This October, Sweatpants & Coffee’s Berrak Sarikaya attended GeekGirlCon, a female-positive sci-fi and fantasy convention in Seattle, Washington as a volunteer. According to a blurb on their website: “GeekGirlCon welcomes all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, creeds, physical and mental abilities, and familial statuses to our staff, volunteer team, and events. No “geek cred” is required to be part of GeekGirlCon, whether staff member, volunteer, fan, or convention guest. That means you don’t have to be able to quote every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or have your l33t speak down to join us. We strive for a diverse community of geeks. Anyone who self-identifies as “geek” and supports the achievements of women in geek culture is welcome to be a part of GeekGirlCon.” Nothing not to love about that, right? Berrak sat down to share her experience with us:
What makes GeekGirl different from other cons?
GeekGirlCon’s story is really cool: It actually got its momentum from a “Geek Girls Exist” panel at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. It was a panel dedicated to female geeks and nerds with a huge audience who wanted to celebrate the female geek. From that point, after a lot of planning, the inaugural GeekGirlCon opened its doors on October 8, 2011. Since then, this awesome grassroots-led, all-volunteer organization has continued to grow as a community, celebrating the achievements of women in geek culture.
One of the first things that stood out to me about GeekGirlCon was how uncluttered it was. With big cons, you end up spending hours in line just to get autographs or photos. I was working at the Media Signing table all weekend and we just had a rotation of guests who were there for an hour for anyone who wanted to get a signature, just meet them or even take a picture together. The majority of our guests didn’t charge for their time or autograph there, which was really awesome. Aside from that specific aspect of the size and atmosphere of the con, it’s also completely run by a volunteer staff who are hard at work year-round. In addition to the actual yearly conference, there are also social events throughout the year that keep the community connected and engaged.
Are there men in attendance? What’s the atmosphere like?
Despite the name, yes, there were plenty of men in attendance. Their creed is that “We are the world”, and there is an emphasis on “putting cattiness aside.” GeekGirlCon embraces all types of people who are supporting women in geeky pursuits. If you believe in a woman-positive environment, then you belong at GeekGirlCon. The atmosphere was so great. It felt just like a community of friends hanging out -and yes, that included the celebrities.
Who were the highlight speakers?
A few of the highlighted contributors were:
Denise Crosby, best known as Lt. Tasha Yar from Star Trek: Next Generation
Karen Prell and Red Fraggle from the Muppets
Jane Espenson – as she says in her Twitter profile, if you ship it, she wrote it.
Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is best known for her involvement with Marvel Comics and the evolution of Ms. Marvel (Side note: She had the longest line over the course of 2 hours at the signing table. It took a little bit of wrangling but everyone who was waiting in line was super patient and cooperative.)
Mike Madrid, who joined GeekGirlCon for the third year in a row.
There were a lot of authors there. Can you tell us about that aspect of the con?
It was really a big part of the con experience – especially for me because I met a lot of them at the signing table. It was really awesome to see kids, young adults and even men and women in their 30s and 40s recognizing one of their favorite authors and being so excited about being able to approach them and talk to them about their favorite book, character, or moment. Being a big book junkie myself, I recognize the impact that a book can have in an individual’s life. It was great to see that recognition shared and nurtured by the community at GeekGirlCon.
What was your backstage experience? Why were you willing to give up a weekend in order to volunteer at GGC? Would you do it again?
My backstage experience was phenomenal. I’ve been slowly getting back into the world of comic books, in addition to geek culture in general, and I wanted a different experience than just attending a con and going to different sessions. I wanted to see what it takes to put a con together and make a little bit of difference for the attendees and our celebrity guests. It was also a great way for me to dive into the community. I would absolutely do it again. I’m even thinking about joining the GGC staff full-time. Next year though, being more experienced, I will definitely plan to attend some panels as time allows during my volunteer shift.
How many cons have you attended? Was this your first time at GGC?
This was my first time at GGC and my second con overall. I attended Emerald City Comic Con last year and that was my first con experience. It was overwhelming, to say the least. That’s another reason why GGC was so refreshing. If I had gone just as a guest and didn’t volunteer at the con, the difference would still be noticeable.
Who did you most enjoy meeting?
Amber Benson, hands down.
GGC is for women. Does that mean it’s a more family friendly con? Were there many children there?
It was definitely family-friendly, though I don’t know if it was more or less family-friendly than other cons. GGC is not necessarily just for women, but for elevating and fostering the profile of women in geek culture. I did see the cutest costumes. My favorite was the Trekkie mom who was there with her daughter.
What’s your favorite con moment?
Oh, I don’t know if I can pick just one! It was all so great. Being a huge Buffy fan, though, meeting Jane Espenson and Amber Benson was definitely a highlight!