Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why Cosplay?

Cosplay isn't exactly a "traditional" craft. So, why did I choose it as my focus?
First, despite the elaborate and unusual costumes that sometimes result from cosplay, it almost always also involves traditional textile crafts such as sewing. I'm using this opportunity to expand my expertise in sewing in general, not just for cosplay costumes. Those basic foundational skills are the same whether you're sewing an everyday outfit or a costume, so the math learning (or any other learning!) that may emerge will be comparable.
Second, cosplay, believe it or not, can be a site for social justice activism. "Crossplay," or cosplaying as a character who does not share your gender, is commonplace at cons, allowing for questioning of gender norms and play with gender identity (though problems still exist; men crossplaying as female characters is still rarer than the reverse, and more often done as a joke than in earnest). Since the main point of cosplay is to celebrate your love for a fandom and character, cosplay is teaching people to look past external cultural markers like race, gender, ethnicity, and body shape and to view diverse cosplayers not as "Others," but as valued members of the fandom community. For instance, trans and nonbinary fans are finding cosplay to be a safe space to explore their gender identity.

Female cosplayer crossplaying as Two-Face from Batman
Male cosplayer crossplaying as Sailor Venus from Sailor Moon

Cosplay also seems to be a majority-female field, even if fan convention attendees are still (slightly) majority male. So, cosplay culture fits in well with our focus on helping to overcome gender divides. And it may even help with the gender gap in STEM fields: with the math and sometimes technology involved in sewing and costume-making, tapping into youths' interest in fandom and cosplay may also help to awaken interests in STEM. Sometimes technology is necessary in order to “accurately” portray a character’s mecha-suit or magical powers, so more and more cosplayers are starting to incorporate aspects of e-textiles into their costumes.
A light-up Elsa (from Frozen) cosplay--of which I am insanely jealous!
Finally, I have a personal stake in this. I've been a fan of geek media for most of my life, and have put versions of my favorite characters in my pretend play and in the stories I write for as long as I can remember. When I found out about the cosplay phenomenon, it seemed like the perfect place for me! But until recently, I had neither the time nor the confidence to dive in. Now I'm eager to explore this exciting community and to experience its enormous potential for learning and identity development!

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