Call it nerd male guilt if you must, but every time I’ve gone to comic conventions and seen the various “booth babes”, I’ve had a reaction that pretty much goes like this: “Oh God, those poor women, having to wear such skimpy outfits and be ogled by all manner of socially awkward men. They must hate this whole thing.” A reaction that was just underscored, it has to be said, by witnessing one woman being told that she was “dressed like a whore” by one particularly angry older gentleman during Comic-Con’s preview night. Surely, I thought to myself, these women will all have something to say about the experience and how demeaning it is, right?
Here’s the thing: I was, for the most part, entirely wrong.
Oh, sure; there were complaints about things that you wouldn’t expect – The repetition of having to stand in front of a video screen showing the same footage for five days, for example, that not enough people were recycling the freebies that they didn’t want, or that manning a booth meant that there was less time to go and hunt down the creators of The Venture Bros. (I sympathized; I missed their panel, as well) – but for the most part, the women I spoke to seemed to think that booth babe-ing Comic-Con was actually a pretty good gig, and that they were grateful for the work. When it came to the subject of their costumes, the majority of the women I spoke to offered up a variation on the following:
I love dressing up, I love wigs, I love make-up, I love doing all that fine, girly stuff. [Being stared at] comes with the job. As a model, I just expect it. When I put on the uniform, I know that it’s coming.
This sentiment was shared by almost everyone I talked to; instead of the contempt for con-goers I’d been expecting, there was more of a down-to-Earth, “what are you going to do?” attitude. Also prevalent: An “I’m a nerd just like you” feeling, or even more strangely, an apologetic air for not knowing the difference between Hal Jordan, Alan Scott and Kyle Rayner, or which screenwriter is working on an upcoming movie (“I know these guys are really passionate about it, and I hate it when they ask me something and I have to say ‘I really don’t know,’ I feel like I’m insulting them,” said one). As you can expect, my worldview was shaken to the core, but luckily there was one area of genuine displeasure that was almost universal amongst the women I spoke to: Each other’s costumes.
I’ve seen a couple of the other outfits and they’re… not as great as my outfit. Like, some girls are just wearing plain shorts and t-shirts. They’re not dressed up!
I’m not a fan of my costume because I’m really cold, but at least I don’t have to walk around in heels and look trashy like some of the other girls.
I like what I’m wearing! It’s casual and I don’t have to show my breasts to get attention. It’s not about me, it’s about the product.
To anyone trying to get a catfight happening between models next year: Just get them talking about what each other is wearing. But you’d probably have more fun asking them what they thought of the most recent episode of Doctor Who or whether they’ve managed to pick up the con-exclusive My Little Pony, instead.
(Flickr image by Mhaithaca.)
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