MomoCon responds to cosplayer Luna Lanie’s video about harassment at convention

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With the dust from the past weekend’s convention finally starting to settle, MomoCon staff are starting to respond to the video cosplayer Luna Lanie posted on her social media accounts on Saturday. In the video, which I reported on Sunday, Luna accused the convention of poorly handling allegations of sexual harassment by convention attendees. She also said that convention security staff had targeted her and forced her to leave the convention, claiming her costume broke convention rules for being too revealing, and went as far as to tell her that she was at fault for being harassed due to her revealing cosplay. The video quickly gained traction online and has received over 50,000 hits in less than 48 hours with many criticizing the convention for their response of victim-blaming. In a letter sent out to media contacts today, MomoCon founder and co-chair Jessica Merriman sought to address some of the concerns and clarify what action the convention was taking about the situation.

Merriman writes that the motivation behind meeting with Luna after seeing her tweets about being harassed at the convention was to identify the perpetrator and remove them from the show floor. However, Luna was unable to identify specific individuals at the time. According to MomoCon’s website, they have a “no tolerance” harassment policy and reserve the right to remove any convention attendee who violates said policy without a refund, which is to be expected of a convention.

Merriman continues to address the concern that Luna was singled out as a dress code violator due to her speaking out against the convention on social media. Merriman states that security personnel were unaware of the meeting between Luna Lanie and Chris Stuckey, convention co-chair, and therefore does not believe that Luna was targeted due to her comments. However, she says that the convention is attempting to find the security personnel involved in the incident to ensure that they are not affiliated with MomoCon again in the future due to the inappropriate comments Luna alleges they made about her. They are also reportedly working on how they will communicate dress code violations to attendees in the future to ensure that more appropriate actions are taken.

Thankfully, the letter indicated that MomoCon does appear to be taking the situation seriously and organizers are actively questioning what they could have done differently to respond to the situation. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for cosplayers who have been sexually harassed to struggle to identify their harassers after the event. Not only is it difficult to spot just whose hand it belonged to in the crowd, but it can also be a struggle to identify someone you did see. I recall when I was groped by an L from Death Note cosplayer at a convention in 2010 and had no hope of singling him out among the approximately twenty other similarly built men in the same costume in a crowd of over 10,000 people. This difficulty highlights why fast responses are so important; it’s easier to both recall the details of someone’s face and attire as well as find bystanders and witnesses who can corroborate the story immediately after the event.

At the very least, MomoCon is taking responsibility for the safety of their attendees, which is paramount. Conventions have a responsibility to both create and maintain a safe space for their customers, and this includes creating and enforcing appropriate harassment policies. Although MomoCon has such a policy in place, if an error was made it appears that it was in its effective implementation. The fact that Luna Lanie took to Twitter to voice her dismay when she was harassed instead of reporting to convention staff due to her claim that she could not find security when she needed them is an example of one such potential problem area. Effective harassment policies make conventions a better space for everyone, cosplayers and cosplay-appreciators alike, except for those that would violate them. When attendees feel safe in the convention space, they feel comfortable being there and wearing their costumes for everyone to enjoy. An environment that feels unsafe will be avoided.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that conventions will be able to prevent every incidence of harassment; there will always be individuals with malicious intent that slip through the cracks. What is important is that conventions take a large role in preventing every incidence of harassment that they can. That means being very explicit that touching people without their consent is not allowed, will have serious consequences, and following through with those consequences. If a cosplayer has been made to feel unsafe by a predator at a convention and that predator is subsequently removed from the convention and barred due to his/her actions, the safety of the environment has been restored. The problem is when harassers are allowed to roam free either because the convention refuses to take action to remove them or because victims of harassment do not have the appropriate channels to report such behavior easily available to them. A single victim of harassment is a victim too many, but conventions have a responsibility to prevent these things from happening as much as possible. Conventions are not responsible for the behavior of individual attendees, but they are responsible for creating an environment in which objectionable behavior like sexual harassment will or will not be tolerated.

You can read Merriman’s letter below.

“My co-chair and I pride ourselves on developing a family-friendly convention that welcomes a diverse group of people with inclusive content such as feminism in geek culture panels and, like any other convention, we have rules on cosplay attire. To ensure the security of our attendees we had more than 900 volunteers, building security and law enforcement on site at all times.

As soon as we saw a tweet from a local cosplayer saying she was harassed, MomoCon co-chair Chris Stuckey personally requested to meet with her so he could apologize on our behalf, provide her his direct phone number, request a description of individual, and have them removed from the convention. Unfortunately she was unable to provide a description at that time. Our security team would have enforced our zero tolerance policy for harassment.

While her attire that day violated our dress code, Chris did not mention it during the meeting because he recognized this would be victim-blaming. The cosplayer says when she left the meeting and returned to the convention some team of security, who would have been unaware of the situation as Chris did not mention her attire to anyone, rudely said her costume did not meet the guidelines. We have been unable to confirm this, but are still actively attempting to find the involved person(s) in order to ensure they are no longer affiliated with MomoCon.

We are extremely sorry this cosplayer had a negative experience, have apologized to her on multiple occasions and offered open lines of communication. The safety of our community is paramount to MomoCon. We take all issues of harassment and victim-blaming very seriously and these matters are always proactively addressed. We strive to instantly respond as soon as we become aware of any incident.

Moving forward, we will clearly and delicately communicate dress code violations in addition to continue to increase the amount of law enforcement and hired security on site. As MomoCon continues to grow we will do whatever is necessary to increase awareness among the general public that cosplay is not consent.

– Jessica Merriman, founder and co-chair, MomoCon”

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Genevieve LeBlanc
Genevieve LeBlanc 126 posts

Genevieve LeBlanc is a contributing writer for NerdReactor.com and lives in snowy Canada.