Cosplay Sisters
Cosplay Sisters

How Cosplay And Superheroes Can Empower Women

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We met up with a group of cosplayers, who came together to promote empowerment in women.

The world is slowly turning on its head, with sexual harassments in the film industry slowly but steadily coming into the light. For some people, this is exactly the justice that they want to see in the world. For others this can be extremely confronting, bringing about painful memories.

Cosplay Women
Women in Cosplay shoot. Credit: @snaphappyian

Last month, we were involved with a photoshoot of a group of all-female cosplayers from Marvel and DC. There we saw the likes of Supergirl (Cørrine Petå), Wonder Woman (Elise Raiti), Power Girl (Elie Rogers), Rogue (Sam Cameron), Phoenix/Black Widow (Tegan Anne), Spider Gwen (Bianca Bella), Emma Frost (Sophie), Lady America (Eily Heyward), Storm (Monica Nixon), Mary Marvel, and Psylocke (Raquel Sparrow). So essentially we got a crossover of A-Force and Birds of Prey. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about it, please google it, you won’t be disappointed.

But why did all these superheroes come together? Well we had a chat to a member of this female Justice League, a Supergirl cosplayer named Corrine Lawrence, for more details.

Corrine Peta in Cosplay
Corrine Lawrence as Supergirl. Credit: @snaphappyian

The Purpose of the Empowerment Shoot

First thing’s first, could you tell us a little bit about the shoot and what inspired you to do this?

Corrine begins by telling us that “The shoot is about women coming together, to unite in strength, love, peace, and equality, all through the comic book medium. The girls are coming together for this shoot, not just as cosplayers but as individuals to represent a wonderful group of women who know tough times, really care for one another, and are strong, resilient and passionate about what they do.”

While the shoot had its roots in women coming together, there is a tragic backstory behind why there was even a need for it. Now I don’t know if you’ve been living under a rock, but the world is quite literally changing. There’s more justice in the world, and no, I’m not talking about the Justice League. What I’m talking about is the fact that more and more cases of sexual misconduct from men in power are coming under the limelight.

These incidents aren’t isolated in the film and entertainment industry. It’s a symptom of a much bigger problem. And this is why we need superheroes according to Corrine.

Power Girl Cosplay
Elie Rogers as Power Girl. Credit: @snaphappyian

Why we need Superheroes

Corrine further elaborates; “As regular women, we experience all these things. What you’re seeing in the news at the moment, it really does happen.”

“I have experienced a lot of things which has happened in the media recently. We can’t get our message across as regular women. It takes something like a superhero to really get that message across and for people to pay attention.”

Corrine tells us that these women, on top of bearing and dealing with these situations for so long, will more often than not be forced into silence. And even if they do come out and tell the world of their plights, they will more like than not have to face the fact that some people just won’t believe them.

“We’ve come as our costumes, as our characters, the ones we connect with most that empower us, to tell you about these very serious issues that are occurring.”

Phoenix in cosplay
Tegan Anne as Phoenix. Credit: @snaphappyian

Believe it, it happens

Corrine isn’t a victim, but she has gone through domestic violence and sexual harassment, all whilst socialising with friends and at previous workplaces. What makes it even worse, is that she isn’t alone.

I was wondering if you could elaborate on some of the trials that you’ve gone through which brought you into cosplaying?

“…I ended up in an abusive relationship with someone who pushed all of my personal boundaries until they came crumbling down.”

“I knew the abuse was wrong, but in so many other ways, because my boundaries had been pushed, I somehow had learned to accept that. And that meant that I didn’t have the courage, or the guts, or the strength to walk away from this person, no matter how much, and when that happens you start to lose your identity”.

“I had to build up my identity again, I had to connect to all the things I loved, and Supergirl summed that up for me. She was someone I admired, and she drew me back to who I really was. And once I had set all those core values and beliefs in place again, I put the suit on again.”

All-Girls superheroes
The All-Girls SuperSquad. Credit: @snaphappyian

What Supergirl means to Corrine

So why specifically Supergirl?

“Superheroes have always been my role model. I grew up watching the Christopher Reeves Superman film. And one night on the television, there was an advertisement for Supergirl – the movie. Now I was 4. I was still in preschool, and my bedtime was 7:30, so I wasn’t allowed to stay up late and watch it. But I couldn’t believe that there was this woman version of Superman! She had the blonde hair and the skirt.”

“I asked dad if he ‘could please tape it, I have to see this movie’ and he did it for me. I was hooked from day one. It wasn’t just being obsessed with the fact that there was this person who wants to do good in the world, who wants to save the world, and can fly, and uses all these wonderful abilities for good. Now there’s a female version of it. Someone I could identify with.”

I don’t know about you reader, but when she said that, I was transported back to my childhood. I remembered being four years old and my father introducing me to Christopher Reeves Superman for the first time. I too remember being so amazed by the original boy-scout, who was passionate about ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way.’ And let me tell you I tried my hardest to embody those values just as much as Corrine here did. This is where Cosplay becomes more than just “putting on the suit”.

Wonder Woman and Supergirl
Supergirl and Wonder Woman combining forces. Credit: @snaphappyian

How Superheroes instil someone’s core values

“Now Supergirl’s never left me, but when I started growing up and maturing, and becoming a teenager, it was only then I started thinking about what I looked like or how my appearance might affect how I’m perceived by others. Other than that it was always about how I want to save the world, about being a good person. I was of the mindset that if I fall of my bike, I’ll get up, I’ll brush my knee, I’ll wash it off later – that’s what superheroes gave me. Playing with little girls who were all into princesses as children, I was like, ‘what do princesses do?’”

When you grow up mimicking the person you idolise, it’s pretty damn obvious that you’re going to become something like them. I don’t obviously run around with my arms out, but I want to be someone who cares about people, and I do.”

Cosplayer on a Melbourne rooftop
Enjoying the Melbourne rooftops. Credit: snaphappyian

But Corrine’s Story isn’t Unique

So going back to the shoot, I was wondering how many of those girls shared those kind of experiences?

I didn’t realise this myself, but once I started asking the girls, why did you get into cosplay, what do you get from your characters, why did you choose these characters, I began to immediately identify with what they had to say. 

It’s very much a #metoo

Yeah! Exactly! That’s it. That’s pretty much what was happening there right now.”

Cosplayers catching up on some comics. Credit: Adam R Thomas

The empowerment behind cosplay

“At the end of the day, superheroes don’t have time to worry about what they look like, they’ve got shit to do! And that’s what women should be focusing on. Don’t worry that you only got 50 likes on Instagram. And don’t invest so much in your appearance because everyone always ends up old and wrinkly. It’s a foundation that’s built on quicksand.”

Does cosplay help you and the rest of the girls figure out how you are like as people on the inside?

“Yeah I definitely think that it helps and connects with that. There’s so much focus on our image, and this ridiculous perfection that we need to attain. 

Rogue Cosplay
Sam Cameron as Rogue. Credit @snaphappyian

Final thoughts

Coming out of that interview with Corrine, I was very troubled. Firstly from all of the hardships that Corrine has faced, but secondly from the fact that her story isn’t unique. It’s not isolated to Hollywood, it happens everywhere.

But behind all that, there was a kind of hope. A hope that things would get better. Because as Corrine says, these women aren’t weak. They all carry their swords and shields, fighting off the problems that we all see on a daily basis, and cosplay is helping people to become the heroes that inspire them, in mentality, if not superpowers.


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