15 May, 2013

Once You Go Hypocritical Obstinate Militant Feminist of Color, You Never Go Back

It's not like I don't have enough to do with my time.

So why do I do it?

Why, when I happen across a wrongheaded point of view which screams out for a constructive rebuttal, can I not resist taking the bait? And why, when my good faith attempt to balance opinion with informed discourse, does it always scare the IQ right out of the recipient, who then resorts to name-calling, deletion of my input, denial that it existed, and/or general retreat to the safety of whatever gaggle of sycophants they have at their disposal? And most importantly, why oh why does this always happen at the very end of the day when I'm just about to head off to bed, so now I have to stay up all night blogging it and be a zombie tomorrow?

Why climb Mount Everest? Because it is there.

As you may or may not know, one of my few surviving hobbies of the original thousand or so, is "cosplay". It's the making and wearing of costumes from entertainment venues, most often sci-fi, fantasy, horror, animation, and other escapism. We usually gather with our work at conventions throughout the year, which also, sadly, gives one the regular opportunity to remove most of the country's geeks with one well-placed grenade. Fortunately your average jock wouldn't know how to pull out the pin even if he could stuff his sausage finger through the ring, but I digress.

Through the miracle of Facebook and other similar social online thingies, cosplayers meet other cosplayers and a global cosplayer community has formed. This has brought great joy to the hobby but also no small amount of frustration, because behind every costume work of art is the person who made it, and people aren't always what they wear. There is more than enough friction when the costumes are concerned, with undercurrents, and occasional flare-ups, about accuracy, competitiveness, and the like. But this is nothing compared to what can happen when someone who's good at costumes thinks it makes him or her magically equally good at other things, like politics or other highly personal opinions. Because they use their cosplay pages or blogs as their soapbox on unsuspecting fans who really only want to know about the latest cosplay stuff. And thus our story opens.

Facebook - Jay Justice Cosplay

Jay Justice (Real name? Dunno.) An East Coast cosplayer of admirable talent. A surprising number of her getups involve painting her entire body a different color - red for a character named Starfire, green for She-Hulk, silver for Colossus. While I greatly respect someone who goes to such lengths to bring a character to life, it is ironically this very body-painting which revealed to me "JJ's" true colors. We'll start with her original post on Facebook.

Someone I considered a friend attempted to justify the use of blackface in cosplay to me today. Rather than post screencaps of that incident, I’m reblogging my opinion on blackface in general. Which is that it is unnecessary, dehumanizing and disrespectful. In all circumstances. It does NOT make your cosplay "more accurate". You cannot become Black by painting yourself brown. If your costume is on point, everyone will know who you are regardless of your actual race. The costume is THE COSTUME. NOT THE SKIN COLOR.

Now seriously, did anyone's irony meter not explode? If not, things will become clearer soon. Next we wade through a few of the expected "sing it, sista" posts from the yes-men and wannabes who excel at sucking-up from the shadow of someone they admire.

Caroline D. 
People can cosplay across gender and still get the character perfect. No excuse for blackface.

Meaghan H.
I can't believe anyone would ever consider that okay. I suppose they don't even bother to research the history of blackface before going ahead with it. If a costume is well-made and key points are represented, I've never had trouble identifying the character someone was trying to portray.

Bryan L M.
what if it Robert Downey Jr's character in tropic thunder LOL

Jay Justice Cosplay 
Yes, RDJ'rs portrayal in that movie was blackface. Nothing more to say about it.

Bryan L M. 
what if i cosplayed black panther? is that considered black face?

Jay Justice Cosplay
If you paint your face, yes. If you don't, then no. I have a friend who is white & does classic Luke Cage, yellow silk shirt, chain link belt, silver tiara. There is no mistaking who he is. He doesn't paint his skin. He loves that character and he cosplays him. There is nothing wrong with that. If you dig Black Panther, cosplay him. Painting your skin won't make you Black. You'll still be a white guy cosplaying a Black character but there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Hell, I'll be Shuri.

Haus of M.
People think it's as simple and just about "this one time," that they're talking about the present when they talk about doing something like this. They have no sense of the history and the connotations. This isn't just about some choice you're making for a convention this weekend, this is about years and years and years of oppression and hurt and bullshit. Blackface isn't just face paint, assholes, it's SOOOO much more. Oy vey. Thanks for taking the time to provide your insight on this, Jay, a lot of us (myself included) have a lot more to learn.

Neil C. 
plus if some one gives you crap about being a white luke cage just tell them multiverse same if people give you crap about being a black wonder woman or anything for any one really lol

Brandie B.
I was at a Halloween party and some girl arrived as Diana Ross complete in blackface. I'm pretty sure the look on my face was absolute horror. We were all pretty uncomfortable about it. And she had to keeo telling everyone that she was Diana Ross because I guess an afro and some paint makes you Diana Ross? If she would have showed up in some glitzy gown, some big hair and fake eyelashes, we probably would have gotten it, sans the blackface, and she wouldn't have looked like an asshole.

Thomas S.
I have been asked a few times why I don't wear black face, or even a wig when playing Luke Cage. It is just not needed, Luke Cage is an Iconic character, no one misstates who I am paying homage to when I put on the yellow shirt and boots. If I were to cosplay the Purple Man I would go purple, or martian manhunter I would go green, because that is part of the character.and is indelible to what makes them unique. Luke Cage, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Canary, Aquaman and a hundred other superheroes are not defined by something so trivial as melanoma levels

Michael J. D. 
I wouldn't even use blackface for a Dark Elf, as most of the ones I see in the official D&D books/comics are not actually black, but either charcoal gray or midnight blue, according to my crayon box.

It was at about this point I realized that everyone was missing a huge point. And my Devil's Advocate Mode kicked in, which is about as far from a Self-Preservation Mode as you could ever get. But I had at it anyway:

Ken Huegel
With all due respect, you are quite entitled to your opinions, but I see a serious double-standard here, with a topping of good ol' 'Murican "ever-ready-to-be-offended". Just going by your very own examples, painting yourself red, green, or silver is okay, but brown (which is NOT black, but that's another topic for another day) is not. Why? If you insist that the latter is never anything except an intentional slander of a race, then I think we should hear from some Native Americans about your Starfire cosplay. Or sufferers of hyperchromic anemia about your She-Hulk. Or of argyria about your Colossus. According to your own opinion, you are maliciously slurring sufferers of these chronic illnesses, not to mention the only race even more oppressed by Whites than yours. If you heard from one of these "victims" (surely imminent in lawsuit-happy USA), how would you dispute their umbrage without also questioning your own? 
I would enjoy a serious* discussion about this. If nothing else, I hope not to see this post disappear because it dared to not join the "you go, girl" chorus.
* Note to your sycophants: "well yur a dick" is not serious discussion. ;-)

My input actually got 2 or 3 "Likes" right away, and even a subsequent post about what an interesting debate this had become. (Why the footnote about "serious discussion? See previous blog entry.) And I was really telling the truth about wanting to discuss this. Unlike most people, I often want to understand how someone else's mind can work so differently from mine. Of course, now that I think of it, in all the times I've tried this approach, it's worked... hmm... about zero times. And Jay Justice was to be no exception. By day's end, my post had vanished despite my pre-emptive plea, as did any post that commented on mine. In it's place was this:

Jay Justice Cosplay
I stopped talking to the friend who insisted that blackface was okay, and this is someone who I have known in real life for years, since before I even began cosplaying. So anyone who thinks I'm going to humor their opinion on this topic has the wrong impression of me.You're not going to change my mind, and you're certainly not going to get anywhere by telling me that me cosplaying She Hulk, Colossus and Starfire is racist too. You're just going to get banned from my page.
Have you ever wondered why Black cosplayers typically don't paint themselves white when cosplaying white cosplayers? It's because we know that we're all just people, and it won't make the costume more accurate, we'll just look silly. It's ridiculous. The costume is the costume, not the character's white skin.
Whereas Blackface is dehumanizing, because it implies there is something so different about us that you can't really do a Black cosplay 'correctly' if you're not Black, without painting your skin. Is that all we are to you? Some pigment in a jar? Uhura is Uhura, you get that dress & hairstyle right & you're good to go. You're bringing to life a character you love, there's no need to paint yourself darker to show us that. You're not going to suddenly be Black once you've tanned. And tbh, unless you're entering into the World Cosplay Summit, cosplay doesn't have to be about accuracy. It's about fun! When did we forget that?

And additionally of course, I'm now banned from posting anything more on her page.

So once again, I try to bring balance to the Force with an equal but opposing viewpoint, and once again it's wasted breath. Because people like this only want to spew out their opinions and collect the "oohs" and "aahs" from their own little peanut gallery which "oohs" and "aahs" every post anyway. There was never any inkling of interest in tossing out such a highly debatable topic for the purposes of... oh, I dunno... actually debating it. She's the Queen of her own sad tiny kingdom, and when she proclaimeth, be it hypocritical, self-contradictory, racist, or just plain uninformed, you either drink the Kool-Aid or GTFO. Don't even think of exposing the blatant ignorance of what's been said.

So I'm done banging my head against that wall. But since I wanted a modicum of closure, I paid a visit to her blog. Until today I wasn't interested in her as a person, just as a cosplayer. After peeking behind that curtain, I can simultaneously say I should have trusted my instincts, but also my questions are pretty much answered. If Gloria Steinem (militant feminist) and Malcolm X (militant Negro) ever had a love child, it would be Jay Justice. More issues than The Saturday Evening Post. You can't scroll more than 10 lines without seeing lines like "racist" and "sexist". Women are always the victim. Except when Blacks are always the victim. Except JJ is a Black Woman (should that be "womyn"?), so she's two, two, two victims in one, possessed of an axe to grind with virtually anyone less tanned and/or more Y-chromosomed than herself. So unlike most people for whom a hobby like cosplay would represent a respite, or at least a departure, from real life, JJ seems to differentiate between life and cosplay only in the levels of makeup used: in both worlds she seemingly fancies herself a fantasy superhero, fighting a world of injustice. Perhaps a future cosplay prize might be Google Glass, so she can superimpose those old TV Batman splats that say POW! BIFF! SOCK! UGGH! over her daily existence as she vanquishes villain after villain (with her mighty "Delete" key!) in the never-ending battle within her mind.

I'll leave you with the rest of the Facebook thread as of this writing. Someone else is daring to challenge the Queen in my stead, but either without sufficient supporting facts to risk rocking her boatload of opinion, or perhaps her "Delete" key is broken from overuse...

Dani Monique G.
It doesn't help that the Ilythiiri are looked at as the most evil, violent, untrustworthy of the elven race of the D&D world either...

Jay Justice Cosplay
It's a recurring theme in fiction actually, that dark = bad. But that's a whole other can of worms.

Ian K.
it's not a can of worms at all with proper education.

Jay Justice Cosplay 
I don't disagree, but I also don't have the time to moderate that conversation so it's not going down here, even if I have to delete this post to prevent it. No ma'am. Lol

Ian K.
[...]Is that all we(lighter skinned people) are to you? Someone who's trying to offend you because of your color?

Jay Justice Cosplay 
Nowhere did I say that all white or lighter skinned people use blackface, are racist, or don't care about people of color. If you felt my comments were directed at you, and you are none of those things, then you are incorrect.

Ian K. 
That's fine, I was just asking. I know none of your comments are directed towards me I was just curious

Jay Justice Cosplay
Did you legitimately believe that I hold such feelings toward all white people? Or are you trolling.

Ian K. 
It was just an honest question? I didn't assert that you were anything, i specifically asked you personally if you felt that way because I don't understand what the problem is.

Jay Justice Cosplay
If you read all the comments here & still don't understand what the problem is, I don't think I can teach it to you. Unless you were planning to use blackface for some reason, I don't think you personally have anything to worry about.

Ian K. 
I did read all the comments. If you say its never okay to have fun without intending to hurt anyone, then the racists won. Imagine a world where the original blackface never happened. Maybe it would be okay to cosplay as a PoC.

Jay Justice Cosplay
Yes, if we could erase all the imperialism in the world, all of the oppression, and all of the bigotry, the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws--do you see what you're saying? These are all affecting the lives of Black people to this day. You can call it 'having fun' because it's fun for you, but for Black people it's hurtful. It's a privilege that you have, not having to be affected by things like this. If you can see past your privilege for a few minutes, and just try to think--what's more important here? Someone getting to 'have fun' for a day at the expense of an entire race of people, or not hurting anyone at all and actively being against racism, by not using blackface in the first place?


  1. It's late, i'm tired, and this woman is ignorant to the bone. Off to sleep before i grow stupid like her. Awesome read as always though.

    Tudor S

  2. Intention does matter. If the purpose is to respect and celebrate a great black character, it's none of my business whether or not they put on makeup. Most black canaries wear blond wigs. they arent real blondes and most dont even look good as blonds, but we are ok with that because they want to be more easily recognised.

  3. I actually wrote a long reply but ended up thinking this should be more appropriate and enough:

    "I feel your pain man"


Comments which make me look good will be posted. Hey, if you don't like it, get your own blog!