Friday, September 30, 2011

GeekGirlCon: An Interview About Your Next Favorite Convention

by Sara N.

Calling all geeky women and all women-friendly geek men: Your soon-to-be favorite convention is almost here! The first-ever GeekGirlCon will take place Oct. 8 and 9 in Seattle.

GeekGirlCon is a nonprofit organization that celebrates the involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related geek culture. The convention will emphasize both the historic and ongoing contribution and influence of women in this culture. The organizers hope that GeekGirlCon will allow geek females to congregate, mingle, and share facts and fandoms with geek girls of all kinds, and that its influence will help change the pop culture perception that all geeks are male math nerds or dudes in superhero t-shirts.

The schedule for this inaugural event is crammed with the people and topics you love, including appearances by Jane Espenson, Bonnie Burton, steampunk authors Cherie Priest and Scott Westerfeld, Gail Simone of Women in Refrigerators fame and Chase Masterson from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Saturday features a cosplay masquerade, and the panels on both days look incredible. Sessions cover all manner of topics, from feminism, race and geek culture and sexism in the video game industry to discussions on steampunk, young adult literature, LOL cats, Harry Potter and making Yoda stick puppets.

Kiri Callaghan, GeekGirlCon's public relations manager, took time out of her busy pre-conference day to answer a few of our questions. Check it out after the jump.

What inspired you to create an event specifically for women? And have you have a good response in terms of registration and attendance?
Kiri Callaghan, public relations manager of GeekGirlCon

Simple story of we saw a need and we filled it. San Diego Comic Con 2010 had a panel called "Geek Girls Exist" and despite the fact that it was competing times with the Scot Pilgrim panel (which was kinda at the peak of its hype as it was at the end of the graphic novels but right before the movie release) it was packed. They even left the doors open to see how many people would try to peek in. I imagine they were violating several fire codes, come to think of it, but the turnout was astounding. Some of our founders were sitting in that panel, noticed the giant audience and got to thinking that there seemed to be a demand for something that focused specifically on women in geek culture. Next thing ya know, we're having our first All-Hands Meeting getting people together to organize departments etc.

Registration has been fantastic. I think our last count of pre-reg was close to 1,000, which is pretty impressive for a first-year convention. And of course we will still be selling tickets at the door.

What kind of gender mix do you expect to see at the con? How has that expectation helped shape the events you've scheduled?

We have this staff joke about how at some cons you see men dragging their girlfriends around conventions, but our con would be the one where it was the other way around. Though we've been really diligent about letting people know that though we don't actively market towards men, we want them to come to our events and the convention. Their support is important as we all are a part of the geek community.

The list of guests appearing at the con is fantastically diverse. Everyone in attendance should find a panelist or celebrity to appeal to her particular interests. What was the response you got from the writers, artists and other guests as you recruited them for the con?

Thank you! Jen Stuller, our programming director, worked herself to the bone to put in a little something for everyone.

We really never had a shortage of people who wanted to be on board with the convention. As word spread, the proposals for panels started pouring in. We even had a few special guests talk to us before we had a chance to talk to them!

Your website sets out a clear no harassment policy. What prompted you to put that in place?

A few reasons. I think one being that when we first started talking about the idea, some negative feedback we received was that this convention was just going to be a hot spot for leering at geeky women or trolling for a girlfriend understandably we wanted to prevent that as much as possible.

Star Wars fan Katie Goldman and her mom, Carrie.
But I think more simply, because we're so passionate about being accepting of anyone, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual preference, family statute, bubblegum flavor or what have you ... We wanted GeekGirlCon to be a safe place where you could be yourself and connect with like-minded people. One of our younger special guests, Katie Goldman, was actually bullied in school for liking Star Wars! That kind of thing won't be tolerated at our convention. Come as you are but don't make anyone feel uncomfortable or hurt for doing the same.

I'm curious about how whether you think the cosplay during the con will be different from other conventions. For example, the "Oh, You Sexy Geek" panel at SDCC this year had some back-and-forth about empowerment versus exploitation when wearing certain costumes (and Stellar Four has written about it, too). Do you expect to see as many Slave Leias here as you would at SDCC? Or do you think the "by women, for women" approach to the con will affect the cosplay selections of the participants?

You know, I have to talk for myself on this question and not for whole organization because this kind of issue is sort of a hot topic for a lot of people and I know my opinion is not necessarily shared by everyone. I actually wrote an article for Geek-Vs-Life that touched on this kind of thing. Personally, I agree with something Seth Green was quoted saying: "I don't feel like you can be pandering if you're sincere." I hope women (and the men too!) cosplay as who they want to cosplay as regardless what stigma may or may not revolve around that character so long as they're doing it for themselves. There's a huge difference between "I wear this costume because I love it." and "I wear this costume because I love the attention."

Of course they need to keep it family friendly as kids will be roaming about during con hours. No wardrobe malfunctions! If people are curious about what is or isn't allowed, they can check out our cosplay guidelines here.

The 10th Doctor. Because we all like to look at him.

I'd love to know a little bit about your own geekdom. What are your interests? What's the one thing you're most looking forward to at Geek Girl Con?

Aw geez, where do I begin? I grew up in a super nerdy household and was kind of spoon-fed Star Trek and Star Wars since before I could remember and it just piled on more and more when I got old enough to grip a controller or mouse and started reading. Not much has changed. I'm a Bioware fanatic I can't wait for The Old Republic or the web series Felicia Day is doing about the Dragon Age world. I can say the lines along pretty much word for word of every Firefly episode I named my car Serenity. I prefer my heroes a bit more off-beat so I tend to go for super hero stories like E4's Misfits or Blake Northcott's Vs. Reality than something more mainstream like Superman. Let's see... what else? I have these secret dreams about the 10th Doctor whisking me away to the End of the World?  You know, pretty normal geek stuff. =P

GeekGirlCon takes place Oct. 8-9th at the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms in Seattle, Wash., and passes are still available at the website. The organizers plan to make this an annual event and, as Callaghan said when I joked about the possibility of a Midwest event next year, "I dream a dream when GeekGirlCon expands to 'GeekGirlCon East' or 'GeekGirlCon Canada' ..."
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