Sat
Oct 22 2011 11:00am

GeekGirlCon 2011: The Most Important Con This Year

There’s lots of New York Comic Con coverage around here, but just a week prior to NYCC, there was a shift not only in the way conventions are done, but in their intended audience. The first ever GeekGirlCon was held in Seattle on October 8th and 9th, and it was a huge success!

Over the course of two days, GeekGirlCon sold out all of its 2-day and single-day passes, and saw 2000+ attendees come through its doors at the Seattle Center. But GeekGirlCon’s success came from more than just numbers. It was the most welcoming, inspiring con I’ve ever been to. And the audience didn’t consist of only women. There were plenty of men in attendance, as well as families. I saw a little boy dressed as Doctor Horrible with his sister dressed as Captain Hammer. I saw a Jedi family with two little girls each dressed as a different version of Princess Leia (neither of them a Slave Leia, thankyouverymuch!) and a baby brother with Yoda ears!

GeekGirlCon was a safe place for children to enjoy the geeky shows/films they love the entire time — unlike other cons that have a “Kids Day.” And it was about more than just pop culture. It’s not hyperbolic to say that it was about changing the world. Granted, it was primarily about changing the world by focusing on media, but that’s what we each need to do, right? Find the little corner of the world that interests us and make it better?

Sure, there were one or two technical glitches I heard about, and the timing of the panels could’ve been tweaked to give con-goers at the Seattle Center time to go from room to room across the expansive grounds, but on the whole, GeekGirlCon was run extremely well, and in many ways better than other, more long-running cons I’ve been to. The staff was extremely helpful, the design of the show was great, and all of the programming was actually substantive. There wasn’t a “fluff” panel on the entire schedule. Each one either taught you how to do something, or brought together panelists who were truly knowledgeable and articulate about the topic being addressed. Unlike other cons, there were panels I was genuinely upset about not being able to get to. The panels also weren’t just about promoting or selling something. Even those that were clearly about a new release were interactive and provided more information and insight than a mere overview of a product.

There was a panel called “Very Special Dudes,” in which panelists Sean McNeil, Greg Rucka, Mike Madrid, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and Alan Kistler sort of reveled in being the “token guys” at the convention, and spoke passionately about why it’s important to them to create and fight for nuanced female characters in media.

Scott Westerfeld’s panel was wonderful. I’d heard about his Uglies/Pretties series, but have never read him. I went to the panel because I was curious about his work, and I ended up being treated to an amazing presentation about the history and importance of illustration. I am now not only looking forward to reading Leviathan, but I feel like I understand the excitement around steampunk in a way I never have before.

The Women in Webseries panel, moderated by April Grant and Amanda Shockley of Indie Intertube was inspiring for many reasons. Not only did it inspire me to check out a plethora of awesome-sounding, well-produced, female-helmed shows on the web, but the smart, talented panel also inspired me to try and get my work up and out there.

I was fortunate enough to be able to moderate a Whedonistas panel featuring Jane Espenson, Nancy Holder, and Mariah Huehner. Each of them gave the audience thoughtful replies to their questions about everything from Whedon’s work to women breaking into the television/publishing/comics industries. Also, we had a giveaway where correct answers to trivia questions won the lucky participants signed Husbands crew hats from Jane and free copies of Whedonistas. Much fun!

The Geek Girl Vlogging panel, taught by Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency and hosted by Reel Grrls, seemed like an extension of the Women in Webseries panel, offering solid, practical pointers on how to create a web show. It inspired me so much, I took a two-day vlogging workshop this past weekend at Reel Grrls, and am now extremely excited about video editing!

A panel that I went to out of “duty,” but surprised me with how entertaining, inspiring, and animated it was was the Attracting Women and Girls to STEM Careers panel. It was given by Cheryl Platz of Microsoft, who was an amazing and funny speaker. The fact that, when she’s not working at Microsoft, she is a musical theater actress and Seattle improv performer probably has something to do with it! I left that panel w/resources and ideas to try and perpetuate the idea that girls can and should grow up to want to be in a science/tech field. Check out Platz’ non-profit, IGNITE, for ideas on how you can promote STEM careers to the girls in your life!

And then there was the Kink Panel. Oh, the kink panel. The panel was pretty much ALL Q & A between the audience and the panelists, which included my friend, Cunning Minx of the Poly Weekly podcast, and the audience was not shy! The first question was about fisting, fercryinoutloud! The panelists did an amazing job of making the audience feel comfortable so they felt free to ask about these things in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

And OMG, the Womanthology panel! Bonnie Burton. Trina Robbins. Mariah Huehner. I know, right? I almost don’t have to say anything else, but I WILL. Aside from being extremely excited about Womanthology’s release (and determined to submit something to Womanthology 2, if there is one...), it was an absolute pleasure to listen to these women being really hopeful, yet practical, about getting into comics and publishing.

Women helping women. I know, right? Aren’t we supposed to be all catty around each other? Yet this was the running theme at GeekGirlCon: that while it’s important to encourage change in mainstream media, it’s equally important for women to help other women create the media they want to see. We don’t need the approval of the mainstream, and by creating the quality work we want to create on our own terms, the mainstream will come to us.

Here’s to GeekGirlCon 2012! I will most certainly be there, and you should, too!


Teresa Jusino knows better than to destroy time and space for any one man. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

7 comments
M F
1. Madeline
What a great photo of that family! Lucky ducks.

I was following the tweets of a couple of my friends who made it to GeekGirlCon, and they agreed that it was great. One of the friends, who I think is a rock star, was recognized as a rock star there, which is awesome.

It's at a good time in the year, and Seattle's a nice city. I may see if I can make it next year. Been looking for a con where I can get my costume on in a feminist environment...
Liz Coleman
2. Liz Coleman
I was there, and it was indeed awesome.
I look forward to next year, when hopefully their success this year means there will be more space. I mean, having the entire Seattle Center is plenty of space, but they're awfully lucky it didn't rain. As it was, I had a wonderful moment sitting on a bench in the sunny courtyard, going through my swag bag and watching the pictured girls playing with lightsabers and feeling that all was right with the world. :-)
Liz Coleman
3. Galadriel
Sounds amazing!!! What cute little Leias!! OK, making plans for next year. Hmmm, Katara costume, possibly? Wonder how many Kataras, Tophs, Kyoshi Warriors, and Azulas there were this year....
Ian Johnson
4. IanPJohnson
Seattleites get to have all the fun! First PAX, and now GeekGirlCon… I'm definitely going to have to find some way to get up there someday.
L S
5. foundling
If I lived in America, I would have done everything in my power to get to this Con. It's the only one I've ever felt remotely interested in going to, and now I've read your write-up I wish I could go next year. It's so encouraging to read about women and men working together to develop the modern media world for both sexes in an interesting, creative environment. I wish I'd been there.
Liz Coleman
6. Nancy Holder
I LOVED THIS CON. And I love my gorgeous new Jayne hat, which I bought at GeekGirlCon and am wearing in that pic. My daughter, Belle and I flew up from San Diego and we had a blast on programming and bought LOTS OF COOL STUFF. What smart guests and attendees. Thank you, Teresa, for the awesome moderating job.

This is the first thing we put on next year's calendar. Do NOT miss GeekGirlCon!

Nancy
Estara Swanberg
7. Estara
Now that is actually a Con I am sorry to be unlikely to ever get to, living in Germany. Ah well, I found female geek friendly places on the internet, that'll have to suffice.

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