What geek guys missed at GeekGirlCon

Monica Guzman, left, with Teresa Valdez Klein

Update, 10/14: A grand total of 1,896 people attended GeekGirlCon, organizers said  Friday. The figure exceeded organizers’ expectations “by a lot,” GGC’s Kiri Callaghan wrote in an email. “Our expectations were assumed to be 1,600 at the very most.”

GeekGirlCon, the first ever all-around geek convention designed by and for women, launched in Seattle this weekend to sold-out crowds and rave reviews, with withdrawals already taking their toll.

I can guess what some of you guys are wondering.

What was it like in there?

Some of you know, ’cause some of you went. “I didn’t even have to check my Y-chromosome at the door,” wrote Andrew Williams, a Seattle writer who attended the conference Saturday.  For the rest of you, here are a few things that set GeekGirlCon apart.

The Cosplay

I beamed down to GGC Saturday in a red Lieutenant Uhura Star Trek dress and blended right in. Cosplay showed its modern feminine side, walking the diagonal path between the EMP and the Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms in short skirts and skinny heels or muscle shirts and stomping boots. Turning heads in the hallways were a pair of women painted blue as Star Wars Twi’leks.

Storm Troopers at GeekGirlCon

I believe I saw a BatGirl with a garter. Maybe two.

With so many women about, geek guys stood out. A crew of Storm Troopers posed for pictures with admiring geek gals outside registration. Spike sat next to Buffy in one of several sessions featuring “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” writer (and overall GGC darling) Jane Espenson. And little girls — lucky little girls! — got to see it all and think it normal.

“Not a Disney Princess in sight with this crew. Everyone had a lightsaber or a sword or a stake,” wrote artist Carrie Goldman, who brought her Leia-clad daughter all the way from Chicago to attend. “Some clutched baby dolls alongside giant guns. It was a sight to behold.”

The Content

“I’ve been to several female-power events that reeked of desperation and a feeling of self-loathing,” comics author and GGC panelist Gail Simone wrote on her blog. “This was the opposite, it was a blast from start to end. There was a concert, a masquerade, a burlesque show, it was endlessly fun and FULL of energy.”

It was liberating to be one of many women at session after session, if only because you knew you could say out loud some of the things women whisper to each other at other geek events.

That doesn’t mean you always did.

In some ways, the geek gender gap had to be part of the conversation, if only to assert the reasons why GGC exists in the first place. But talking about the gender gap alone won’t close it. And to organizers’ credit, their convention was in no mood to whine, ruminate or despair.

In addition to panels on managing your career as a coder or how to make an online video game, there were several sessions — mostly about pop culture — that criticized over-soft or overly sexualized characters and demanded something more. But even as we rolled our eyes at “Star Trek: Voyager” character Seven of Nine’s booby-licious body suit, we laughed. How could you not?

In any case, the perspectives stayed positive — and different.

“The panels I attended were some of the most fun, informative and entertaining that I’ve seen – and I’m not just saying that because I want to suck up to the geek girls,” Williams wrote. “I think we did get to see things presented from an angle that is often lacking or underrepresented in ‘mainstream’ geek culture.”

The Heroes

No geek con is complete without a healthy dose of the infectious adoration one panelist called “fannish glee.” No disrespect to Kirk and Luke, but GGC belonged to Leia, Uhura, Starbuck, Buffy, Felicia Day and a number of characters I couldn’t keep straight but I knew were favorites from the gasps and occasional squeals that followed their names.

After my first visit to the EMP’s Science Fiction Museum a couple years ago, I wanted nothing more than to pause life and inhale the umpteen new stories whose posted premises wowed from the exhibit walls.

After GGC, I had a list of ways to catch up to the geek girl canon. Star Trek, Star Wars, “Battlestar Galactica,” “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” — got. “Buffy,” “Dr. Who,” “Fringe” and pretty much every comic — want.

The Community

“The beauty of GGC was its heart,” wrote an attendee named Stephanie. “Organizers, sponsors, volunteers, guests, vendors and attendees alike really believed in the con and it showed.”

It did. The first convention just wrapped and already there’s a sense that GeekGirlCon is larger than itself. And you have to hand it to the organizers. Throughout a year of planning, they’ve grown an idea into a community. It convened here in Seattle. And there’s no doubt it’s sticking around.

“I’d love to live in a world one day where we can have a GeekGirlCon — but not necessarily need one,” organizer Kiri Callaghan told me Monday. “It honestly felt more like a reunion than a convention.”

Mónica Guzmán is a digital life columnist for GeekWire and a community strategist in startups and media who always wanted to go to a “Star Trek” convention but never did. You can find her tweeting away at @moniguzman or reach her via email. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.

Previously on GeekWire: On the scene at GeekGirlCon

  • http://www.bestgeekfriend.com Matt Ebert

    Geek Girls RULE!!!

    • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

      It was really interesting to see geek girls define their own convening and conversation, @mattebert:disqus. I think many of us walked in excited, but not really knowing what to expect. It was especially cool to see how many people came from far away — California, Chicago — because this really is the only thing out there like it. Organizers say they hope it can spread. Hope it doesn’t take too long. I see it doing some good.

  • http://twitter.com/golikebright LikeBright

    Oh, wow! I wish I knew about this. Would love to attend the next event! Feeling lonely surrounded by guys (though great guys!)

    • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

      I know what you mean ;) It really can be tough to strike the right tone when you take a segment of a culture and give it its own space. Hoping GeekGirlCon stays positive.

  • http://fireminx.yelp.com Lily

    and now i’m bummed i missed this!

  • http://polycrafter.wordpress.com/ Laura Cruz

    I went both days this weekend and had so much fun! The panels were great and I was surprised how many vendors were at the Exhibition Hall…Really looking forward to next years con.

    • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

      My favorite vendor was near the front — Crazy Diamond Mosaics, @openid-107572:disqus. Almost shelled out $80 for the Facebook “Like” button one. Just a neat idea: http://www.geekgirlcon.com/geek-about-town-crazy-diamond-mosaics/

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    As a long-time science-fiction convention goer, I always found the more literary SF conventions to be more gender-neutral than, say, the media or gaming cons. Not entirely sure why that was, other than pure literary science-fiction fans tend to have two strikes against them compared to their “normal” same-aged contemporaries (love reading + SF) so all misfits were welcome.

    That said, GeekGirlCon seems to have had the spirit of the best SF conventions and I’m damned sorry to have missed it. Next year. I may even dig out my blue face makeup, silver hair spray and sparkly silver/black costume.

    • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

      I think you’d really have enjoyed the dissection of cultural icons in classic and contemporary pop science fiction, @FrankCatalano:disqus. 

      “I may even dig out my blue face makeup, silver hair spray and sparkly silver/black costume.” This I’ve got to see!

  • Amanda

    It was fantastic — the range of panels and the great vibe made it a wonderful experience. One of my favorite panels was the stunt women (full-body burn effects, martial arts, bull whips, and funny stories).

    It was incredibly well executed & the marketing leading up to it was pitch-perfect and consistent. I loved the mix of attendees & I thought they did a nice job of making it friendly/open to everyone but still clear that the focus was geek women & nerdy girls.I’m looking forward to 2012.

    • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

      “I thought they did a nice job of making it friendly/open to everyone but still clear that the focus was geek women & nerdy girls.”

      Not an easy balance to strike, but yeah. Inclusive tone, for sure.

  • Jediyves

    And I make it in to the photo as a TD.

  • Jediyves

    And I make it in to the photo as a TD.

  • Jediyves

    HA! I’m the Sandtrooper on the left.