Guest post by Sabina Cao, cross-posted from Inkfarm.com
“You know, I never really thought of myself as a geek girl until I started to realize some of the stuff I enjoyed wasn’t a part of pop culture or the cultural norm,” she said as she sipped a Chai Latte.
Susie Rantz never stood a chance of not being a geek girl. Having a pilot for a father instilled in her a love of being in the sky and thinking about space from a young age. She grew up watching X Files and Star Trek with her family. The number “42” is tattooed in Tengwar, the Elvish language from Lord of the Rings, on her wrist. And now Rantz is the PR Manager for GeekGirlCon, Seattle’s annual convention dedicated to women and girls in “geek” culture.
“I work in PR for my career, I am geeky, and I really support promoting more women in not just the comic industry but in math, science, technology and arts,” Rantz said. “I just felt such a natural tie [to GeekGirlCon] – I’ve only been on staff for a few months, but it has been fantastic working with so many dedicated people.”
The inaugural GeekGirlCon took place last October 8th and 9th, a convention dedicated to promoting awareness of and celebrating the contribution and involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related Geek culture.
From that, Rantz believes that GeekGirlCon doesn’t have the same competitive desire as other conventions. The broad nature of the con lends it to any interest and passion.
“I think the girl part is the most unique [part of GeekGirlCon],” said Rantz. “We have a lot of staff and a lot of people who come to GeekGirlCon but also go to Emerald City Comic Con or Sakuracon or other conventions, but it just felt like there needed to be this one gathering place for people who support girls and women and their role in geek culture.”
GeekGirlCon is not only a convention, but also a nonprofit organization that works throughout the year to host events. These events, like the convention, work towards empowering women in their various roles.
“The special events are just a really great way for people to casually get introduced to GeekGirlCon, what our mission is and hopefully people who come and have fun at those movie nights or other events we hold will come to our website more often, will join our Facebook page and start to really interact with other GeekGirlCon supporters,” Rantz said. “So whether it’s through these little special events or through its social media, we really want to engage other people beyond those who just come to the convention.”
“And they felt that GeekGirlCon was just that; they had fun and met so many people while at the same time they really felt like they made some significant connections that bettered them as people.”
GeekGirlCon 2011 was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, both at the convention and online. Two-day and single-day passes sold out the first day and roughly 4,000 attended the event – some coming so far as England and India.
“One of the things that a lot of people don’t always feel when they leave a convention is this enormous sense of community and a welcoming environment,” Rantz said. “And they felt that GeekGirlCon was just that; they had fun and met so many people while at the same time they really felt like they made some significant connections that bettered them as people.”
GeekGirlCon was featured across the web, from CNN’s Geek Out blog! to Seattle’s own The Stranger’s Slog. There was some criticism for the con, but most reviews agreed that GeekGirlCon exceeded expectations not only as a first-year convention, but also for filling a much-needed niche in geek culture.
Tor.com contributor Teresa Jusino’s review of GeekGirlCon highlighted much of the convention’s success and called it the “most welcoming, inspiring con I’ve ever been to”:
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.
Gail Simone, a special guest from GeekGirlCon 2011, wrote of her own experience on her tumblr:
Everything felt a little different. Lest you think this con didn’t have geek cred, let me assure you, the superhero/genre panels were absolutely as hardcore nerdy as any I have attended, but it was from a female and safe perspective. As a whole, the con felt more like a festival at times than a con…it was much less aggressive and without that odd hostility that some big cons have acquired.
Men were also very open and receptive to the con. Rantz thinks that many men who know “geeky women” – potential wives, their daughters, their future daughters – realize that they are friends to support and love. Despite having “geek girl” in the title, the convention is open to any and every one. Men made up about 30% of the attendance, with many Princess Leia daughters running around.
“I think a lot of dads want to pass along their passions to their daughters – we had a ton of Princess Leia’s last year at the con, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more this year,” she said. “I know there is negativity out there and that there’s going to be guys that are excited because it’s a convention of girls who like what they like, but it hasn’t been a big issue for us.”
Read the rest of the article at Inkfarm.com’s blog: Take Back Your Printer!
Sabina Cao is the Content Creator / Blog Manager for Inkfarm.com’s blog: Take Back Your Printer! based in Seattle, WA. She graduated from Ithaca College with a B.A. in Journalism in December 2011.