GeekGirlCon celebrates women of geek culture

The geek will be celebrated and SHE has earned it!

GeekGirlCon will recognize the contributions of women to geek culture. What would our culture be without Wonder Woman, Lt. Uhura or Batgirl? What about the women behind the scenes creating the comics, books, movies, television and games? And don't forget about the fangirls at the comic book shops and behind the consoles.

Last year, the first celebration of female geek in Seattle was a smash hit, and this year the women behind GeekGirlCon are dreaming bigger. I asked Susie Rantz, PR Manager for the Con, what fans can expect this year.

"The reaction to the convention last year was fantastic," she said. "People not only had a great time and got to meet their favorite writers and actors, but they made connections that bettered them as people."

Companies and websites even launched as a result of GeekGirlCon, Rantz noted.
"We want this year's convention to build from those successes."

For the second year, Con organizers expanded the gaming and exhibitor hall. Fans can enjoy an entire floor of tabletop and console gaming, as well as some really fun workshops.

Last year, fans expressed an interested in more networking opportunities. So this year, organizers happily obliged. At GeekGirlConnections, event-goers can plan their careers, network with women who work in their desired career fields, and learn about job opportunities that exist. The room will be filled with people from NASA, SEOMoz, Dark Horse Comics, and other great companies.

The panels and workshops will focus on exploring new career paths or tips for blazing a new job trail from people that turned hobbies into careers.

One hobby-turned-success story, inspired by GeekGirlCon, is Geekquality. Creators from this podcast and website are hosting a panel at the Con this year called "Geekquality Presents: Navigating Geekdom as an Outsider."

Other exciting panels will feature women from EA and PopCap and BioWare, or others that talk about how to land technology jobs, like "Tech Jobs You Never Knew You Wanted" and "A Career as a Lady Coder II: Getting the Job."

Along with Gail Simone and Renae De Liz, a powerhouse group of writers, artists and entrepreneurs will meet that community:

  • Writer/producer Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Warehouse 13, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time.)
  • Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and owner of fangirl gear site Her Universe.
  • Comic book writer Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages, Black Lightning: Year One, Black Cat.)
  • Comic book writer and novelist Greg Rucka (Gotham Central, Wonder Woman, Queen & Country, Whiteout, Stumptown, Elektra) is acclaimed for his portrayal of female heroes and will be featured in the panel Why Men Write Women Poorly and How to Get a Clue.

This year, there have been numerous comic book success stories championed by women. Gail Simone blazed the trail with her runs on Birds of Prey, Secret Six and now Batgirl at DC Comics. Ms. Marvel just got promoted to Captain Marvel with Kelly Sue DeConnick writing and the first issue sold out. Marjorie Liu's Astonishing X-Men is a critical and commercial success and gained mainstream headlines for the gay wedding of Northstar.

The success of Womanthology certainly shouldn't go unnoticed. For those who don't know a lot of about the project, Womanthology is a 350-page comic anthology created entirely by women, with all proceeds going to charity. The project was originally posted on Kickstarter, where the creators raised $109,000, making Womanthology the most successful comics' project and 25th most successful Kickstarter of all time. Renae De Liz, the woman behind Womanthology, will be a special guest at GeekGirlCon this year. She will explain how the project got started and why she decided to do it on her own terms.

With these recent successes I asked Rantz if she felt this is a "breakthrough year" for women in comics.

"It certain feels like women are making some significant breakthroughs in the comic book industry," she said.

Rantz pointed to (Gail) Simone as a fantastic example and leader in this field.

"Not only is she a great writer, but she stands up for and handles herself with so much grace," she said. "I think women are seeing what she's been able to accomplish and realizing they can make that same future for themselves."

Perhaps the most significant changes to women in comics are the costumes. Still sexy, but less cheesecake, these costumes seems to exude femininity AND power. Ms. Marvel is now Captain Marvel and wears a flight suit instead of a one piece bathing suite, Power Girl's hole in her chest is covered, and Psylocke is no longer wearing a thong and heels. What do girl geeks think of these changes? Does a heroine's look matter?

"I do think there are enough people speaking up for a more realistic version of "sexy" when it comes to female comic book characters," Rantz said. "These voices have really made a dent and have forced the comic book industry make some corrections."

In fact, Kelly Thompson, a comic book fan and journalist, wrote a great article titled, "She Has No Head! - No, It's Not Equal." The article demonstrated how women were put in untenable poses and clothes. The article certainly could have made people defensive, but it was presented with clear examples and the comments from all genders were positive.

The reoccurring strategy from comic book publishers seems to only men and boys buy the product. Yet, a recent article quoted the owners of comic book store Comicopia, who said around "thirty-five to forty percent" of their customers were female. That is probably a shocking stat to a lot of people, because most assumed the figure might be more like five percent.

"I think women and girls are sometimes afraid to speak up and say, 'We like these things too,'" Rantz said. "But they are finding their voices now, and are seeing there actually IS a community behind them, supporting them."

Geek culture is not just about iconic female characters. Celebrate the women who create and love it. Guys are welcome. I wouldn't miss it. GeekGirlCon 2012 August 11 and 12 at the Conference Center in Seattle. Click here to buy passes.