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Auntie SparkNotes: My Grandma Slut-Shamed My Cosplay

Auntie SparkNotes: My Grandma Slut-Shamed My Cosplay

Kat Rosenfield

Hi Auntie,

I've been cosplaying for Halloween since I was 16 (and going to anime conventions since I was 19), and every time I pick a character to cosplay, I strive to make my costume look as accurate as possible. This year, I cosplayed my favorite video game hero, Sonic the Hedgehog. The Party City version of the costume looked too cheap, so I put my own spin on it by throwing on a pair of blue jeans, a blue crop top since Sonic is blue all over except for his arms and belly, red Nikes with white straps, a long blue wig, and metal cat ears with blue and beige felt Superglued on them. That entire day, everyone complimented me on my cosplay. Unfortunately, my grandmother was not a fan.

After I sent the pictures of my costume to her via WhatsApp, she called the house phone to tell me that she loved the pictures of me and my friends, but she didn't like the fact that I was showing so much of my abs, which look two times flatter now than they were in high school and community college, when I was pleasantly plump. In Spanish, she told me that I dressed "mucha provocativa" and that showing skin in any way will attract creepy guys. Translation: My costume was too slutty. I told her that's not true, but she wouldn't listen.

This is the second time my grandmother—who's 71, Cuban and conservative as hell—has slut-shamed me for my clothing choices in less than a year. At a pre-Mother's Day party in Miami, the only change of clothes I brought to my uncle's house after swimming in the pool with my cousins was a tank top and a pair of short shorts (it's very humid in that area, even at night). After my brother and my uncle confronted me by claiming that only "little sluts" wear short shorts on purpose, my grandmother added insult to injury by telling me that they're only saying that out of love and that they're trying to protect me from getting raped if I wear that outfit in public.

When I told my mom about what my grandmother told me, she said that her slut-shaming me was rooted in the era she was born in. By American standards, my grandmother is a Baby Boomer, but Cuba never fought in World War II.

I should've told my grandmother two things:

A.) "Cosplay or casual, my revealing outfits don't imply sexual consent, EVER. I wear crop tops because they're cute and fashionable, NOT for anyone else. If any man takes advantage of me and uses my crop top and/or short shorts as an excuse, they're the problem, not me."

B.) "The last time I checked, America doesn't impose any severely strict fashion modesty laws on women like Iran has been doing since 1979, so don't impose your conservative clothing preferences on me. I'm 24 years old, and I can wear whatever the hell I want to with or without your approval."

How can I address this issue to my grandmother as respectfully as possible without starting an inter-generational catfight the next time she sees me or calls me?

For starters, darling, you can round up all your excellent, legitimate points about sexual violence, provocative clothing, and sartorial freedom—and then you can pack them neatly into a box labeled "Arguments I Won't Have With Grandma," and stuff the box into whatever part of your brain you've reserved for things that simply aren't worth fighting about with your 71 year-old family members.

Because look: of course your grandmother would be wrong, on a moral level, to suggest that wearing daisy dukes is an invitation to be sexually assaulted. And of course you're right, on a factual level, that how you dress is your business and not someone else's place to police. (Your Sonic costume sounds fab, by the way! We want pictures!)

But your rightness and her wrongness are irrelevant to the question of how or whether to talk this out with her, because your disagreement isn't factual; it's about perspective. And on that front, Grandma may have a valid point herself—in the sense that her comments likely stem from things she's experienced or witnessed firsthand over the course of her rather long life. In her experience, dressing provocatively probably does result in harassment from the kind of guys who see it as a license to act like creeps. (Side note: This is also why Auntie is a bit confused at your description of her comments as "slut shaming," when her primary concern, however misplaced, seems to be for your safety rather than your virtue. Not that it's not still annoying, but the intent matters, no?)

If you're going to address this with your grandmother, you'll want to be mindful of that, including the part where you're as much a product of your time, culture and experiences as she is of hers. Your differences on this issue stem from the fact that you don't see the world the same way—and you're probably not going to, and that's fine. What matters is not that you agree, but how fondly and respectfully you disagree.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do that. If your grandmother says that your clothes are too provocative, you can tell her that you understand her perspective, but that life is simply too short to worry about how some hypothetical jerk guy might react every time you get dressed in the morning. If she's got a sense of humor, tell her you're sorry to hear she doesn't like your outfit because you got her a matching one for Christmas, hot-pants and all. (If she can really take a joke, tell her you're going to wear the Sonic costume to her funeral.) Or hey, go the sincere route: tell her that it hurts your feelings when she says negative things about a cosplay you worked hard on, or when she defends a relative who calls you hateful names. You probably won't change her mind, but you might be able to persuade her to keep her criticisms to herself.

And if you can't, then you can make up your own mind to ignore them. Which is the other thing: she can be wrong, and you can just... let her be wrong. And change the subject if she tries to push it. For instance:

Grandma: I don't like that outfit!
You: Okay. How's your cat?

Because you're right, sweet pea: you're a 24-year-old woman, which means you can wear whatever the heck you want without your grandma's approval. But for that same reason, you don't have to spend your time or energy pushing back against her disapproval, either. Choose your battles like an adult. Let the rest go. And remind yourself as necessary that you can love a person, and treat her well, and enjoy a fulfilling relationship, without respecting every last opinion she holds… particularly when those opinions are dumb, and about something that's none of her business.

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.
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Topics: Life
Tags: auntie sparknotes, advice, grandparents, cosplay, slut-shaming, sexist dress codes, strict grandparents

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