Toronto Comic Con Feeling the Heat After Offering A Cuddle

On March 7th, bloggers at The Mary Sue broke that Toronto ComiCon sent a promotional email suggesting that attendees stay warm by "cuddling a cosplayer."  Toronto ComiCon happens to be run by Fan Expo who organizes and run numerous Cons across the country, including recently purchased Dallas ComiCon.

After The Mary Sue released an expose on the promotional tactic, it spawned a heated banter between Toronto ComiCon, the blog, and fans regarding the instances and history of harassment.  Please note that the history of harassment discussed was a history of harassment in general not at Toronto ComiCon.  Discussions continued to expose the lack of FanExpo Canada to provide a listing of their harassment policy on their site.  The article sparked controversy in the CosPlay community while FanExpo Canada released the Toronto ComiCon without much of a hitch or backlash from convention attendees.

After the close of Fan Expo Canada's Toronto ComiCon, Fan Expo Canada's communications director, Shelley Mantei release a statement on the Toronto ComiCon Facebook page to address recent harassment concerns and it was quite...pointed...

Fan Expo has a great history of ensuring fans’ safety, so on behalf of my team we quickly responded to last week’s enquiries on our cosplay position. Unfortunately this was in the final days surrounding our March show so expressed to a journalist that officially addressing concerns in time for their deadline would be a hasty response and wouldn’t be giving an important issue due attention. As an act of faith we did escalate rolling out the policy we’d been working with it’s unfair to say we “hadn’t got around to it” when it’s an important policy and any legal document will move slowly.
Instead of seeing our genuine interest to respond after the show what resulted was an inflammatory style of story that most alarmingly included false statements. Inflammatory journalism can incite irresponsible companies to respond, but when that’s not the case it can instead hinder a company from working with the community. So rather that respond further to that journalist we prefer to find a journalist or group in Canada who knows our shows and track record (and ideally has been to our show more recent than 2008), and who’d work with us with the bigger picture in mind to rollout something for our August show in Toronto.
Much of our team are on a break from a very successful show weekend and on their return I will be trigger finding that person/group and determining what we can achieve together for all of our fans including the cosplay community.

In the comments of this same post, Mantei said:
This posting isn't on the defence (sic) nor is our aim a retraction...that's too shortsighted.  We want the article to be given credit for bringing forward some valid concerns, but it did so in an inflammatory and poorly paraphrased manner. This isn’t the ideal way to communicate with us (or anyone) so we flagged this in the hopes this style didn’t set precedent in our community. So instead of giving the article more ado we’d rather put our time and attention toward a long-term plan with our community’s assistance to help identify other journalists who are knowledgeable on this issue (not to write a counter story) or cosplay groups to work constructively with us. There are a few recommendations and offers started — please keep those coming!

Fans are continuing the discussion on the Facebook Page of Toronto ComiCon, and the largest complaint is simply how the company is handling the accusations.  Convention visitors claim that Toronto ComiCon has been making the convention all about the money and less about the fans for the last few years.  It doesn't look good for Toronto ComiCon in terms of CosPlay Community Relations.  Fan Expo reached out to another blogger, ironically one that works with The Mary Sue, and he says they are working on developing a team/board to evaluate harassment rules for the Fan Expo team.  He believes that it could be a great partnership, assuming that it actually happens. Harassment in the Con community is not simply groping of CosPlayers (which happens) it's also the photos taken without knowledge of CosPlayers that are then used in an inappropriate manner as seen in the below photo from Toronto ComiCon:

Regretfully, Fan Expo may have to use Toronto ComiCon as the example; hopefully, this will push other cons to consider harassment more seriously.  Maybe Austin ComiCon, who released the below images, could learn a thing or two from the situation Toronto ComiCon is going through!

The worst thing about Austin is the way it was handled on Social Media; thankfully, Austin ComiCon has officially apologized.  It's quite concerning that we are still discussing the basic human dignities within the Con community, but until we can treat each other equally, conventions need to be aware that they have a vast audience and now function on a worldwide scale.  

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