A Cosplayer's Response to Xbox's GDC "Core Values"

Liana Kerzner

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A Cosplayer's Response to Xbox's GDC "Core Values"

At GDC, Microsoft bungled a PR response, and in doing so, contributed to the stigma that cosplayers are attention-seeking exhibitionists.

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Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Yeah, no. What Microsoft did when they apologized for their dancers at the GDC-party was not slut shaming. The actual women hired to dance in provocative school girl costumes were not told they were unwanted and that it was a mistake to hire sluts to dress and act like sluts (which would have been actual slut shaming). They apologized for the fact that they hired only female dancers to dress and dance in a traditionally sexually provocative way, thus reinforcing traditional stereotypes about GDC-parties being only for men and in extension risking women feeling unwelcome.

This has nothing to do with cosplay. The women dancing weren't cosplayers and their costumes were quite obviously a take on the old "sexy school girl"-image, not an attempt at displaying the outfits of video game characters. Kerzner is literally inserting cosplay into a situation where it wasn't present and doesn't belong. What any cosplayer does as part of their hobby is one thing (even when it means getting paid to cosplay), when a company hires models to dress and dance sexy in a way that reinforces old gender stereotypes that's a whole other thing. These two are not related and Kerzner are trying to mix apples and oranges here.
 

maninahat

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Gethsemani said:
Yeah, no. What Microsoft did when they apologized for their dancers at the GDC-party was not slut shaming. The actual women hired to dance in provocative school girl costumes were not told they were unwanted and that it was a mistake to hire sluts to dress and act like sluts (which would have been actual slut shaming). They apologized for the fact that they hired only female dancers to dress and dance in a traditionally sexually provocative way, thus reinforcing traditional stereotypes about GDC-parties being only for men and in extension risking women feeling unwelcome.

This has nothing to do with cosplay. The women dancing weren't cosplayers and their costumes were quite obviously a take on the old "sexy school girl"-image, not an attempt at displaying the outfits of video game characters. Kerzner is literally inserting cosplay into a situation where it wasn't present and doesn't belong. What any cosplayer does as part of their hobby is one thing (even when it means getting paid to cosplay), when a company hires models to dress and dance sexy in a way that reinforces old gender stereotypes that's a whole other thing. These two are not related and Kerzner are trying to mix apples and oranges here.
I agree. Devs (and a lot of businesses for that matter) have an unfortunate precedent for holding publicity events/previews/parties in strip clubs, or bringing out the go-go dancers. At the very least it is highly inappropriate considering it has nothing to do with video games. At the worst, its a case of the publicity team making some big, sexist assumptions about the kind of audience they will have.

All the criticisms I have seen haven't been at the dancers themselves - they've been aimed at the stupid decision to hire the dancers. I find it genuinely bizarre how Kerzner tries to turn it around and accuse the critics of being the sexists. That's not to say gamers don't have a history of shaming booth babes, cosplayers, sexy female geeks etc, just that it clearly isn't what is going on here.
 

maninahat

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Damir Halilovic said:
The article is spot on. The poster above me is nothing but a simple puritan who would rather see those dancers jobless because they're offended by the human body.

The social justice movement really has gone full circle.
There is a difference between enjoying food fights, and being expected to enjoy a food fight at a funeral.
 

Chemical Alia

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No, I'm going to have to go with Gethsemani and maninahat on this one. If that were Microsoft's response to a bunch of women who showed up to the event in that cosplay, unaffiliated, I would be very angry. But being hired for that changes things. It's why I'm perfectly fine with cosplay as a whole but much less okay with the use of booth babes at game industry events.

maninahat said:
I agree. Devs (and a lot of businesses for that matter) have an unfortunate precedent for holding publicity events/previews/parties in strip clubs, or bringing out the go-go dancers. At the very least it is highly inappropriate considering it has nothing to do with video games. At the worst, its a case of the publicity team making some big, sexist assumptions about the kind of audience they will have.

All the criticisms I have seen haven't been at the dancers themselves - they've been aimed at the stupid decision to hire the dancers. I find it genuinely bizarre how Kerzner tries to turn it around and accuse the critics of being the sexists. That's not to say gamers have a history of shaming booth babes, cosplayers, sexy female geeks etc, just that it clearly isn't what is going on here.

Exactly. I've been to enough of these parties/events over the years and worked in this industry long enough to not require any more reminders of how much women are reduced to an afterthought because there aren't enough of us to matter. And while that last sentence might sound overly harsh, and I don't believe it was anyone's ACTUAL THOUGHT when they hired those dancers, that's the message that decisions like that send. It's a gigantic bummer, and I see this kind of thing as completely separate from the subjects of of cosplay and slut shaming. It's about professionalism.
 

Darth Rosenberg

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Maybe I'm missing something crucial (I have very little knowledge of the cosplay scene. or that specific event - what kind of content was being shown/discussed in the first place?), but as others have pointed out; what does this incident and Spencer's response have to do with cosplay? Like, at all? Weren't they just dancers? Nothing wrong with that, but people questioning whether that's the atmosphere they want to cultivate at those events is a good thing or not is perfectly reasonable.

As seems to often be the case, I admire Spencer's response. You surely have to imagine whole new paragraphs that he didn't write to reach the conclusion that he was demeaning any kind of costume design, cosplay, or profession as a dancer.
 

SnakeCL

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Liana is right on about this. Equating dancers to "strippers" is a fallacy that people in this thread are making.

It wa an after-party, I don't see the issue. If they were dressed in streetwear, would it have been received any differently? If so, that's the issue. Essentially that they're dressed too "slutty" for some people to handle, and conversely it is slut shaming.
 

maninahat

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Damir Halilovic said:
maninahat said:
Damir Halilovic said:
The article is spot on. The poster above me is nothing but a simple puritan who would rather see those dancers jobless because they're offended by the human body.

The social justice movement really has gone full circle.
There is a difference between enjoying food fights, and being expected to enjoy a food fight at a funeral.
Except it wasn't a funeral, it was a food fight in your metaphor.

Or more directly it was an after-party at a night club.


As a matter of fact, let's run a bit further with this.

What if there were girls in the audience who cosplayed scantily-clothed character? Would that still be inappropriate?

What is the dancers were wearing the cosplays? Would they then be relevant and everything would be fine?

At what point does your puritan train of thought actually fall apart and you realize that it makes no sense whatsoever?
The point I was making with the metaphor was, whether or not you like watching sexy dancers, there is a time and a place. If I was going to a tech press event, I would not expect a dancing troupe, and I'd be annoyed that the folks putting it on assumed I would want that kind of thing there and then.
 

Andy Shandy

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Yeah, I'm going to agree with pretty much everyone else and say no, this wasn't cosplay. And as someone who is a big fan of Sunset Overdrive, it sure as shit isn't any kind of reference to the Las Catrinas either. They were simply dancers hired and dressed to look like "sexy schoolgirls". On its own, there's nothing wrong with that, but there's a time and place for that and a Xbox hosted game dev event is not it.
 

inmunitas

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They are not dressed in a "sexy schoolgirl" outfit and they are not cosplaying, they are dressed in the Xbox colours of green and white. Seriously people, have you never been to a nightclub in a city before? Talking about reinforcing the stereotype that gamers are just socially awkward nerds. *slow clap*
 

Barbas

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What does this have to do with cosplay? Like inmunitas mentioned, they do look like they were just hired dancers wearing the XBOX colours.
 

Lady Larunai

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MarsAtlas said:
Yeah, no. They hired Definitely Not Strippers to work the event for them. Tech companies have done this quite a bit in the past, including hosting actual major events in strip clubs.
So? Would you choose to shame them if they were strippers? And even if they were, they were hired to do a job, just because you dont respect them or the profession does not give them any less place at an entertainment event.

MarsAtlas said:
For fuck's sake, even events in the porn industry don't do this. They don't hire dancers to work their events, they don't hire Totally Not People Who Work The Pole to dress up in kink outfits.
Since when? Unless the rules on these events changed since last year and several years before being the same, this reads like you have never been to a porn industry event, strippers, dancers and kink are common place on the floor, including live shows every hour
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Lady Larunai said:
So? Would you choose to shame them if they were strippers? And even if they were, they were hired to do a job, just because you dont respect them or the profession does not give them any less place at an entertainment event.
Say what? This is not about the women who were hired to dance at the party. It doesn't matter if they are models, strippers, porn stars or bag ladies straight off the street, because it is not about those women. The issue is with the people who organized the event and decided to go for entertainment that is unbecoming in a professional and inclusive environment. They went for a form of entertainment that is known to cause many women (and some men) discomfort, especially in an environment where women already are the minority.

What Kerzner did, and you are doing here, is bad form. Instead of listening to the arguments made by Spencer and those that agree with him you twist it so that this is not about the people hosting the event but rather the individual women who plied their trade by dancing there. None of us have spoken about those women in a derogatory fashion, instead we have criticized those that arranged the party, and it would be becoming if you addressed that instead of accusing us of slut shaming.
 

UberPubert

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I really don't think this incident had much to do with cosplay. The way the event looks to me is that Microsoft hired the dancers for the afterparty, some people complained, and they gave a PR apology to cover their asses. It's not slut shaming for Phil Spencer to say he's sorry that the dancers made people uncomfortable, but the people in the media who are getting upset at Microsoft for hiring the dancers just might be.

I don't really see the problem with hiring dancers for a party anyway, it's a social event, not a professional one. It's nobody's job to go there and see the dancers, if they find it uncomfortable they can leave. My only criticism would be that Microsoft should hire some male dancers too.
 

EternallyBored

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inmunitas said:
They are not dressed in a "sexy schoolgirl" outfit and they are not cosplaying, they are dressed in the Xbox colours of green and white. Seriously people, have you never been to a nightclub in a city before? Talking about reinforcing the stereotype that gamers are just socially awkward nerds. *slow clap*

As someone that used to do nightclub security, I agree with you, these aren't cosplayers they're just dressed up in Xbox colors, they are almost definitely professional gogo dancers hired to "spice" up the atmosphere, with no actual character theme or cosplaying going on. The gogo dancers I worked with were great but they are professionals meaning they didn't really care much about the venue in most cases, they aren't dressed up out of any genuine enthusiasm about the Xbox but because Microsoft wanted some T&A at their event.

Which is fair enough, but it's also fair for people to look at that and question why Microsoft is only putting girls up there. There are male gogo dancers, I've worked with them, its a bit of a shock for some, and I've seen male guests loudly disparaging male dancers thinking that the presence of male dancers, regardless of the presence of female dancers, makes the establishment a gay bar. It's also fair to ask why a tech event needs sexy dancers at all, are they playing to the male sexually repressed loser stereotype, or is it just a generic sex sells kind of thing.

I don't mind it so much, but I'm somewhat desensitized to the concept from years of working with and around people in that field, I can also understand why it would make some people uncomfortable. Whenever I worked clubs with male dancers the door statistics always skewed more heavily towards women, even across a similar number of guests, nights with male dancers would just draw less men, partially because it made some men uncomfortable to have shirtless well muscled men dancing on stage, seemed a silly thing to me, but regardless it happened. Same with women, the clubs would draw a certain percentage less women if they only had female dancers. Not some massive majority amount, but gender breakdowns would often shift by 10% or more depending on the genders of the gogo dancers involved.

It's an interesting effect, unfortunately I don't think anyone has ever done any formal studies on it.
 

UberPubert

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EternallyBored said:
It's an interesting effect, unfortunately I don't think anyone has ever done any formal studies on it.
Yeah, finding the statistics in the breakdown of male/female club demographics could tell us a lot about what the real draws are, and I'm sure they'd be a boon to owners.

I don't go to many clubs, but I do go to smaller bars and I can tell you that for the typical crowd (besides tending to be generally older) if the ratio of men to women becomes too much, then the number of people there just evaporates. That's why so many of them have ladies nights /free drinks for women during certain hours (usually during the busy hours when they have more staff in). Women just seem far more comfortable around crowds of women, and men (with some exceptions) want to be where the women are.
 
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Yeah... I'm afraid this is just totally missing the point. The biggest issue bar none was the fact that they solely decided to hire female dancers to dress skimpy. These aren't women who just showed up to an informal party and decided to dress skimpy. If Phil Spencer made his statement about that, sure it'd be slut shaming. This was about Xbox's decision to exclusively hire female eye candy, making the environment a couple steps away from a strip club for men. There's a thread about the tech world being a boys club going on right now, it's stuff like this that completely make that the case.

"Hey, so we're hiring entertainment for a game industry after party and we need entertainment. Let's hire some eye candy for the guys! Everybody loves that! Sorry, what women?"

The criticism is of the men who made the decision, not the women who showed up.
 

Xeorm

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Gethsemani said:
Say what? This is not about the women who were hired to dance at the party. It doesn't matter if they are models, strippers, porn stars or bag ladies straight off the street, because it is not about those women. The issue is with the people who organized the event and decided to go for entertainment that is unbecoming in a professional and inclusive environment. They went for a form of entertainment that is known to cause many women (and some men) discomfort, especially in an environment where women already are the minority.

What Kerzner did, and you are doing here, is bad form. Instead of listening to the arguments made by Spencer and those that agree with him you twist it so that this is not about the people hosting the event but rather the individual women who plied their trade by dancing there. None of us have spoken about those women in a derogatory fashion, instead we have criticized those that arranged the party, and it would be becoming if you addressed that instead of accusing us of slut shaming.
Except, I think the entire point of the article is that women dressed skimpily are a part of the environment, and should be included as well. Which is where cosplaying comes in. By saying that bringing in scantily clad women goes against the core values of Microsoft, even though they've got many examples of women dressing skimpily in their own games that are, at times, celebrated, they go on to imply that those aren't wanted. Her opening bit is even talking about where cosplayers feel like they're being shamed out of wearing outfits that are considered "slutty" or too skimpy. What does it imply when Microsoft itself also agrees that women in skimpy costumes are to be apologized for?

They hired women to dance, in a nightclub and suddenly this is bad? When did gaming become so puritanical that women should be slut-shamed out?