Driving from L.A. to Seattle and back is hard. So hard, that I needed a couple of days to recuperate. (i.e. Totally pass out and nap for three days, then re-learn English.) Now that I’m back on solid foods and putting sentences together again, I’m happy to report that GeekGirlCon has done nothing but improve and thrive in its second year. Remember last year, when I told you that GeekGirlCon was the most important con of the year? Well, it still is, for many of the same reasons. Same warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Same lack of judgement no matter how you identify, whom you’re dating/married to, or whether or not you have children. Same wonderful spotlight on female contributions to genre storytelling, the sciences, and fandom. But there have been some changes this year, too, which have improved the con immensely, expanding on its mission statement and offering attendees even more.
First, GeekGirlCon has changed venues, moving from the Northwest Rooms at the Seattle Center (along with programming at the EMP Museum) to The Conference Center on 8th and Pike, a much more central and appropriate venue. One of the few problems with GeekGirlCon last year was the fact that panels were scheduled too close together and held too far apart to be feasible. Attendees had to walk ten minutes to get from the Northwest Rooms on one side of the Seattle Center campus to the EMP Museum on the other, making getting to what you wanted to see on time difficult. This year, while technically in a larger venue (to accommodate the larger crowd. Over 3,000 attended GeekGirlCon this year), all the events were concentrated in one building, which made the varied panels and events easier to get to.
GeekGirlCon is starting to become known for the quality of its panels. Rather than panels focused on selling things, GeekGirlCon focuses on panels that inspire and educate. For example, the Chicks Dig Comics panel, moderated by Sarah Kuhn and featuring Rachel Edidin, Jen Van Meter, Jill Pantozzi, Sheena McNeil, and Erica McGillivray, technically existed to let people know about Mad Norwegian’s latest book, in which everyone on the panel was a contributor. However, the panel ended up being a thorough investigation of comics and geek culture through the lens of gender with a wonderful give and take between panel and audience. The audience included a wonderful high school student who was the president of her robotics club at her school and asked the panel’s advice on how to keep girls engaged in geeky pursuits. She gave me so much hope for the future!
You might have already read my review of the Season Two premiere of Husbands. Well, I was among the first people to see it when I attended the Husbands panel at GeekGirlCon. Co-creators Jane Espenson and Brad Bell, along with star Sean Hemeon, were interviewed by Seattle radio personality Jamala Henderson in one of the more entertaining panels I attended! The panel got in-depth about creating a web series, what it was like to write dialogue for Joss Whedon after having written dialogue for Joss Whedon shows, and what it is that makes people respond to some shows and not others. (Hint: It has to do with emotions, okay? Emotions are the answer.) Also, Brad Bell totally hit on some woman’s husband. But the strange (or maybe not-so-strange) thing was that both husband and wife seemed totally into it. Hmmm....
One of the most important panels I attended was called “Go Make Me A Sandwich: Barriers to Women’s Participation in Online and Fan Spaces,” where panelists Anita Sarkeesian, Regina Buenaobra, Grace (gtz), and Colette Vogele (moderated by Maile Martinez) discussed the instances of internet harassment they’ve seen or experienced, then discussed what we, as a community, can do about it.
Grace’s site, FatUglyOrSlutty.com, is a place where harassment in gaming is catalogued and called-out in a humorous way, while Colette Vogele’s WithoutMyConsent.org helps both attorneys and victims of online abuse deal with harassment legally, Buenaobra gave sound advice from a community manager perspective, and Sarkeesian provided some practical, personal tips that she found herself employing in full force after her recent Kickstarter debacle. The main point of the panel, however, is that the advice “Don’t feed the trolls,” while useful as far as one-on-one interaction (there’s no point in engaging with a troll yourself) is dangerous advice as a general rule. Because we, as a community should expose comments like these so that the problem of online harassment remains visible and more easily fought. “Ignoring bullies” does nothing. Standing up against bullies as a group might actually put an end to the problem.
In addition to the substantive panels and events like GeekGirlCONcert ‘12 (The Doubleclicks are amazing!), there were some new additions to GeekGirlCon that furthered the con’s mission. The entire lower level of the conference center was devoted to tabletop games, console games, and RPGs, as well as workshops, mystery game challenges, and opportunities to play at all skill levels. Gamers had a blast playing everything from D&D and Magic: The Gathering to stuff like Munchkin and FLUXX, LARPing at scheduled times, or playing console games provided by Big Fish and EA.
The other large, and in my opinion the most welcome, addition to GeekGirlCon this year was their GeekGirlConnections suite. Because it’s not enough to celebrate what women have already achieved in genre storytelling and S.T.E.M. careers, GeekGirlCon seeks to help women not yet in those careers get there by providing them with information and possible career mentors. Room 101 in the Conference Center was devoted to pairing companies and organizations with the geeky women that want to work for them. Part job fair, part kaffeeklatsch, attendees could sit down at tables with the likes of Kim Steadman of NASA, Rachel Edidin of Dark Horse Comics and Mariah Huehner of IDW Comics, comics writer extraordinaire Gail Simone, and Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe, among others to pick their brains about starting businesses or getting started in the industries of their choice. GeekGirlCon even provided free business cards you could fill out with your information so that you could start making connections right there in the suite!
The biggest testament to GeekGirlCon’s success is the amount of return attendees from last year. In addition to the influx of new attendees, there were so many Special Guests and attendees this year that came last year, including the wonderful family in the photo below! Last year, they were a Star Wars family. This year, it was all about The Legend of Zelda:
Watching those little girls and that little boy grow up geek in an environment like GeekGirlCon is truly one of the most inspiring things ever. Here’s to many more years of GeekGirlCon providing, as Dark Horse editor, Rachel Edidin put it, “a con where the default gender happens to not be male.”
Teresa Jusino also moderated a Doctor Who panel on Moffat’s Women at GeekGirlCon 2012, which you can read about here. Her Feminist Brown Person take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, PopMatters.com, and she’s recently joined Al Día, the #1 Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia, as a pop culture columnist. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and she is also a writer/producer on Miley Yamamoto’s upcoming sci-fi web series, RETCON, which is set to debut in 2013. For more on her writing, get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.