If I’m recommending a TV show—or any piece of media for that matter—nine times out of ten I’m talking about a story that’s distinctly women-centric. Stories about women and other underrepresented groups are so incredibly overshadowed in the mainstream that it feels wrong to spend my time and energy celebrating anything else.
However, our media landscape being what it is, I sometimes find myself drawn to books, movies, and shows that aren’t as overtly feminist as I would like. In these cases, I like to think about why, despite its less-than-ideal representation overall, a story still resonates with me. It’s this process of (hopefully legitimate) rationalization that I’ve been going through for the past few years with Mozart in the Jungle.
One of my favorite things about GeekGirlCon is the way provides a space to critique the media we love and discuss how it could be made better. The Do Black Heroes Matter? panel was a perfect example of this. The panelists included writer, filmmaker, performer, and self-described hater on twitter Isabella L. Price, writer and GeekGirlCon twitter administrator Kristine Hassell, and tech professional and self-described Superpowered Diva of Dopeness Risha K.
Isabella set the panel’s tone in her introduction when she explained that this was the panelists’ third time doing this panel and said, tongue-in-cheek, that, “this is old hat. We’ve already solved racism; this is just a refresher course.” Once the introductions were done, she went on to dedicate the panel to Darrien Hunt, a twenty-two year old black man who was shot and killed by police in 2014 while cosplaying as Mugen from Samurai Champloo. Police saw him as a threat, she explained, which is one of the reasons why the fight for representation is so important.
You may or may not have heard of her, but I’ve recently developed a hearty admiration for Sailor J. Slightly newer to the scene and sitting at about 206k subscribers, Sailor J is the “beauty guru” / content creator we’ve only dreamt of until now. She’s witty, smart, funny, and incredibly adept at bringing political and social commentary to the YouTube medium.
Sailor J, or JJ Smith, makes lifestyle vignettes about everything from fandom to the astrology. I first stumbled upon her channel when GETTING A MAN 101 made its way into my inbox—but let’s pause right there, it’s not what you think. Usually guised as a makeup tutorial, Sailor J puts together a satirical manifesto as she openly mocks archaic views about women and ignites a conversation about intersectional feminism through an overly familiar format. “If it rubs off on anything…they’re going to know you’re a witch,” she exclaims to the viewer while buffing foundation across her cheeks.
But, she has something else to say.
The video, just under five minutes, takes you through the steps any beauty guru would. She glenty swipes a light champagne-colored eyeshadow across her lids, but she’s using the gesture to challenge the false perception that women wear makeup for some ulterior motive—to please or attract the opposite sex. In the same vein, How to have Bedroom Eyes takes us through a similar formula. She talks about shading and blending—but it’s more than just creating depth by smudging a dark shade of eyeshadow across the curve of your brow. Whether she’s talking about contouring or criticizing some women’s need to put down other women, Sailor J is combining satire and very real, relevant conversations on an often quiet side of the platform.
Beyond social commentary, tackling political conversations on Youtube can be just as difficult as in the classroom or at work and is something that we seldom see in the beauty and lifestyle corner of YouTube . She caught the attention of sources like Allure when she put out a video titled How To Do Thanksgiving Makeup That Has Nothing To Do With The 566 Federally Recognized Tribes. While writing #NODAPL across her cheeks and mocking Disney’s Pocahontas, Sailor J points out a disturbing trend in “native-inspired looks” that pollute Youtube and social media each holiday season, using makeup as a form of appropriation. “It’s all about your (the white, female content creator’s) convenience, not the wellbeing of a traumatized nation of people.” It’s a conversation that we’ve been been having, but her utilization of the same platform as a direct combatant to the conflict is ingenious.
Sailor J says what we all want to say, what we need to say. She’s gritty, even giving this gamer’s salty vocabulary a run for its money, but she’s right. Content creators, regardless of medium, have the ability to use their platform to build on ideas. From her makeup tutorials to her book reviews, Sailor J is a refreshing light coming from a void where we need better representation and smarter conversations. Makeup can be makeup, there doesn’t need to be a deeper meaning behind which color you choose to blend into the crease of your eyelid, but seeing Sailor J utilize that not-so-basic gesture and turn it into critical commentary on society is something that we need more of. Even shown through the lens of satire, these faux-lifestyle guides and tutorials aren’t as jocular as they may seem, because, rather than mocking the genre, Sailor J is leading an attack on objectification and discrimination. While you might pull a spit-take or two at her jabs and jokes, she truly is, in her own way, guiding us to live a better lifestyle: one where we’re loud and counter the toxic perceptions that we face each day.
It’s time for me to make a confession. I have to admit, dear readers, that even though I look forward to all the amazing panels we at GeekGirlCon offer each year (seriously – so many different topics! So many incredible panelists!) there is one category that I await with an almost feverish anticipation, and that is the sex panels! There is maybe nothing I love more than smart, cool, thoughtful people getting nerdy about one of life’s most confusing, awesome, weird, and wonderful topics: sex.
This past year, GGC17 was graced by the incredible Sex Ed Super Friends! panel. Presented by Planned Parenthood, this panel amassed a slew of the raddest sex nerds around to delve into the complicated, emotional, embarrassing, and oftentimes difficult to talk about world of sex. Whether it was offering compassionate insight, providing recommendations, clearing up misinformation, or much more, the panelists took on attendee question – both anonymous and not – with thoughtfulness, wit, and utter aplomb.
Image Description: A person dressed in a superhero costume dances through a shopping mall. Source: Giphy.
Before delving into questions, the panelists began by introducing themselves. Comprising a veritable murderers’ row of sex education, the panelists represent a variety of experiences and identities. Moderator Liz Andrade is a sex-positive graphic designer who works for Planned Parenthood and has co-founded All Cycles, a grassroots Outreach Project for community members to bring menstrual supplies to folks in need and is a member of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network. Andie Lyons is a Health Educator for the Seattle & King County Public Health department, where she provides direct sexual health education, support and training for teachers providing sex ed, as well as a variety of resources to promote sexual health and wellbeing in the community at large. Forever Moon is a Community Outreach Educator and Teen Council Facilitator at Planned Parenthood in Olympia, Washington, and a self-professed nerd who has been educating about topics of sexuality since she was 17. Dawn Serra is the creator and host of the weekly podcast, Sex Gets Real, and of the annual sexuality summit, Explore More. She also lectures at colleges and universities on sex and relationships and works one-on-one with clients who need to get unstuck around their pleasure and desire. Tobi Hill-Meyer is a multiracial trans woman with well over a decade experience working with feminist and LGBTQ organizations, and one of the few people in the world who can claim to being both an award-winning porn creator and a children’s book author. She currently serves on the board of Gender Justice League and works as Communications Director at Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, along with operating her own media production company, Handbasket Productions, and releasing the recent anthology Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic. Cy Enseñat is a queer pleasure-based sex educator, full spectrum doula, and curandera who works with Babeland, a Seattle-based sex toy boutique which works to create an approachable space for people to explore their sexuality with high quality, body safe products and accessible classes on a myriad of pleasure based topics.
Image Description: Emma Watson as Hermione from “Harry Potter” raises her hand to ask a question. Source: Giphy.
After introducing themselves, the panelists answered attendee questions on a variety of topics. First up was a question about how to support a friend who is doing sex work? The panelists recommended education about sex work and sex workers, including the ways in which many anti-sex work policies are incredibly harmful to sex workers. Like other work, sex workers experience a range of working conditions, and preconceived stereotypes about sex work can fail to adequately represent real-life experiences. Ultimately, resources like the amazing Whorecast podcast – run by queer sex worker Siouxsie Q – can help educate, which, alongside involvement in sex worker advocacy, is a crucial way to support sex workers.
Another panel attendee asked about ways in which to delve deeper into body positivity and fat-positive media. In response, the panelists noted that the more we see representations of ourselves in media, the better we are able to feel about ourselves. In this way, finding community and representation online and in person can be crucial. Some examples of resources to look into included the Instagram hashtag #bodieslikeoceans, the store and community Fat Fancy in Portland, the queer No Lose conference, the porn performer April Flores, the Oh Joy Sex Toy webcomic, the More Fats More Femmes quarterly event in Seattle, and Curvy Girl Sex, an amazing book by sex educator Elle Chase.
Another question centered on the difficulty of accessing sex and having a sex life while facing homelessness, dealing with public and group housing, living in poverty, and other related issues. The panelists pointed out that sex can look many different ways for different people depending on their various situations. It doesn’t have to follow one particular model to provide pleasure. Ultimately, though, there are many barriers in place for marginalized people around their own bodily autonomy and access to fulfilling sexual lives. Because public sex is criminalized and private space is commodified, access to money so often means access to sex in our capitalistic culture. Additionally, sex and sexuality can be hugely important to mental health and general well-being, so devoting energy to these aspects of life are in no way a waste of time, resources, or energy for marginalized people facing such barriers, but rather a necessary form of care and wellness.
Image Description: Characters from the movie “Pitch Perfect” engage in an a capella sing-off, and the caption reads the lyrics “Lets talk about sex baby, lets talk about you and me.” Source: Giphy.
Another panel attendee asked about how to figure out if they are asexual or just having bad sex. In answer to this question, the panelists offered tips and resources to help explore asexuality., graysexuality, demisexuality, and many more identities. They also urged people struggling with whether they are asexual to engage in thoughtful individual contemplation of what sex mean to them and the place it has in their life, since sexuality is incredibly individual and cannot be dictated or defined by anyone but yourself. Perhaps the most important element to keep in mind when going through this kind of questioning is so allow space to change with time, to recognize that identity does not have to fixed, and that changing your mind is incredibly valid.
Image Description: Beyoncé takes off her glasses seductively. Source: Giphy.
Another question asker shared their experience of having come to terms long ago with being a lesbian, and feeling uncomfortable in queer spaces now that they are currently in a relationship with a man. They wondered how to participate in queer spaces while feeling like they no longer quite fit. Dawn Serra, one of the panelists, empathized with this question, sharing that she too had gone through a similar experience and grappled with the same questions of belonging, She – along with the other panelists – advocated for finding bi-specific spaces rather than monosexual queer spaces, recognizing that queerness isn’t defined by a current relationship, behavior, type of sex, or experience, and that many people find themselves in the position of feeling isolated in queer spaces for a variety of reasons.
Lastly, one question centered around how to explore sexuality while working through guilt from growing up in a deeply religious family. The panelists offered a variety of fascinating and thought-provoking responses to this question, including the possibility of finding erotic possibility in their own internalized guilt by exploring taboo, kink, and shame. They also spoke about the intrinsic elements of embodiment and sensuality in many religious traditions, and the potential power of exploring the latent queerness and erotic potential of even the strictest of traditions. One panelist also suggested the Our Whole Lives curriculum offered through the Unitarian Universalist church as a way to explore sexuality and sexual education as a religious person.
Thanks to Planned Parenthood and this amazing group of panelists, I left feeling comforted, inspired, and excited by the potential of nerdy, queer, fat-positive, inclusive, empathetic, and fun sex education to truly transform the ways that we engage with and experience sex and sexuality!
Image Description: Sex educator Lindsey Doe from the YouTube channel Sexplanations riases her fists in excitement. Source: Giphy.
Welcome to February, my fellow geeks! Cliché or not, this month is all about celebrating love in all its forms, whether it be for friends, family, partners, pets, books, movies, games, songs, foods, or, you know, even particularly great gifs.
Here’s looking at you, every image of Gina Rodriguez ever (Image Description: The actress Gina Rodriguez as the character Jane Villanueva from the television show “Jane the Virgin,” looking happy. Source: Giphy)
So, whoever or whatever you find yourself loving this month, consider checking out some of the amazing events coming up, and celebrate your interests, enthusiasms, and passions to their fullest!
Car chases, shoot-outs and frantic fist fights are usually left to the boys… but why should they have all the fun? In an era of girl-power and new wave feminism, it seems only fair that women get an equal shot (or stab, or swing) at the chance to fly through space, race supercars and dangle from skyscrapers. Currently carrying the torch are stunt-girl heroes like Caitlin Dechelle (Wonder Woman, Fast & Furious 7), Zoë Bell (Kill Bill, Thor: Ragnarok), and Dayna Grant (Mad Max: Fury Road, Ash vs. Evil Dead), who are living proof that woman can kick just as many butts as men, even in short skirts and high heels.
Want to join their ranks? If you’re a thrill-seeker who lives for taking on new physical challenges it’s understandable that you might be looking for a career more inspiring than personal training or fitness coaching. Becoming a stuntwoman isn’t easy, but if you think you’re up to the challenge, here are the golden rules for sticking it out in the stunt industry.
“Characters of all sorts in the game’s 5th Edition.”
When I saw Jeremy Crawford’s panel on our roster, I immediately signed up to cover it. No questions asked. Even though I am a D&D rookie myself, it runs in my blood. My dad and his college friends were…how do I put it? Insanely obsessed, dedicated dungeon divers. I grew up knowing his character’s name, Infansnox, as much as I knew to call him dad. My godfather was their Dungeon Master, and they still covet their well worn, hand drawn-map to this day. Somewhere in my parent’s house the original Dungeons & Dragons rulebook and Monster Guide, purchased in Lake Geneva.
Jeremy is a Game Designer for Wizards of the Coast, and was the Lead Designer and Managing Editor of the 5th Edition of the Player’s Handbook. You may also know him for his work on Blue Rose, a game he co-designed with Steve Kenson.
Diversity and Inclusivity in D&D
D&D has been played by people of all ages, race, gender, and sexual orientation for a long, long time. But it wasn’t until more recently that the game actively sought include people of all backgrounds within the bindings of the actual book. It is the nature of fantasy to include everyone, but gaming and roleplaying has been male-centric for quite some time. There is still a pretty large demographic that still associates D&D with white, heterosexual males, much like my dad and his friends. While there will always be room of them at the table, it’s time we pulled up a couple more chairs. This is something Jeremy and is team sought to accomplish with the 5th Edition of the Player’s Handbook.
Wizards of the Coast held a massive public play test that included about 175k different individuals (at the end of the panel, an audience member stepped up and told Jeremy that he participated in this test—he felt proud of the product, like he was a part of it).
They had this game that was already coveted by many fans (and for a long time, at that), but they wanted it to appeal to even more, and they wanted it to appeal to many tastes. It was an attempt to welcome different individuals had hadn’t really been interested before, and welcomed them “into the big tent” of what Dungeons and Dragons is. Veteran players joined in, too, to help piece together and start a discussion.
With the 5th Edition, they wanted people to know that there’s a place for them at the table. There’s a place for everyone.
A few weeks ago, I binge-watched Big Little Lies over the course of one (bad-feeling for unrelated reasons) day. At the end of the day, I was feeling weirder than before, but for an entirely new set of reasons. As far as I can tell, this is the experience many of us have had with the show. We think we may have liked it, but we also definitely feel that there was something off about it.
Big Little Lies is based on a book written by a woman, starring an allstar (if very white) cast of women, and produced by a company founded ostensibly to uplift women-centric stories. Yet, more than anything else, Big Little Lies tells the story of women who, despite being overwhelming rich in access to resources, are still barely surviving the emotional barrage of patriarchal social structures.
Alyssa, wearing a sweater with Darth Vader on it, and holding a stuffed Chewbacca toy and a bag of popcorn. (Source: Alyssa Askew)
New Year, New Staffer! We’re kicking off 2018 with an interview with Alyssa Askew, our Assistant Games Manager. Alyssa has been working with us since early last year, and works with our Manager of Gaming, Alyssa Jones. (Yes, there are two people working on our games team named Alyssa. What are the odds?) Here, she tells us about moving to Seattle, her love of Star Wars, and what it’s like to be a girl detective.
Who are you and what do you do at GeekGirlCon?
I’m Alyssa Askew and I am the Assistant Games Manager. I help the other Alyssa and the rest of the awesome Gaming team create Tabletop and Video Game content for the convention and beyond. My position fluctuates based on what Alyssa and the rest of the team need and I jump in to help wherever I can. This year that meant organizing some tournaments, coordinating signage, writing volunteer job descriptions, and having a whole lot of fun with the team!
What do you do for your day job, when you’re not being awesome as a GGC staffer?
I work in video games! I am currently working as an Administrative Assistant (aka Professional Organizer of things) at Big Fish Games and learning as much as possible about the production and creation of our games so I can continue to work towards my dream of producing games. On the side, I am producing an indie horror game with friends to hone those skills!
Sounds awesome! Tell me more about your indie game! Horror games are not usually my jam (I spook easily!), but helping my friends get organized to make things is a lot of fun and they are super talented. Play throughs have been entertaining because I think I get even more frightened when I know what is about to happen in the game. I can’t wait to see how it shapes up.
Alyssa concentrates as she plays Centipede on an arcade machine. (Source: Alyssa Askew)
Have you always considered yourself a geek?
Oh, probably… When I was about 9, I wanted to have a Star Wars themed sleepover and watch the entire original trilogy in one night. I LOVE geeking out over themes. I invited all my friends over and decorated the living room. We got through half of Episode IV and my friends took over and we watched Titanic. I still hate that movie and I still love Star Wars so I guess I have always considered myself geeky.
Alyssa holding her super cute BB-8 mug! (Source: Alyssa Askew)
What sort of (geeky) things do you like to do in your spare time?
In case it wasn’t already evident, I love gaming! These days, you can most often find me playing Stardew Valley, Overwatch, and a variety of mobile games. When I can recruit friends or family, I love a good board game too.
I am also in my happy place while munching popcorn at the movies or curled up with a novel or comic book with tea (in a geeky and adorable BB8 mug).
What are you currently geeking out about?
Right this second, I am most excited for Black Panther to come out. It looks phenomenal and I’ve probably watched the trailer 30+ times. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I was twelve, so I’m also looking forward to his starring role appearance in Infinity War and try my best not to think too much about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse because December is so far away.
Gaming wise, I just purchased a bundle of twenty or so Nancy Drew games from Her Interactive and they are golden! I’ve been dedicating a fair amount of time to solving crimes as a teenage sleuth.
Girl detective games? That sounds awesome. Who would you recommend these to? I think anyone who read Nancy Drew, watched Veronica Mars, or played detective of any sorts when they were young would enjoy the Nancy Drew series. I mean, who doesn’t want to solve crimes about haunted carousels or mysterious old clocks? They are easy to pick up and play without being hardcore, and while they are a bit silly sometimes, I’ve had a lot of fun with them.
Alyssa dressed as her character from the game Stardew Valley (Source: Alyssa Askew)
Okay, let’s talk about the org. How did you get involved with GeekGirlCon?
I moved to Seattle from Canada early last year and wanted to get involved and volunteer in some capacity straight away. Up in BC, my volunteer life was a huge part of who I was, and organizing STEM events for the Girl Guides of Canada was one of my favorite things to do. I had attended GeekGirlCon and kept checking the volunteer page because I love everything the org stands for, but was intimidated by most of the roles, having never organized a con before! When I saw the Assistant Manager of Gaming position I was really excited because it seemed like a great introduction to convention planning, I had the skill set, and also I really, really love games. I applied for the position and now I’m here!
What is your favorite thing about being a staffer for GeekGirlCon?
The wonderful humans I get to interact with as a result. Being in a new city is scary, but everyone in the org has welcomed me with open arms, taught me so much already, and made me feel at home. The Agents I got to work with at the GeekGirlCon last year were exceptional and their commitment to the convention is inspiring. I can’t wait to work with them again. Finally, our attendees are what make GeekGirlCon so special.
What were your thoughts on GeekGirlCon ‘17? Did you have a favorite moment?
I LOVED my experience at GeekGirlCon ‘17. The whole event was nothing less of magical and I was humbled to be a part of the staff organizing the convention. My favorite moment surrounding the con weekend actually happened virtually. Part way through the weekend, I was checking twitter and saw a friend say they were thinking of attending and asked if GeekGirlCon was a safe space for them. I let others answer, because I thought maybe I was a bit biased, and my friend ended up attending on Sunday! I got to say hello in the midst of running around, and they seemed to be having fun. My favorite moment came on Sunday, the attendees had left, we were cleaning up and winding down from a great weekend. I checked Twitter again and saw the same friend post about what a great time they had at GeekGirlCon ‘17, how glad they were that they attended, and that they definitely would be back next year. Seeing that post made my heart so happy. I love the space GeekGirlCon has created and am proud of how hard everyone is constantly working to make it truly safe and inclusive.
What are you looking forward to for GeekGirlCon in the future?
I can’t wait to see how GeekGirlCon continues to thrive in the coming years. I feel so lucky to be a part of the team and I know the wonderful people involved will make it better every year. I look forward to seeing how the programming changes and grows to be as inclusive and diverse as possible and I am excited about all the wonderful content that I’m sure we’ll line up for next year!
If you think you’d like to be like Alyssa and support GeekGirlCon all year around, check out our available volunteer staff positions!
Happy New Year, fellow geeks! I’ll admit that I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions or spend much time considering the opportunity that a fresh new year brings, but 2017 was a year of embracing what worked for me and letting go of what didn’t, and I don’t want to lose that momentum in the coming year.
Source: Giphy. Description: a gif of colorful fireworks exploding in the night sky.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to focus on in 2018, and I’ve realized that one of the places I still have plenty of room to grow in is making choices based on my hopes and not my fears. I have a tendency to sabotage my own happiness by either saying no to or bailing on good things out of fear that they won’t work out, and I’m making 2018 the year of not letting the panicky voice in my brain run the show. That’s a big ambiguous mission, so I’ve come up with a more concrete challenge to start with, and I’m extending it to all of you, because if I’m going to do something hard, I want to drag as many people along for the ride as I can.
Source: Giphy. Description: the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who holding out his hand to the camera and saying, “Come with me.”
So here’s my 2018 challenge for us all: do one thing you’ve been putting off because of fear.
Sign up for that 5K, put together that cosplay, start that career change, have that hard conversation—whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do but have been avoiding because it’s big and terrifying, let 2018 be the year that you acknowledge the fear and do the hard thing anyway.
For me, this means finally getting back into the world of fiction writing. In college, I wrote two novels and landed a literary agent who got me a contract offer from editor at a major publishing house. I was ecstatic. My agent was working on securing a movie deal now that we had a publisher, and my future was looking bright. Part way through the contract negotiations with the publishing house, my agent called to say that the editor had rescinded the offer without any explanation. She reached out to a few other editors, but the whole process got pretty quiet after that. I took what was supposed to be a short break from writing things for myself to recover from the disappointment of having my plans axed and the fear that maybe the contract had been pulled because I wasn’t a competent writer.
Source: Giphy. Description: George Michael Bluth from Arrested Development walking sadly with his head down.
Six years later, I am ready to end that break. In 2018 I’m committing to write some sort of fiction. I don’t care about length and I don’t care if it’s good enough to share—I’m tired of letting the fear that I will never write anything worthy of publishing stop me from doing something I once loved.
Now it’s your turn. What scary thing are you going to take on in 2018? Share your resolution in the comments or keep it to yourself—either way, may we all own our hopes and tackle our fears in this new year.