The First Annual GeekGirl Con
photos by Stephanie Kaloi
“GeekGirlCon is a one-of-a-kind convention celebrating geeky women and the wide variety of geeky things they are interested and involved in.”
- Erica McGillivray, GeekGirlCon President
They had me at “GeekGirlCon.” Seriously, the second I heard that name I thought “I don’t know what that is but I think I have to go.” Nevermind the fact that I live in Los Angeles and the convention was in Seattle – I’m female, I’m a lifelong sci-fi fan, and I know how to make a cake knife out of a model Lightsaber.
Clearly a convention “by geeky women for geeky women” was for me! With that in mind, I whipped out my credit card and beamed myself to the Emerald City to join 1600 conventioneers at the first annual GeekGirlCon on October 8 and 9, 2011.
Let’s talk about that number for a second - 1600 may not sound like a lot in relation to the gargantuan beasties many other conventions have become, but that’s a pretty respectable first at-bat and it represents a complete sell out. I had the feeling the proprietors themselves were a little taken aback. Panel rooms were overflowing and sometimes had to be moved to larger facilities and line ups began early and snaked around hallways.
More than a few panelists opened their discussions with statements such as: “Wow. Look at you. I thought there would be, like, a dozen people here.” Clearly the organizers had tapped into something as yet untapped - Girl Geeks are out there and they want to play too!
At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell there was anything different about this convention as it seemed like any other small-scale con: No major corporate presence, lots of costumes and clever tee shirts to admire and an exhibitor room full of treasures to procure.
On closer inspection, though, you realized that the guy/girl ratio was flipped on its head. Not that there weren’t guys there, but there were LOTS of women, many with little costumed kidderoos in tow.
And there was quite a bit of gender crossing in the cosplay department: female Doctor Whos were innumerable, at least one woman channeled her inner Bowie to play Jareth, and an impressive Lady Spike was spotted escorting Buffy around the grounds.
The convention’s keynote speaker was Jane Espenson, writer for shows such as Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. Other panel offerings mixed titles like “No I’m Not a Booth Babe: Sexism in the Videogame Industry” and “History of the Universe as Told by Wonder Woman” in among more technical topics focusing on lady coder careers and female BioWare designers - with a bit of roller derby and nerd burlesque sprinkled in for good measure.
Wait - WHAT burlesque?! Call me out of the loop but I had not heard of such a thing. One panelist described the art as “the love child of stripping and sketch comedy” and I have to say that pretty much sums it up. Entire burlesque (and “boy-lesque”) troupes geared towards sometimes silly, sometimes sexy, always geeky routines involving themes like Star Trek, Star Wars and/or the collective works of Joss Whedon. (The latter of which I was blessed to see a performance of on Saturday night and, although I enjoyed it thoroughly and laughed until my sides split, can I just say that I will never, EVER look at Captain Hammer the same again!)
Just in case you were wondering why there might be a particular need for a female-centric convention, let me remind you about Katie the Star Wars Girl. Little Katie became an internet sensation last year when her mom blogged about the boys at school bullying Katie, insisting that her beloved Star Wars thermos was not for girls. And when that blog went viral, the geek community came out in droves to show Katie support and that it is indeed beyond OK for a girl to love Star Wars.
In short, we live in a society that likes to label what is for girls and what is for boys and those labels can carry through into our adult lives. By encouraging women and girls to revel in their love of both science-fact and science-fiction, we break down those stereotypes a bit at a time and that can only be a good thing.
Katie and her mom Carrie sat on a panel entitled “Geeks Raising Geeks.” The room was full and Katie, who does not make many personal appearances, was visibly nervous. And then the coolest thing happened: Shortly after the panel began, one by one, members of the 501st and other costumed Star Wars fans filed in and stood at attention in the back of the room, forming an Honor Guard for Katie. Storm Troopers and Imperial Officers, Princess Leias and Aayla Securas stood side-by-side for the entire presentation, a tribute to the little girl who was picked on for loving Star Wars.
In the middle of that panel I received a text message from my husband back home. It read: “In hardware store. Your (2 year old) daughter just pointed at the fluorescent light bulbs and said ‘Lightsaber, Daddy!’”
I’m already working on her costume for next year.
Laura Guerrie is the owner of Rebel Belle Weddings – a Los Angeles based wedding planning business specializing in unconventional, non-traditional, frequently geeky events. www.rebelbelleweddings.com