As a male geek, life is a breeze. Being part of that coveted 18-30 (just) bracket, my whims are (supposedly) pandered to at every turn. I can walk into a comic book shop, or a game shop, or indeed most geek-oriented shops, and buy something that is aimed at me. Of course, this leads to complacency; a feeling that life as a geek is good. Which, in turn, makes it very easy to forget that this isn’t the case for everyone. Women, in particular, whose representation in the geek world is still sadly lacking.
Therefore, when Erica McGillivray told me last year that she and a group of geeky ladies were planning on organising an entirely female-centric convention, with a focus on celebration of the female geek, I was intrigued.
(Full disclosure: Erica, myself and Lisa (my lovely, geeky wife) have known each other for around seven years now, having met at the first WriterCon in Vegas, so a concept such as this wasn’t entirely out of the blue.)
The idea was sparked by a panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, titled ‘Geek Girls Exist‘, which was designed to promote geeky women in a positive manner. So naturally, an entire convention centred around this idea had to happen. It needed to happen.
Fundraisers were held, Twitter and Facebook accounts were conjured, and an all-out push to create and promote the con was launched. Burlesque shows; Buffy Summer’s 30th birthday parties were held; even a flashmob tribute to the Hero of Canton all helped to raise awareness of the con.
Now, flash forward to the weekend of October 8th and 9th. We flew out to Seattle the Wednesday before, met up with Erica (with whom we were staying), and immediately set to work making ourselves useful. At 6a.m. on Saturday morning, GeekGirlCon staff – and any volunteers who were awake (including ourselves) – arrived at Seattle Centre’s Northwest Rooms to begin the set up. Everyone was tired, but there was a tangible sense of excitement in the air.
As the sun rose over the city, the first of the attendees began to arrive. The excitement grew with the numbers, as time glanced pointedly at the clock (think about that one, would you?). There was a brief ‘holy crap, that line is HUGE’ moment just before the doors opened. And then… the world changed.
I’m not going to outline every single event that took place this weekend, but I will convey my feelings about the con. In short, approximately 2,000 people joined us in celebrating and welcoming the female geek PER DAY. Take a minute to just process that. I’ll add something else to help that sink in: the con was completely sold out. They were turning people away. Not bad for a first-year con, eh?
Well, how was it? In a word: unbelievable. The atmosphere was warm, welcoming and safe. Every single volunteer had a smile on their face the entire weekend. The panels were informative, varied and fun. The cosplay was some of the best I’ve ever seen. But I’ll repeat myself here and say that the most important thing about GeekGirlCon was its safe and welcoming environment.
As a guy, there is a lot of privilege that needs to be overcome, not just by myself, but by the geeky community (and the world) at large, and it is humbling to see women of all ages come out to the con and just have fun.
I heard someone mention that the number of women attendees at Comic Con grew from just 10% (in 2009…? If someone could remind me, that would great!) to 45% last year. That is a significant jump. But looking at the various industries, content is still male-centric (for an example of how NOT to welcome female readers, look at the new Starfire design), and there is still a weird territorial and belittling attitude to lady geeks that needs to be overcome. To see GeekGirlCon succeed in the way it has is heartening, not to mention its significance on a wider scale.
The weekend itself was hard, tiring, long and manic. But it was rewarding, fun, manic (see what I did there?) and, above all else, inspiring. Seeing so much support from so many different types of people really made me take pause and realise, ‘I’m taking part in something important’. This is something important.
They are diverse. They are hard-working. They are geeky. They are women. They are here, and they are not going anywhere.