Geek Girl Con took over downtown Seattle’s convention center this weekend for its fourth annual celebration of the creativity and cultural contributions of nerdy women everywhere. Hundreds of people (many in costume) crowded four floors of the convention center to play tabletop games, attend panels on topics like “Sex Scenes from the Female Gaze,” shop at an art expo, and do kid-friendly experiments in a DIY science zone.
Geek Girl Con’s mission to create community among women in science, technology, and arts took on a feeling of added urgency this year, as sexist harassment of women working in video games has been front-page news these past two months. The importance of forging a more supportive, inclusive culture in those male-dominated realms was brought into especially sharp focus during a packed Saturday morning conversation between Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian and cultural critic Jennifer K. Stuller. Sarkeesian has repeatedly received death threats in recent months for her work calling out misogynistic tropes in video games.
“The most radical thing you can do is believe women when they talk about their experiences,” Sarkeesian told the crowd, to loud applause. Thanks to the work of women’s rights advocates, societal attitudes now outwardly condemn harassment of women in the home, office, and in public spaces. But harassment of women in online public spaces is still an uncertain frontier that’s not taken seriously enough. Sarkeesian says she has filed police reports about especially troubling physical threats, but the police frequently don’t understand the situation. “I can’t believe how many police officers I’ve had to explain Twitter to,” she said. Feminist Frequency is currently planning to expand their work a bit to deal more directly with educating people about online harassment, including sharing strategies for dealing with harassment constructively. Sarkeesian said that she is often asked how to best support people who are being harassed. There’s no easy solution, she said, but community is crucial. “I don’t have any answers for that except that it’s important for people to speak up in support,” she said.
Geek Girl Con and Feminist Frequency both resonate with a major cultural moment, as giant tech companies like Google finally seem to be waking up to the need to be more inclusive and diverse. While Sarkeesian’s experience spelled out some very troubling problems that women face as they seek to make geek culture less sexist, Geek Girl Con itself had an upbeat feel, with people admiring strangers’ homemade cosplay outfits and gushing over 12-sided-die hairclips and Star Trek fanart. Unlike the mob of crowds at larger conventions like San Diego’s Comic-Con, Geek Girl Con felt like a warm and friendly scene. As women swapped art, led imaginary conquests at the gaming tables, and discussed their favorite video games, it was clear that the long-exclusive cultures around technology and geekdom will only benefit from the work women are doing to build nerdy networks that thrive on support.
I took a bunch of photos to give a feel for the covention—here we go.
Beth Myrick of Portland, Oregon sported a hand-sewn Starship Enterprise dress.
Creative reuses for dice abounded.
Aubrey of The Doubleclicks shows you haven’t made it as a nerd rock band until you’ve got your own dice.
At the DIY Science Zone, experts showed people—even space princesses—how to write with invisible ink.
Among dozens of vendors, artist Cinnamon Bonikowski makes “hand-painted pixel art.”
Top-notch nerdy fan art from artist Lolo-ology.
Comics writer Terry Blas tabling for Northwest Press, which focuses on publishing queer-friendly comics.
The gaming hall took over the bottom floor of the convention center. I love that adorable sky bison.
This is the only time I’ve seen a place to get your nails done at a con—Geek Girl Con had not one but three nail art booths!
This crocheted Yoshi outfit was out of control.
This gang styled themselves as punk versions of Sailor Moon’s senshi. Needless to say, everyone thought they were rad.
This steampunk woman’s friend told me, “She made her whole outfit! She’d never tell you, but she did!”
I didn’t recognize half the cosplay outifits at Geek Girl Con—turns out this hand-painted vest is from a Resident Evil character.
Effie Trinket and the tiniest, most unhappy Katniss.
Related Listening: The Evolution of Wonder Woman.
Sarah Mirk is Bitch Media’s online editor.