This is a guest article by Meris Mullaley. I had the pleasure of randomly meeting her at PAX and took her picture as a very adorable Kahley from Firefly. She was gracious enough to reach out after our meeting and offered to cover GGC. As it ended up I could not attend, I took her up on that offer! Enjoy!
Geek Girl Con 2011
On October 8th and 9th, Seattle hosted the first annual Geek Girl Con. The sold-out two-day event celebrating geeky women was attended by women and men, adults and children, and cosplayers of all genres. The most touching sight was fathers walking around the convention with their young daughters, supporting the next generation of geeky women. I am still new to the geek- convention circuit, but Geek Girl Con delivered the most fulfilling con experience I’ve had, as both a geek and a woman.
The celebration of the female geek community started Friday night with the Geek Girl Concert. Marian Call, the Doubleclicks, and Molly Lewis graced the stage and led fans of all ages and genders in a three hour-long geek sing along. If you haven’t heard of these artists before, take a moment to listen to their funny, poignant, and geeky songs:
Between their musical sets, the Geek Girl Con staff members introduced themselves and expressed their exuberance for the con through geeky skits. “If real life were like video games” skit demonstrated that people would run around to gather coins before grocery shopping, and have to be on alert whenever “Boss music” starts playing after they leave the house. Arwen, the Events Coordinator sang a rendition of Etta James’ “At Last” as written by Peach to Mario upon his arrival in the castle. The final skit was a rap addressing the misconceptions about girl geeks.
The con officially kicked off Saturday morning. The first wave of volunteers (including myself) arrived at 6 AM to help set up and assist vendors in moving their products into the exhibition hall. The first attendee arrived at 7:30 AM, hoping to grab one of the fifty remaining Whedonesque burlesque show tickets. As the entry line grew, wrapping itself scarf-like around the small courtyard of the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms, I overheard one volunteer say how this small con setting reminded her of how San Diego Comic Con was when it first began. The doors opened at 9:30 AM, and attendees streamed into the lobby to pick up badges and line up for the first panels, which kicked off at 10 AM.
The panels covered a wide range of subjects: young adult fantasy novels, video games, women in cinema, Star Trek, Star Wars, Steampunk, and comics. Many panels functioned as information sessions for women and girls interested in specific careers or forms of creative expression, including how to make an indie video game, how to write fantasy, how to create a zine, audio drama, or webseries. Others panels, such as “Steampunk” and “Cosplay or Costuming,” offered attendees suggestions on how to create costumes for future cons. Geek Girl Con featured far more panels than I could successfully see without the aid of a Time-Turner.
The GGC website contains a full list and description of the panels on Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday evening had too many overlapping events, including the burlesque, the cosplay masquerade/costume contest, a horror film fest, and three panels including the “Whedonistas,” which celebrated the stories and characters created by Joss Whedon.
Sunday morning, a tweet went out from @geekgirlcon announcing that only fifty Sunday passes remained for purchase. Shortly after the doors opened, staff members posted “SOLD OUT” signs; all sixteen hundred passes were gone. Sunday included two of my favorite panels: “Killing Cattiness and Creating Community” and “Geeks Raising Geeks”. Nothing can match the adorable awesomeness of seeing entire families of geek cosplayers sitting in on the “Geeks raising geeks” panel. I spent most of the second day in panels, with a break to shop in the exhibition hall and catch an impromptu concert by the Doubleclicks, Marian Call, and Molly Lewis in the conference hall courtyard.
It was over too soon. The atmosphere was still charged with energy but volunteers started to take down the signs and pack up the chairs at 5 PM. As guests departed, there were many shouts of “see you next year!”
“Laugh, learn, and connect.” That is what Geek Girl Con promised, and that is what it delivered. This convention was not about announcing the next big video game franchise, or previewing the summer blockbusters, or playing tabletop games from sunrise to sunset. If the inaugural Geek Girl Con had a theme, it was “find and embrace your community.” The spotlight of the convention was on the people in attendance as much as the panelists.
The “Killing Cattiness & Creating Community” panel on Sunday was a turning point for my experience at Geek Girl Con. The panelists (including Bonnie Burton, Marian Call, and Gail Simon) shared their thoughts on the negative competition and divisive language that can and has arisen within the girl geek culture. Many of the suggestions for killing cattiness were variations of behaviors we [should have] learned on the playground to deal with bullies and play well with others: Let’s agree to disagree, keep the personal attacks out of Star Wars vs. Star Trek arguments, and don’t feed the trolls on the internet. It was a moment for us in the audience to meditate on our past encounters with “cattiness” (either directed at us or by us) and look for ways to move beyond and embrace our fellow geek girls. From what I overheard in the hallway after the panel, this panel deeply touched many audience members.
This year’s panels addressed outstanding issues with the overly sexualized or marginalized female characters in genre media. I hope next year we (the members of the geek girl community) can expand the dialogue to how we can affect change in the movie, comic, and game industries. Many panelists, analyzing the portrayals of women genre media, emphasized that women superheroes often gather a network of friends and sidekicks to save the world. Unlike solitary male heroes, Buffy, Kara Thrace, the Birds of Prey, and Xena built communities of people to rely on. Every year, the number of female geeks attending conventions increases. As this community grows, events like Geek Girl Con allow us to forge stronger networks, exchange ideas, and geek out together. If you are a female geek or a guy who supports what the female geeks can bring to the larger geek community, I strongly encourage you to add Geek Girl Con to your 2012 vacation and convention plans.