The tone of this post ended up varying dramatically between informational and increadibly personal, so get what you can out of it?
The first ever Geek Girl Con was this weekend and, let me just say, I count myself fortunate to have been able to attend.
First off, my first con experience was PAX2011 earlier this year and it was more than a little overwhelming. You always hear about amazing “coming home” experiences people have at PAX, feelings of belonging and so on, but, for me, it was so big and loud and, honestly, intimidating, that I think the warm fuzzies I’d been hoping for were just not in the stars. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time at PAX, but it just wasn’t as… accessible? as I thought it would be. I think that, maybe, a lot of the warm stories of PAX awesomeness that I’ve heard are from people that went when it was smaller and more intimate. What I saw was huge crowds, long lines, big vendors and glimpses of awesomeness. It may have something to do with the fact that I’m not a big fan of huge crowds or waiting, but having to show up an hour early or more for some of the events just to get in (and earlier for decent seating) kept us from spending our time more enjoyably. We did get to meet some nice people, but there was a sense of transience to those interactions since, with so many people in attendance, it wasn’t likely you would see anyone more than once. It may also be that my own enjoyment of PAX was soured by the sadness of my husband leaving for Texas immediately afterward. One of my fonder moments, and one that still makes me tear up, was sitting on the floor of the main theater during the first night’s concerts, leaning against Aaron and crying as the Video Game Orchestra played a medley of songs from Final Fantasy. (Final Fantasy was one of the reasons we hit it off when we first met.) Highlights for me included seeing Felicia Day “in the wild” of the show floor, the Wil Wheaton panel, the concerts, the cosplay (always love!) and this:
On the other hand, this weekend, Geek Girl Con (henceforth to be referred to as “GGC”) proved to be everything I had hoped PAX would be, and more. As would be expected for a first year con, GGC was small. At first I was a bit leery of its smallness, as I was concerned that I would run out of things to do (HA!) but I think the smallness of it was exactly what I needed. As you would know if I was a good blogger and updated every now and then, I’ve been in a kind of personal limbo and this weekend really gave me a shove in the right direction. I feel like this weekend really was the beginning of a very personal journey that I’ve been too scared to start. But more on that later.
Right. Small con.
The first and most mundane benefit of GGC’s smallness was the shortness of the lines. As I’ve mentioned, I hate waiting. But, it seems, nerds love a good queue, so lines it is. I suppose it probably has something to do with some of us, myself included, having a penchant for being early to things or something, but I digress. To paraphrase a fellow con-goer (Hi Emily!): at GGC going to the wrong place for a panel may cost you five or six spots in line, whereas at PAX, it would be hundreds. Plus, since it was such a small con, you did get to keep seeing line buddies and it was a much better opportunity to really get to know people. AND! The small venue meant you got to see most of the cosplayers at least once.
But really, the beauty of GGC was its heart. Organizers, sponsors, volunteers, guests, vendors and attendees alike really believed in the con and it showed. To take something the lovely Bonnie Burton said and use it completely out of context, “You don’t put geek girls in a corner.” and to me, that seemed to be what this whole weekend was about. I know that like many other female geeks, I’ve personally experienced that kind of “but you’re a girl” discrimination from a very young age and GGC seemed to be thumbing its nose at that idea. Just as many of us have had to “prove” our geek cred or we’re not taken seriously, that seemed to be the spirit of the whole weekend. There was kind of a feeling of “Fine. You don’t want to include us in your oh-so-wonderful-and-exclusive [blank]? We’ll make our own and we’ll make it better.”
I missed out on a lot on the first day because I planned poorly. I hadn’t really given that much thought to the panels I wanted to go to as most of the programming I was interested was happening on Day Two. As a result, I had large gaps in my schedule that found me kind of just staying in the same room by default because the panels seemed like they might be interesting, but I think I missed out on some stuff I really would have really enjoyed if I had planned better. It also didn’t help that I had been up since 5AM to be there by 7AM (I was the first attendee at Geek Girl Con! Ever!) because they were giving away 50 tickets to the sold-out Whedonesque Burlesque and I was determined to go. Needless to say, I was a little foggy most of the day.
Boobies and Blasters: The Women of Star Wars was a lot of fun and I did get to go to the Character Studies panel with Amy Berg, Sarah Kuhn, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Jessica Mills and Stephanie Thorpe, all of whom have, in various media outlets, created and/or portrayed strong nerdy/geeky female characters. I think everyone on the panel agreed that much of what they put into these characters comes from their own experiences of being a slightly odd (or not so slightly, in some cases), misunderstood or marginalized person and building characters based on the fact that they never saw those kinds of characters portrayed in any kind of meaningful way in the media. Just like I kept hearing all weekend, everything that they discussed really focused around the idea of working to fill in those gaps in the media that bother us. Again, if you can’t find examples of what you want to see, do it yourself.
Also, something Javi said really struck home with me and kind of pushed me down a path of introspection that I’ve been avoiding for a long time. He basically said that everyone has a crappy childhood and suffers their own kinds of pain, even the people that claim theirs didn’t suck and maybe especially them. And then the panel went on to not judging people based on appearances and all that lovely stuff, but I kind of got stuck there, amidst my own musings. I’ve always felt a little guilty that I was never really bullied by my peers, which, looking back, I have absolutely no explanation for. Over and over I’ve heard stories of people being picked on, beat up and things like that, but I’ve never been able to relate to that kind of torment and, so, even among “my people”, I’ve felt a little odd. It was almost as if I felt like I had missed out on a very important initiation that left me outside of really belonging to this group that I love so much. But when Javi said what he said, I asked myself a horrible and revealing question: What were my pains? Wow. It was all I could do to not burst into tears, sitting there on the third row. So, yeah, I’ve done my time. I have suffered to say “no” to being what people want me to be and just to be who I am. I’m not going to go into details here, because this is way too public of an arena than I’m comfortable with for something that personal, so we’ll just move along.
The evening had it’s own kind of reveals, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, Wheadonesque Burlesque was really fun! It’s kind of amazing that the acts ranged from so vastly hilarious to incredibly sexy, but they pulled it off. I was also sitting on the middle aisle so I got to see Wash’s dino tail up close and personal.
I think I’ll stop there for now as I’m sure I could probably churn out another 1500 words about Sunday. I just have to say that it seems to me that the sentiment among a lot of geek women is rather similar to the “It gets better” campaign and it also seems that it is up to us to make it so.