeekGirlCon being a volunteer gig), getting said new job, giving notice and training former coworkers, and, oh, yeah, planning for GeekGirlCon. (I started my new job yesterday.)

— My awesome staff is already emailing me, ready for the next steps. So I’m off to answer some emails that need my attention.

Check out the news story King 5 did about GeekGirlCon:

Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour! Film Review

Le Tigre
Le Tigre: Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson
These are the ladies that taught me how to be a lady. In the many variations of who a lady can be.

In Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour!, Kathleen Hanna talks about how Le Tigre’s electroclash music, choreography, and style was vulnerable. And it was dorky, fun, and passionate. And very, very political. They were an unapologetic feminist queer band composed of women musicians, and the film smartly weaves this into the narrative. There are rants and celebration — but no preaching or rockstar crazy — and lots of good music and spirit.

Watching the film made me miss the band terrible. (Le Tigre broke up in 2005.) And it also made me realize just how personal and inspiring their music is to me as a queer feminist. But it was especially inspiring when I was younger.

Le Tigre’s songs explore the personal being political, the suppression of feminist herstories, about being a lady band and female artists, about the harsh realities of the world, about sexism and homophobia and hate. But at the same time, to me, their message was always hopefully. Their message was always: you are not alone; we hear you.

All three members — Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson — talk in different ways about how they pushed the envelope and did something that mattered to so many people. Whether it was feminism, gender performance, or just the simple act of being three women in a band, Le Tigre’s legacy lives on. They were a radical act.

As a documentary and a band movie, Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour! was insightful, heartwarming, and entertaining. The live performances were mixed in well with the interviews, both while on their final tour and post-Le Tigre. I highly recommend this film to any Le Tigre fan or anyone interested in feminist music.

If nothing else, the scene where Fateman (on a dare from the others) gets her picture taken with Slipknot is worth watching the entire film.

And if you’ve never heard their music listen: Continue reading “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour! Film Review”

Because you’re awesome

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Lis Ferla
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Lis Ferla

I’m having one of those days when I want to grab someone by her shoulders and shake her until she can tell me how awesome she is. But I realize this is counterproductive, and that shouting is sometimes just shouting into a void.

You see, I run a nonprofit for geeky women. We’re doing amazing work; we’re putting on an convention. We’re 100% volunteers. This means we’re absolutely fucking crazy for the work we do.

But every once in a while, one of my staff members gets discouraged. Feels let down. Feels pushed outside. Feels like they want to pack up their X-Men action figures and go home. Some have. While there are some men on the staff, I do think that it’s still the women who doubt their abilities and their belonging. That even in an organization full of and for women, they still carry around the impostor syndrome and don’t let themselves be heard.

I run a tough show and a tight ship. You work and play hard, and you have to find those other things that make success because you’re not getting a paycheck. (Though it’s my belief that even if you were getting a paycheck, you need other reasons to love what you do.) But sometimes work isn’t glorious or full-filling. Sometimes it is shit; and maybe it’s my inner ranch girl, but sometimes you just pick up that shovel and literally shovel that shit.

And when one of my staff starts to doubt herself, I want her to know that she is valued, that she needs to get off the ground because she’s better than this. Because she’s stronger than this. Because this is what we have to do. You have to fight because in a world where nothing truly matters, the only thing that matters is what you do.

So I want you to pick yourself off the floor and dust off. I want you to do what you need to: to shovel the shit and move beyond the shit. Because instead of shaking you, you’re getting support and mercy from your sisters. Because you would not be here if you weren’t awesome and strong and all those other things that you aren’t feeling at the moment. Take a breath of fresh air, sister, and then pick up your shovel.

Sprinkles Around the Web 2/4-2/17/11

Sprinkles from around the web

Links that I enjoyed around the web. No one else’s opinion but my own.


Me, Tammy, and Jasmine at the APCC New Year Celebration. A great day with some wonderful and talented friends.
Me, Tammy, and Jasmine at the APCC New Year Celebration. A great day with some wonderful and talented friends.

Uploaded a ton of photos. Check them out.


NBC casts Wonder Woman! ‘Friday Night Lights’ star lands coveted role I’ve never seen Adrianne Palicki act, however, I am so happy that this is going forward. For real this time.

What Superhero Comics Look Like A great little article breaking down how Osborn #3 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios is scripted and put together art-wise, also how it applies to the very best of current comic books.

10 Reasons the Star Trek 2 Screenplay Still Isn’t Done

3) Everybody wanted Uhura to kick some ass this time around. But they couldn’t figure out how to have her kick ass in a teeny minidress, without needing a lot of strategically placed lens flare. The writers spent two months trying to figure out a plot reason why Uhura might have to put on some pants, or maybe some leggings, for part of the movie. What if they go to a planet of leg-biting monsters, and she has to put some protective leg coverings on? Or maybe Spock shows her a special Vulcan ritual, in which practitioners must wear pants as a sign of devotion to pure logic?

Andy Warhol, Nico, Robin And The Bats! Esquire Magazine Photoshoot 1967 This is an amazing. I’m such a Factory fangirl. If I could go back into time, I would go there and hang out.

Legend of a Cowgirl An amazing Firefly fanvid about Zoe. Just perfect. I love it. Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 2/4-2/17/11”

Sprinkles Around the Web 1/28-2/3/11

Sprinkles from around the web

Various links I enjoyed from around the internet.


GeekGirlCon: Power to the Geek Girls. Robb Orr on ComicBooked.com interviews me about GeekGirlCon.


Jane Espenson: Writer, sci-fi thriller, one nerdy lady. A great profile on Jane Espenson, who’s one of my favorite TV writers.

Follow That Marshmallow: A Ghostbusters Tour. This is pretty awesome. You know my cat is named after a Ghostbuster, right?

Bucky as the Winter Soldier
Bucky as the Winter Soldier as he is in Ed Brubaker's Captain America.

‘Captain America’ director: ‘Our Bucky isn’t a sidekick… there’s a darker edge’. Of course there is. Someone’s been reading Brubaker’s current run of Captain America.

Why I’m Not Speaking at PAX East 2011. In case you haven’t been reading, Penny Arcade started selling rape joke t-shirts. Pulled the “it’s just a joke” and then took them down when everyone got really mad. Failboat. Especially for a company that runs a con where they try to make it safe for women.


Auctions!. Check out GeekGirlCon’s geeky auctions. All proceeds go to support GeekGirlCon.


Why Female Politicians Are More Effective. Of course, we are. We have to be 2 and 1/2 times better than any man at our “non-traditional” jobs in order to prove ourselves and prove that women can do these things.

The House GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape. This just makes me see red.

Drugged, raped, and pregnant? Too bad. Republicans are pushing to limit rape and incest cases eligible for government abortion funding.

Hawaii Senate Passes Civil Unions. Huzzah. Civil rights for everyone is awesome.

Proposed Arizona law targets “birthright” citizenship. Arizona continues to earn it’s place as the shame of the nation. Seriously, this just screams that they hate brown people.

What’s Happening in Egypt Explained (UPDATED). In case you’ve been living under a rock.

Recipes (I want to make.)


Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results. Oh, snap. There needs to more competition in search and less copying.


Dinosaur Comics explains infinite worlds. There are many, many T-Rexs. And they’re immortal.

A fizzy ocean on Enceladus. Not only is this ocean underground, it’s also fizzy like soda pop. How awesome is that!

Scientists working to grow meat in labs. Now this is when science starts to scare me. I saw this episode of Better Off Ted, and the meat tasted like despair.


Tunisia, Egypt, Miami: The Importance of Internet Choke Points. This is how you turn off the internet.

Zuckerberg’s Page Hacked, Now Facebook To Offer “Always On” HTTPS. Well, now we all know how to make Facebook actually care about security. Maybe we can do so for privacy too?

Sprinkles Around the Web 1/14-1/27/11

Sprinkles from around the web

A collection of interesting links that I found around the web. Read and enjoy.


Erica in her new dress
Because sometimes, I just need to buy and wear a pretty red dress.


Polar bear swims for nine straight days in search of ice Polar bears swim, but they don’t swim as far as this one. Why did this bear swim so far? It couldn’t find ice. Yep, the real effects of global warming.

Squirrels Around the World There are some freaking adorable squirrels out there.


The Rape of Inara: On heroines, consent, and women’s sexuality

I am now gleefully happy that “Firefly” got canceled. Not that I wasn’t before, but now? I can almost forgive FOX for canceling all those TV shows if it means that Inara was never raped. Also, TV, can you stop having the women with sexuality be raped or otherwise punished for having it while pretending to be edgy for having women with ‘unconventional’ sexualities?

Resistance, a Star Trek: The Next Generation fanvid I love this video so much. It’s amazing.

‘Dark Knight Rises’: Anne Hathaway will be Catwoman, Tom Hardy is Bane Okay, she’ll actually be Selina Kyle as who knows if she’ll be Catwoman in this one… Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 1/14-1/27/11”

Sprinkles Around the Web 12/31/10-01/13/11

Sprinkles from around the web

Links from around the web that I enjoyed. Mileage may vary.


Check out me and my new knives.
Check out me and my new knives.

My Amazon.com GeekGirlCon product recommendations


• Come to our all-hands meeting this Saturday from 10am-1pm at the Madison Park Starbucks in Seattle.

We’re throwing Buffy Summers a 30th Birthday Bash in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Come join us.


BP Disaster was “Avoidable” The commission reports find that it was due to failure on part of all the companies. Which means lazy companies caused on of the worst environmental disasters we’ve seen. And they aren’t properly cleaning it up.


David Tennant and Catherine Tate are to appear together on stage in a new West End production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. OMG, I want to go now!

Superman’s social network nightmare About the destruction moms can do on Facebook.

Diamond Halts All Shipments Of Graphic Novels To Borders. Apocalyptic Wave Of Returns Expected Diamond has a capital on comic book distribution. I’m going to assume that it’s in the best interests of Marvel and DC Comics to make deals directly with Borders. Hopefully, this will help take down Diamond’s monopoly on comic book distribution.

Women and Comics Another letter to publishers and marketers how they are missing a huge part of the world: women.

Wonder Woman TV project officially dead I’m going to be over here crying. Not even television super producer David E. Kelley could get a Wonder Woman project off the ground.

Dinosaur Comics on the likelihood of a real life Batman

7 reasons to give Stephanie Brown a chance as Batgirl Yes. I agree with all of this. Enjoying Stephanie Brown as Batgirl does not mean that one cannot also like Cass Cain. Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 12/31/10-01/13/11”

Sprinkles Around the Web 12/25-12/30/10

Sprinkles from around the web

Long time, no link posts. Time to get back on that horse. Anyway, here are some links that I’ve found interesting around the web. Your mileage may vary, and yes, I’m putting all the GeekGirlCon stuff first as it has to do with me. Besides being awesome in general.


We’re busy little bees with GeekGirlCon, a celebration of geeky women by having a convention in Seattle in 2011. We’re busy raising funds in order to secure our venue and have a date and place for the convention. We’re 50% of the way toward our funding. Please donate.

Or come out to support us!

We had a “Hero of Canton” flashmob. (Take a second to find me. Or cheat with photos.)

GeekGirlCon Christmas Greetings If you’re not sick of the holidays, check out a season’s greetings from GeekGirlCon.

Estrocast Episode 3: Geek Girl Con Hear me (and Kiri and Kelcey) talk to the Estrocast about GeekGirlCon.


Dinosaur Comics Hitting right to the heart of the holiday season, Dinosaur Comics does it again.

Atlantis movie shelved ‘indefinitely’ Brad Wright and company continues to punish SGA fans for not watching SGU. Hey, try writing better shows or maybe adding some women and minorities to your writing staff. Just saying.


• Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Why We Have So Few Women Leaders Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 12/25-12/30/10”