This blog post was originally published as part of the Featured Fatty series onPNW Fattitude; cross-posted with permission from the author and interviewer, Kristine Hassell.
Greetings readers, it’s new feature time with our fantastic featured fatty, Briana Lawrence, also known asBrichibi Cosplays. Welcome Briana!
Thanks so much for having me!
Let’s begin with an origin story. Tell us a little about yourself so our readers get an idea of who you are and how you got into cosplay.
Let’s dim the lights and have an epic city backdrop as I tell the tale of Brichibi Cosplays! [laughs]
Deal! The lights are dimmed! Let’s do this!
So I’ve been a geek ever since the Nintendo was a thing, and I mean the original NES. I’ve been playing video games since I was six, then I got into anime when I was ten thanks to a little something calledVampire Hunter D. I also grew up with a dad who collected comic books, and a mom who sat me down to watch all the Star Wars movies (episodes 4 – 6 at the time) because she felt I absolutely HAD to know who Luke Skywalker was.
Written by GeekGirlCon’s Special Events Manager Maddy Vonhoff
Our special events, such as our annual GeekGirlCONcert, our closing celebration, costume contest, and our Friday night Kick-Off event have been some of the most popular attractions of the con! Past GeekGirlCon performers and special guests have included former astronaut Wendy Lawrence, The Doubleclicks, Molly Lewis, SAMMUS (check out our 2013 interview!), and Unwoman. This year, GeekGirlCon’15 will take place on the weekend of October 10 and 11, 2015 at The Conference Center at the WSCC in downtown Seattle and we want YOU to be a part of it!
We are looking to diversify our performances, speakers, and musical genres from previous years, so don’t be afraid to apply, even if it is not something we have seen or heard at GeekGirlCon before. We’re especially looking for talent that reflects and appreciates the mission of our convention – to promote, celebrate, educate, mentor, encourage, and empower the female geek. Don’t want to apply but know someone who is a great fit? Please pass along this form to them!
Do you have to be a woman to apply?
No, although woman performers and special guests are highly encouraged! GeekGirlCon is committed to representing women geeks of all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, creeds, physical and mental abilities, and familial statuses. All performers must reflect this commitment as well.
Do performers and special guests get discounted badges?
All performers and special guests are eligible for comped badges if they are performing or participating in special events at the convention.
Submissions are open until 11:59PM PST on Friday, May 15.
Please fill out the form here to indicate your interest. All questions and suggestions can be directed to the Manager of Special Events, Maddy Vonhoff, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your interest and we will be in touch shortly!
Once, in my freshman year, I went to a meeting of my college’s anime club. There were a few other girls there, but I was the only Asian in the room. When I walked in, the president of the club greeted me with “Konichiwa!” Perplexed, I thought everyone was greeted that way at the Anime Club, so I just sat down. As others came in, he simply said “hello” or “welcome” to them, in English. He didn’t say “Konichiwa” to anyone else. After the meeting, I explained to him that I wasn’t Japanese; I’m Australian but of Chinese heritage. He looked disappointed. Feeling awkward about that interaction, I never went to another Anime Club meeting.
That was over ten years ago, and I still think about that incident. In retrospect, I’m sure that he wasn’t intending to be racist or to pick me out as being different. But unjustified assumptions and misguided intentions do not make for good relations, nor do they promote for understanding and tolerance.
Assumptions, otherness and stereotyping
As an Asian Geek Girl, I occupy an uncomfortable space where I am the subject of multiple conflicting stereotypes. Obviously, I was female and Asian before I even knew anything of geek culture, but, at this particular intersection of race, gender and geekdom, there’s not a lot of material out there specifically on how Asian geek girls fit into overall geek culture. I find this curious: there’s plenty of information on geeks, girls and Asians separately (or even Asian girls, geek girls, and Asian geeks), but getting the trifecta is much more elusive.
Perhaps part of this is due to the fact that who counts as Asian will vary according to cultural and geopolitical lines: even though my Chinese ancestry typically drops me squarely in the “Asian” category, British census forms, for example, consider “Asian” and “Chinese” to be separate categories. Also, there are distinctions within the realm of what counts as “Asian”, each with their own heritage and contributions to geek culture. Speaking Japanese to an Asian person at an anime club meeting makes assumptions that just because anime is Japanese and that a person who is interested in anime may look (in some sense) Japanese that they are Japanese. On another level, however, it also suggests that the speaker doesn’t care or appreciate the difference between Japanese and non-Japanese Asians: they’re pretty much the same, so you can speak the same language to them.
There’s also the notion of otherness: within geek culture (and society, more generally), there’s an expectation that the norm is a white male. As someone who is neither white nor male, the assumption is that I don’t fit in. Here’s an example of such otherness: Cosplaying is an area where stereotyping becomes quite apparent. Although I’ve not personally experienced anything as insidious as Chaka Cumberbatch’s experience with cosplaying outside my race—which is almost inevitable since there are so few Asian female characters in video gaming (the pocket of geekdom that I’m most familiar with), I have come across several cases of awkward—if not mistaken—identity.
Once, I cosplayed as Lara Croft, and nobody called me Lara Croft. Instead, I got “Asian Lara Croft”. When a (white) friend cosplayed as Lara Croft at another event, nobody called her “white Lara Croft”. She was just Lara Croft. If I had dressed as Chun-Li, nobody would have called me anything other than Chun-Li. Because Chun-Li is Asian, and I’m Asian, there’s something obvious and “natural” about my playing Chun-Li, which would be absent from my playing Lara Croft. I’m the “other” Lara Croft. I can’t be the real thing because I’m the wrong color.
Schoolgirls and ninjas
Like the President of the Anime Club, I’m pretty sure that people who call me “Asian Lara Croft” aren’t doing it maliciously to point out that I’m not white like Lara Croft. After all, I’m pretty aware of the fact I’m not white already. Why, then, does this sort of thing happen?
Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Since you’re not aware of these biases, you can claim to not be racist or sexist, and believe that you are acting in ways that reflect that, even if your actions say otherwise—there are several tests you can take to examine the strength of your mental associations of a race or gender with positive or negative attitudes.
Stereotyping is a form of implicit bias. Psychologist Paul Bloom suggests that stereotyping is a convenient way to make sense of the world when you don’t have enough information about a particular instance. We can use our prior experience of the world and extrapolate in cases to make certain judgments. However, if someone has limited experience with a particular race, then there’s a higher risk of being mistaken in the extrapolation. I think Bloom also assumes that we revise our judgments as we gain information about the world, so that once someone knows that a stereotype is too general, they learn how to not make that mistake again. That said, I’m not sure if that actually happens as frequently as Bloom seems to envisage.
Further, stereotyping results in the oversimplification of complex issues. As Lindsey Yoo pointed out, Asians are often overlooked in the black-white race debate, but oddly fall onto the “white” side of the issue despite being a minority.
And then on the few occasions when they are included, Asian women are commonly separated into two (presumably distinct) categories. Of this, Yoo says:
“My body is constantly orientalized and hypersexualized by people who are more comfortable seeing me on television as a giggling, sexually repressed schoolgirl or whip-carrying dragon lady/tiger mom than they are with seeing me as an empowered individual with a dynamic history and voice.”
Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Thinking about how Asian women are portrayed in geekdom seems to reflect this. From anime schoolgirls (although, note that the schoolgirls need not be Asian; it’s just the fact that anime is itself Asian) to the ass-kickery of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent May or Thuy Trang’s Yellow Ranger, the stereotype is there. What geek culture tells me about people who look like me is that if I’m not wearing a school uniform and looking cute, I’m going to parkour up the wall and karate chop you in the throat. Or, maybe like Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill, I could do some combination of the two.
Thuy Trang as Trini Kwan, the Yellow Power Ranger
Where do we go from here?
It’s all quite disappointing, if it turns out that we stereotype because we’re all operating under some innate need to generalize. So, how do we fix this problem? Happily, implicit biases are malleable, and we can unlearn some of the associations we have between our attitudes and certain groups. While there are many strategies available for overcoming the problems associated with stereotyping, here are two which I think are reasonably straightforward:
Firstly, the need to stereotype and generalize comes from not having enough experience or information. One way to overcome (or at least minimalize) the stereotyping would be to increase the exposure of Asian women in geekdom, in roles besides schoolgirls and ninjas. How about we have more female Asian athletes, engineers, and artists out there? Making Asian women more visible in a broader range of roles would go far to encourage the idea that we can do other things besides giggle and do martial arts.
The second way to overcome stereotyping is to be personally accountable for instances of it. Call it out if you see it and it’s wrong. Ask people why they think that certain claims about groups are valid. Encourage them to examine their own implicit biases. Understand that we are fallible, and we will make mistakes. But even if we wrongly attribute certain features to a group, so long as we revise our beliefs once we discover that they’re mistaken, then I think that we’re on the right track. If it were easy to change stereotyping, we would have done it already!
The latter approach is simultaneously easier and more difficult time than simply increasing the presence of Asian women in geekdom. It’s easier because it’s something that each of us can do, as individuals, with little effort. However, it’s more difficult in that doing so challenges existing views about types of people, and there’s of course the risk of social awkwardness in calling someone out. But I think that overall this strategy allows for people to become more reflective of their beliefs and attitudes, which in turn can reduce the frequency and degree of stereotyping.
I hope that, in the future, I’ll see better, more accurate, representations of people who look like me in various facets of geekdom. To that end, I’d like to consider an ideal from one of my favorite shows.
I am a huge fan of Firefly. I love the idea that, in that universe, parts of my culture which are currently exotic and strange become part of the mainstream. It doesn’t dominate the culture, but it contributes to it. (That said, in my idealized future, people have better Chinese accents than the Firefly cast.) But the crew of Serenity also symbolize something else: they’re a group of misfits from different backgrounds who choose to stay together. Even though they have their differences, they put those aside to work and live together, and actually strengthen their friendships along the way.
Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra in Firefly
Likewise, in the far-flung reaches of geekdom, we are often branded as misfits from the norm. Although that’s now changing and historically geeky domains are now becoming more mainstream, we should still recognize and revel in our differences, not use them to alienate each other. By doing so, we would gain more understanding and compassion for people of different races and genders, and I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.
I’m already picking out my cosplay for GeekGirlCon ’15: Jane the Virgin. The new show, currently airing its first season on The CW, certainly has all the elements to spark a new fandom that would fit right in with the Lumpy Space Princesses and Daleks that typically make up the crowd: multiple sets of ill-fated lovers, a cast of dynamic characters (some absurd, some devious), a relatable protagonist at its center, and just enough magic to set it apart from other televised worlds.
I knew my idea was not unique, mainly because it was originated by a collective need. Just like many others, I felt the need of having a voice and to form a space for a community that will represent the women in science of Puerto Rico. A special community dedicated to put in the spotlight Puerto Rican women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This was my personal desire, my aspiration, that I share with many other women and men who expressed their joy when the Borinqueña blog was born.
When I put together this panel for GeekGirlCon 2014, I had two goals. One was to have a good time. The other was to shine a light on how our society tends to view sex and sexuality from only one perspective.
To those who attended the panel, I hope you had fun. It was awesome to see a packed house. I’d no idea we’d draw that many people to our panel. I laughed when reading the “Pool Boy” letter in preparation for the panel and I thought it illustrated our point well: this is how the stereotypical male gaze views women. (God forbid one should be over 40 and not have a bikini wax.)
But the second goal was more serious. I need to thank the questioner who asked why call it “sex scenes from the female gaze?” because that brings in all sorts of gender assumptions that may or may not be true.
Amongst the hostility of current Gamergate debacle, there have been positive, creative and humorous responses. The Doubleclicks, for example, offered internet trolls their own love song. Nonadecimal developed a satirical battle game about arguing online. And this year, Sarah “Chip” Nixon brought 150 sets of social justice class buttons with her to GeekGirlCon.
The internet went crazy the moment it was announced that Gilmore Girls was coming to Netflix on October 1st. It was with good reason, since this witty show had millions of people laughing and crying along with the Gilmore family and friends for seven whole seasons (2000-2007). After an extra seven years of yearning, the time has come to reassess the awesomeness of the nerdy women of Stars Hollow.
Come celebrate and honor the legacy of women contributing to science and technology with a Keynote Presentation and Q&A with former NASA Astronaut Wendy Lawrence!
Wendy Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in ocean engineering from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). She was selected as an astronaut mission specialist in 1992 and worked at NASA for 14 years. Her technical assignments included serving as the Director of Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia and as the astronaut office representative to the space station program for crew training, operations and support. She is a veteran of four shuttle missions (STS-67, 86, 91 and 114) and has logged over 50 days in space. Captain Lawrence is a retired naval aviator with 25 years of service. While stationed at HC-6 and HSL-30 Det ALFA, she made deployments to the North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Kenya. She currently works part-time at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, informing the public about NASA’s spaceflight programs and participating in STEM education programs.
Captain Lawrence will share her experiences and insight of her time in space as well as the importance of STEM education, especially for girls . There will be time for a Q&A so bring your questions!
Then look to the future and celebrate the female geek with Seattle slam poets, Elisa and Rebecca!
Elisa Chavez and Rebecca Shay are spoken word poets living in Seattle, WA. Elisa represented Rain City Slam at the 2014 National Poetry Slam, which placed 7th overall out of 72 teams; Rebecca represented Seattle Poetry Slam, which placed 8th. Both are members of the Seattle Poetry Slam management team, which puts on a great show every week at Re-bar. They love nerdy things and have zero time for misogynistic nonsense; Rebecca has an adorable but terrifying cat.
Elisa and Rebecca will close the night with tales of sidekicks, spaceships, and coming to terms with cherishing and and identifying as a Geek Girl.
This event is free for GeekGirlCon’14 badge holders! This is an event you won’t want to miss!