I have recently been made aware of a Facebook post [a certain guest] had made regarding women who show up at cons dressed in provocative, but genre appropriate, costuming. The issue seems to be that [guest] believes these women are not really fans, but merely desperate women looking to increase their self-esteem by attracting the attention of “drooling fan boys.”
I’m not writing this post to complain, or single out anyone. Instead, I’d like to call on all conventions to establish inclusion policies. I realize that some folks take offense to “non-fans” attending cons, but I have to ask… why? In the early 80’s, I was only dipping my proverbial toes in the water of fandom when I attended my first con. If the fans back then had treated me like an outsider, I probably would not be sitting here writing this blog today.
As fans we should welcome everyone who attends and try to be inclusive. That “non-fan” must have SOME interest in the genre, or she/he would not have created the costume in the first place. I admit I have no hard evidence on this next point, but I have a hunch that if we collectively befriend this “non-fan,” instead of berating them, there is a significantly greater chance that person will become a life-long fan (assuming he/she isn’t already). And really, what’s the harm in trying?
So, what can cons do to help? Well, how about each con writes up an inclusion policy? It doesn’t have to be a long policy, just state that the con openly promotes inclusion and/or openly discourages exclusion. Many of us in fandom have experienced exclusion at some point in our lives, and we know it doesn’t feel very good to be excluded.
Now, if you’re not a con organizer, you can still help. Practice your own inclusion policy by walking up to the person and saying “Hi.” Please note, though, this is not an excuse to become a “drooling fan boy.” In other words, this is not a suggestion for you to try to pick-up said “non-fan girl.” My guess is if you try to make her your friend, she’ll let you know if she’s interested in a date. And if she doesn’t, well, you’re no worse off than you were before you said “hello.”
So, in conclusion, as fans, I say let’s all try to make sure inclusion is a very real thing at conventions. And con organizers; let’s try to ensure that folks know it’s not okay to exclude people, just because someone doesn’t think they’re a “real fan.”