Cosplay Dossier
Why Do We Love to Hate Women Like Yaya Han?

Liana Kerzner | 22 Sep 2015 12:00
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Sure, there are the pat answers that it's a "fake", plastic, unattainable standard of beauty, but cosplay is a hobby where people dress up like cartoon characters. Imitation of the impossible and transforming fantasy into reality are among the goals of cosplay, so it's not a hobby where people are aiming to look realistic.

That being said, cosplay is also intended to remain an accessible hobby for all types of people. And this is where we get to the root of the problem. For some, the mere presence of someone like Yaya Han makes them feel inferior, as if they're competitors instead of running their own race. This is exacerbated by the increasing number of "normie" photographers at the larger conventions who are interested more in photographing the women, not the cosplays. The press hasn't been very good about separating cosplay from modelling, and the "hot girl" factor does often eclipse the "great costume" element, so people of all genders who aren't seen as conventionally attractive are held up for mockery. It's understandable that cosplayers get annoyed when outsiders invade their hobby without understanding their hobby, but it's important not to blame the women who are attracting this unwanted sort of attention. All cosplayers want to be appreciated for their costumes first, no matter how they look.

Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying beautiful women... even that statement has become contentious, hasn't it? We live in confusing times, when we're expected by some to feel guilty about the very urges that lead to the perpetuation of our species. This has led to a lot of raw nerves and defensive posturing, and it sure doesn't make talking about this stuff easy.

I've experienced a small glimpse of the scrutiny Yaya gets when a photo of me cosplaying Cheetara appeared onA certain photo website, ironically best known for cat memes. They've password protected the comments now, and possibly even wiped them, but at one point, the comments were an ongoing series of "evidence" that my boobs were fake. For the record, my boobs aren't fake. And the way people were convinced of something that wasn't factual was an odd sort of creepy.

Are Yaya's proportions - and my own for that matter - improbable? Of course. But so are those of many of the characters that we choose to cosplay. It's very frustrating when a single body part becomes the entire conversation instead of just part of the conversation. It's fine to look at boobs as long as you don't lose sight of the fact that looking at boobs is looking at part of a person.

On the flip side, don't take cheap shots at women like Yaya Han because you don't like the politics surrounding the ideal of the female body. I've found Yaya's insights over the years to be compelling precisely because she seems to live in the rarefied air of celebrity, but then she has the same struggles as the rest of us in the cosplay -- the same concerns regarding inappropriate attention, the same stress racing to get elaborate costumes done on a deadline,and the same ambivalence regarding how seriously so many of us take something that's froofy and fun.

It's very important to remember that photographs aren't people, and you can't truly get a sense of someone from a still image. This is especially true of cosplay pictures, because the whole point is to pretend to be someone else. Because she's a great cosplayer and she rarely appears in public out of costume, we rarely get a sense of the real Yaya Han, and too many people are content to strangle her with her own mystique.

She says she doesn't care about this, but I do.

Because she's a person.

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