What is GeekGirlCon?
Alright geek girls, time for a moment of shared self pity. How many of you have felt the pang of loneliness while watching the most current episode of your favorite anime? Who is tired of watching Dr. Who with a room full of boys who can’t understand your female interpretation of time travel? I know I have wished for a way to connect with my sisters in arms…but it’s hard to meet new people, and it is especially difficult to search out our nerdy comrades in groups. I mean, we do tend to spend a lot of time in our secluded bat caves, typing away on our computers or bonding with our XBoxes.
Or is it really all that difficult? GeekGirlCon begs to differ with our sad interpretation of the lonely life of a geek girl. This fun band of geeky revolutionists was co-founded by Erica McGillivray, a geek girl extraordinaire and president of GeekGirlCon who evidently decided to quit wishing for large geek girl functions and to just freaking organize one. And organize one she did! GeekGirlCon 2011 was a definite success! Over 4,000 geeksters showed up to celebrate female nerd culture, and CNN wasted no time giving them some coverage by voting them one of the geek heroes of 2011!!
Now GeekGirlCon boasts a staff of almost 40 amazing ladies, and that’s not counting the extra volunteers needed to put on events! But how did these awesome women manage to put all of this together? Well, lucky for you, I had a chance to ask Susie Rantz, PR director of GeekGirlCon, some questions. Who knows? Maybe I can start up a Montana Chapter of GGC!
Q: You had quite the showing at GGC 2011. 4,000 people in two days! How many of those guests do you think traveled from outside the Seattle area to partake in your awesome convention?
A: Around 60 percent of attendees traveled from outside the greater Seattle metro area to attend GeekGirlCon ’11. We even had attendees come from as far as England!
Q: A lot of organization went into GeekGirlCon. It seems overwhelming…what type of support systems did GeekGirlCon need to have in place to get the ball rolling?
This answer is from Erica McGillivray, GeekGirlCon president and marketing director:
A: We actually started from scratch! And many of the staff had little or no experience at running conventions. That said, we did reach out to other conventions in the area, both large and small, to pick their brains on how to run conventions. We are also incredibly lucky to have very talented and multi-faceted staff members who have crazy ninja skills and have been able to step up to the plate to make GeekGirlCon the amazing organization it is today.
Q: How did the idea for GeekGirlCon come about?
A: GeekGirCon is a community-driven effort, and it started that way as well. The idea to form GeekGirlCon sparked after a panel called “Geek Girls Exist” at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. Despite this panel being scheduled at the same time as the popular Scott Pilgrim panel, the room was packed. There were people standing outside the door.
A group of women attending the panel began talking about how we could help ensure female geeks had one safe and welcoming place to come together, celebrate their role in geek culture, and empower other women and girls to pursue their own geeky passions. That’s how GeekGirlCon started.
Q: GeekGirlCon is more than just a gathering of girls who love cosplay and LOTR. It is a place for women to express who they are and what they like freely and enthusiastically. Would you agree with me if I said GeekGirlCon has roots in the feminist movement?
A: Certainly a lot of our staff, our fans, and our guests have strong feminist backgrounds. However, there are so many definitions of feminism today, which can make this a pretty tricky question to answer! I’d say there are many people who see GeekGirlCon as having roots in the feminist movement, while other staff members did not necessarily join GeekGirlCon because of this connection.
When you look at the generic description of feminism, it means pushing for social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. In that basic description, we are certainly aligned. GeekGirlCon is really working to accomplish three things:
- Ensure everyone feels welcome: People coming to our convention and events don’t need to have a certain level of “geek cred”—they just have to share our commitment to supporting the achievements of women in geek culture.
- Help change the industries: We believe there is power in numbers. If we come together to demonstrate the true number of female geeks out there, eventually the various companies that traditionally market to males—from comic book publishers to film studios—will acknowledge the female demographic as well. We can’t make a difference if we’re silent.
- Inspire our future generation: Finally, we want to tell girls and women of all ages: pursue your geeky passions and strive to contribute to geek culture—whether it is getting involved in conventions; using your voice to advocate for causes you care about; or finding a job in something like game design, mechanical engineering, or another geeky thing you love.
These three tasks are certainly aligned with issues of equality—in marketing, business, and social behaviors.
Q: While we’re on the subject, what does feminism mean to the GeekGirl Team?
A: We certainly all have a different view on this question, don’t we? And I didn’t think I could answer this question alone, so I polled some other staff members to help me answer. Below are a few others from our staff.
Stephanie Little, marketing assistant: Feminism means empowering women to study STEM career fields. I look forward to the day when my computer science classes have an equal number of men and women!
Susie Rantz, PR manager: I always think of feminism in the broader sense of equality, as I try to fight for equal rights for any underrepresented population. With that in mind, feminism means supporting a person’s thoughts, ideas, and passions without attributing a gender to that person. For example, Marie Curie was an amazing, brilliant scientist—and also a woman.
Melanie Werts, customer service coordinator: To me, GeekGirlCon is just covering the aspect of girls being in the “geeky” industries and supporting those who may get discriminated against for being a woman within that industry. The feminist community is dealing with more of the serious matters, but all in all, our main goal is just to support ALL women, which really brings the two together.
Q: Do you find that geek boys and men are mostly supportive and respectful of your movement?
We have been blown away by the positive support from everyone—geek boys, dads, moms, and even grandparents. The world certainly has its trolls, but at the end of the day, we have made it a goal to surround ourselves with positive, welcoming people. And it has paid off! We have a few men on our staff, around 20 to 25 percent of attendees last year were men and boys, and we hear positive messages from most of the people we interact with.
Here’s one awesome example: We have run into an incredible amount of geeky dads who want to share their geeky passions with their daughters. At GeekGirlCon ’11, around 400 of our attendees were girls under the age of 10. It was an overload of miniature Princess Leia cuteness. And many of these young girls came into the convention hand-in-hand with their dads. That is the kind of positive energy we try to capture.
Q: Right now it seems like a lot of your marketing efforts are focused in the Seattle area. Your movement seems to be gaining national attention, however, with coverage of last year’s event by CNN, and response from the world wide web. Do you see GeekGirlCon becoming a national and international phenomenon?
A: We know there are amazing female geeks worldwide who want to contribute to and join the GeekGirlCon community. And while we are still an incredibly new organization, our goal is to extend our reach beyond Seattle in the years to come. In 2012 and 2013, we plan to host a few events in other parts of Washington state.
We are also hoping to continue to build a community online—through our website, forums, and social media. We encourage anyone looking to connect with other female geeks to head to www.geekgirlcon.com.
Q: You ladies are inspiring confidence and pride in Geek Girls everywhere. That definitely makes you a super hero group, which begs the question – what is the name of your super hero band of misfits? And sorry, Justice League is already taken.
A: Wow, that’s a great question. Our volunteers just voted on their official name: They are the GeekGirlCon Agents. Deputy volunteers, who have a little more responsibility at the convention, are Special Agents. Apparently, we have a lot of FBI fans in our volunteer base!
Aside from that, below are a few other ideas. Note: none of them should be taken too seriously.
- Slayers (darn, Buffy kind of owns that, doesn’t she?)
- The White Panda Kitten Brigade (This actually was the name of our Holiday Party last year, believe it or not) *Author’s Note: Ronnie votes for this one.
- District 13 Assassins
Q: What is the best way for those of us living outside the Seattle area to get involved?
A: There are a lot of ways to get involved. If you are just generally interested in supporting our mission, we do take individual donations (www.geekgirlcon.com/get-
As I mention above, we do hope to expand into other locations at some point. But that doesn’t mean people around the world can’t organize something similar. Whether it is just a monthly meet-up focused on female geeks, TV dinners celebrating great geek characters or shows, or larger events, we would certainly encourage anything that brings people together to talk about who they are and what they love.
Q: Can you give inspired little geeksters out there some tips to starting their own awesome and amazing ventures?
A: Getting started on any big project is incredibly daunting. I think the most important tip would be this: don’t hesitate to ask for help. We were amazed by how many people were willing to chip in and help get GeekGirlCon off the ground and running. A year and a half later, and we still have people asking how they can help. We certainly wouldn’t be here today without the incredible help of our volunteers and the great advice we received from convention and nonprofit experts.
Here are a few other tips for the little geeksters out there:
- Don’t ever forget why you are doing the work: All of GeekGirlCon’s staff members are volunteers. We do this work in the evenings, on the weekends, at all hours we aren’t working our “real” jobs. It can be tiring at times, but when we hear stories from some of our fans, from young girls who want to be a comic book writer one day, it is completely worth it.
- Get to know your fans/customers: One of the reasons I really enjoy working at GeekGirlCon is the fact that I get to meet some amazing people—at our special events, during our All Hands Meeting each month, and at our convention. We truly take their feedback to heart, and I think that has helped us grow and expand.
- Start small: Start with a project you know you can accomplish. Do you want to design video games? Try to start by building a small app first. The sense of accomplishment in checking something off your list will motivate you to do more.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Our convention is getting so close (August 11 and 12), and we are in hyperdrive trying to get all the details ironed out. It’s going to be a great convention! Don’t believe me? Keep an eye on our website, as we’ll be teasing some of the great programming and events in the coming weeks.
Well, that settles that – I love GeekGirlCon EVEN MORE NOW!
So obviously this is a group of super awesome and amazing people (which is why they’re being interviewed on Super Ronnie’s Awesome Blog), and you should all go check them out right now. And book your flights to Seattle immediately.
These geeks and friends have inspired me to take more action and do less talking – and to up the hours I spend on nerdy endeavors. Well, okay, I would have done that anyway. But they’ve made me want to do it in a group environment while accomplishing a goal other than watching 15 hours of TV while making architecture with my bon bon wrappers (the Great Pyramid, I like to call it).
So go out and geekcreate, and remember: being a geek is always cool.