I had a chance to attend Geek Girl Con on August 12th and you know I had took some photos to share with you guys, plus scored some decent swag. I was also able to interview the ever-patient and professional Susie Rantz of Geek Girl Con, who was able to give me all the info on what’s up for Geek Girl Con 2013, diversity, and EA games’ sponsorship this year. Check it out after the jump!
This was GeekGirlCon’s second year in action. Now that it’s over, what was the difference between the first year and the second year, besides the increased profile?
There were a lot of similarities in the overall feel and vibe at the convention, but there were some significant differences in how we organized it. First, we were in a much larger space this year, moving from two locations in the Seattle Center to The Conference Center in Downtown Seattle. This allowed us to go from one room for gaming to one entire floor dedicated gaming. It also gave us more space for panels and an exhibitor hall.
We also added GeekGirlConnections, a room where attendees could interact with women who worked in their desired career fields. We had some of our special guests, including Ashley Eckstein, Gail Simone, and Jamala Henderson, in the GeekGirlConnections room interacting with attendees. Editors from Dark Horse Comics gave advice to budding writers, NASA employees gave advice on getting careers in science, and women who work at SEOmoz talked about working in technical marketing. We added this room based on a lot of feedback and demand from last year, and really hope to build this program even more for next year.
I know it’s pretty early, but have GeekGirlCon organizers started thinking about 2013 and can attendees of the last two cons expect to see some major changes?
We certainly are thinking about 2013 already. It takes a lot to plan a convention, so we know we cannot slack off too much. We are doing a lot of planning on what we want GeekGirlCon to embody and represent in the future. We will be updating our website and taking a look at our brand, on how we talk about our work to be sure it accurately reflects our mission. We also are taking a look at which dates work best for our convention and hope to keep these consistent in the years to come. Last year, the con was in October, and this year we had to move it to August. We are examining what works best for our attendees and the convention venue.
Finally, one of the things that excites me most about GeekGirlCon is that our convention truly reflects the feedback from our attendees and fans. For example, at least two panels this year — “The Last Outsider in Pop Culture” and the “Geekquality” panel — were put together based on reactions from last year’s convention. We love lighting a fire in our attendees to create the kind of panels and discussions they want to see.
So we will be looking for thoughts on what we need to include in next year’s convention, whether that is our programming, gaming, exhibitor hall, or overall operations. Stay tuned for updates on panel submissions and a post-con survey.
Looking back on the last two GeekGirlCons, are there any changes you would make; any ideas that you thought about and said, “Yeah, that’s not going to be an option anymore”?
Honestly, I think we are really happy with how things have gone. The biggest feedback we’ve received so far is that there’s a huge need for GeekGirlCon to continue. We don’t have a lot of regrets, except that it is bittersweet to have the convention over. We also heard from some attendees that they wanted the panels to be longer because there was so much to discuss. That’s never a bad problem to have!
We did have to say “no” to a lot of things, mostly because we simply don’t have the staff or the money at this point to do them. We are an all-volunteer organization, so our time is a very limited resource!
We really rely on the input from our attendees to learn what direction we should be taking our organization. We hope, if there are big things that we need to address, that people bring them forward.
We know that GeekGirlCon was created to promote an alternative to male dominated con and geek culture. Why do you think geek culture and con culture is so male dominated, despite the strong presence of geek girls?
I think there are a few explanations for this. First, a lot of the executives at many of the geeky industries — technology companies, comic book publishers, video game companies, and the film and television industry — are men. So, often, they are not as introduced to the female perspective or the fact that women listen to, use, or read their products. Most of the time, it isn’t done consciously. We just need to show people the sheer numbers of female fans out there.
In addition, women are sometimes simply not as vocal about their passions as men can be. Through GeekGirlCon, we hope to give women and their supporters a voice in important conversations. We want women to feel empowered to say, “We like these things, too,” or “We love comic books, but ones with strong female protagonists.”
Finally, I think some of it has to do with cultural norms. We have come an incredibly long way in moving toward an equal society — but we aren’t there yet. The conversations we have at GeekGirlCon are incredibly important discussions. They are uncomfortable sometimes, but that means we are making progress.
Where would you like to see GeekGirlCon in five years? Ten years?
There is certainly demand for us to continue to grow, and we hope to do so, because we have heard from a lot of people that they still haven’t made it to our convention, but would like to. However, we do love that our convention gives people the opportunity to interact with guests and feel like they can approach anybody, so I don’t think we ever want to get too big.
It is hard to imagine what we will look like in five or 10 years, but we do want to expand the conversation beyond Seattle. We know a lot of people come from other states and countries, but we also want GeekGirlCon to be a place where anyone — whether they live in Seattle or South Africa — can feel like they are a part of our work.
EA Sports sponsored GeekGirlCon 2012 so that’s showing that the con is definitely getting the right kind of attention. I noticed that gaming was a very strong presence. Which other companies do you hope to attract to GeekGirlCon in future, particularly gaming companies?
We want our gaming to be accessible for people at all levels. We know the our convention-goers ranges from hardcore gamers to newcomers, young adults to young children. So we want our tabletop and console gaming to reflect these varying levels. We will be looking to continue the fantastic partnership with EA and PopCap and expanding on it to be certain our gaming meets attendees where they are. We also had strong attendance at our workshops, from mask-making to miniature painting and learning to play Magic: The Gathering. We really want to continue this and look for other workshop opportunities next year.
Last year, Racialicious featured an article by a panelist and 2011 Geek Girl Con attendee who liked the con overall, but was disappointed in the lack of diversity for geek girls of color. This year I noticed one panel that focused on race. Do you think that Geek Girl Con is in danger of alienating geek girls of color? How could the con feature more POCs, transgender and differently-abled geeks?
We try incredibly hard to represent a range of viewpoints and perspectives at our convention. GeekGirlCon was formed to bring together a group of people who felt underrepresented in geek culture, so we don’t want to leave a single person out of our programming. However, we really depend on our fans to suggest the kind of panels and topics that need to be represented. We cannot do this alone.
For example, last year, Day Al-Mohammed was disappointed that we didn’t dive into disability discussions. Our programming director, Jennifer K. Stuller, encouraged her to put together hew own panel to talk about the issue. And she spent all year finding panelists and putting together her panel. On Sunday, she hosted “A Fate Worse than Death: The Last “Outsider” in Popular Culture – Disability.” Her panelists and discussions were so well thought out, and we heard incredible things from people who attended the session.
This is the kind of change we want to see at our convention. The only way we will have more people represented is if our fans proactively help us put together these sessions. We are also actively searching for panelists and guests who represent some of the underrepresented populations.
What is your greatest hope for GeekGirlCon? What would you like to see GeekGirlCon ultimately accomplish and when do you think GeekGirlCon will no longer be necessary?
Our greatest hope is to create a community where geek girls feel appreciated, supported, and empowered. We want this to translate to all women as well. Too often, we are told by mainstream media and other avenues that women are supposed to tear other women down. We hope to create a new reality, where women support each other. This will result in women being respected; finding careers in science, technology, comics, and video games; and conversations evolving in ways that are positive. We said more about this topic on our blog.
I got to Geek Girl Con at about 2-ish, 3-ish on Sunday, the last day of the event. I didn’t know what to expect because I haven’t been able to attend the last two cons. I made my way across to the convention center and after figuring out where I want to go, I was off. I started off on the very bottom floor which was the gaming floor. By the time I’d gotten there, there wasn’t too much going on. People were there and active, but it wasn’t like it was standing room only. I’m a timid person by nature, so I just looked around. The same thing went down with GeekGirlConnections. Geeks, not just girl geeks, were talking and networking easily.
I went up to top floor to check out the wares. I was able to meet Purple Reign, one of Seattle’s own superheroes (and wife to fellow Rain City Superhero Phoenix Jones). She was ultra nice and she was highly approachable. I asked her about her costume, which was an original piece, and she talked about domestic violence and why she chose purple. Purple being the color of Domestic Violence Awareness.
I met Bob the Angry Flower… Well, the creator. I really liked Bob the Angry Flower because while being a totally “cute” flower on the outside, he’s an undercurrent of kick your ass-ness on the inside (just like me). Bob takes on everything like dog bites and other things that may not irritate average people, but absolutely boggles and bothers people like me.
I was also able to meet a young lady who does cosplay with a local cosplay group and meet artists who are moving past Kickstarter campaigns and actually making names for themselves without a great deal of sponsorship or corporate hype to back them. There is a lot of geekery out there for everyone, so look under the radar as well.
You would think that Geek Girl Con would be teeming with girls and geek girls, no men for miles. You would be wrong. There were lots of men there, not just curators and exhibitors, but guys who went to check out the geekery. Look, real geeks don’t care about if a con is called Geek Girl Con, Geek Boy Con, or Geek Horse Con. They’re going to go and they’re going to support their fellow geeks because they are true to this; they are “about” this (geek) life. So next year, don’t let the title fool you if you wanted to go but didn’t. I wished I could have attended more panels and set up more interviews, but I was pressed for time.
Some people may ask why we need a Geek Girl Con. Those people have been sleeping at the wheel or living in a world of blissful oblivion. The reality is geek culture is still focused on 30 year old fanboys who still live in their moms’ basements and are on a first name basis with the Pizza Hut delivery guy. Those guys really don’t exist. I mean, they do, but geek culture is way past it and other cons and content creators need to realize that. Until they do, Geek Girl Con will continue to make sure that geek girls have a place to “geek” out.
Check out my photos from the event below!