Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Representation of Asians in Film, TV, and Gaming was the first con panel I ever attended, so when I heard they were bringing it back for a fourth edition, I was thrilled.
This year’s #GGCPandas included archeologist-turned-illustrator-and-costume-designer Meris Mullaley, former Japan-based sports journalist and current writer, baker, and cosplayer Tony Loiseleur, GGC Twitter Administrator and self-proclaimed media binger Kristine Hassell, blogger and gamer Sonja Marcus, and former Virginia Tech professor and current video game creator and GGC Manager of Editorial Services JC Lau.
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.
Going into my second Con as both an attendee and a copywriter, I was incredibly excited to attend the panel “¿Como Se Dice ‘Nerd’?” Last year, this panel was without a doubt one of the highlights of my entire convention experience, and this year proved to be no different. Moderated by Sylvia Artiga, a writer and the creator and manager of ¿Cómo Se Dice Nerd?, an online spaced dedicated to celebrating Latinx nerds and their contribution to art, music, and pop culture, the panel explored the fraught yet joyous intersection of Latinidad and geekdom. Artiga’s fellow panelists included Tristan J. Tarwater, a prolific comic and fantasy writer, Isabel Ann Castro, an illustrator who acts as co-founder and art director for St. Sucia, an international Latinx art and literature zine, and organizer for the San Anto Zine Fest, and Joamette Gil, an illustrator, cartoonist, curator, podcaster and publisher.
Image Description: Panelists speak at the “Como se dice ‘Nerd'” panel at 2016’s GeekGirlCon. Source: Sayed Alamy via GeekGirlCon flickr
The panel was guided by a variety of questions surrounding creativity, community, and identity. How does language, nationality, race, and history influence the way Latinx nerds interact with fandoms, hobbies, and geekery in general? What are some of the works or places that make Latinx nerds feel welcome and represented and what feels isolating? How can geeky interests be used to confront issues of colorism, colonialism, and culture clashes in the Latinx community?
The beginning of the panel focused on introducing the panelists, a diverse group of self-identifying Latinx nerds from a wide variety of backgrounds. The panelists immediately reflected on the difficulty of the time in which the panel was taking place. This year, the convention took place during the utter devastation of Hurricane Maria, and the ensuing governmental and aid response (or lack thereof). Artiga and her fellow panelists noted that it was a “heavy time” for the Latinx community, and that GeekGirlCon provided an opportunity for those carrying so much stress and heartache to still recognize how much they simultaneously deserve joy and fun.
The panelists then highlighted some of the ways in which their geekery interacted – and often clashed – with their Latinx identity growing up. As fledgling nerds within a Latinx community, the touchstones of nerd culture that they loved were often seen as “American” (read: white), leaving the panelists in a difficult position in which “American-ness” was both venerated and discouraged. As Tarwater pointed out, “the whiter you acted, the better you could do,” highlighting pressure from within the Latinx community to comply with the forces of assimilation in order to get by. Artiga underscored this point, noting that there is a “painful and complicated narrative of passing into ‘Americanness.’” Ultimately, many of the lessons that the panelists absorbed growing up played into the false narrative that if marginalized people play by the rules of assimilation they will succeed and be accepted. Part of their individual and collective activism lies in recognizing the damage of this narrative, making sure that the Latinx community knows that it doesn’t “have to play the game anymore,” and creating new spaces for Latinx people to thrive without having to adhere to the strictures of a white, capitalistic, colonialist society.
In order to create these spaces, the panelists spoke about the crucial importance of the internet as a tool for communicating, collaborating, sharing work, finding your voice, finding an audience, and, ultimately, expressing yourself independently and authentically. In this way, Latinx creators can push for their own representation, creating media that speaks to their experiences far more directly than anything in the mainstream. The internet also tends to have a snowball effect, creating large-scale change out of small-scale projects and mobilizing people around common goals and experiences. To this end, the panelists highlighted the hashtag #latinxscreate, which provides one such space to share and celebrate Latinx work that is also inclusive of the Black community.
Image Description: Audience members at the “Como se dice ‘Nerd'” panel at 2016’s GeekGirlCon. Source: Sayed Alamy via GeekGirlCon flickr
The panel moved on to a discussion of the challenges facing Latinx nerds and how to face them. The panelists noted how much guilt can be involved in the process of creation for Latinx individuals – a sense that pursuing their passions means betraying both their community and their ancestors. They reflected on the importance of being self-centered rather than selfish, of paying attention to what you are and what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. They spoke of the fact that guilt will inevitably crop up, but alongside it there must be space for a reclamation of happiness and joy, and a recognition that incredible suffering has occurred in the hopes of building a better future.
The panelists then offered a few examples of great representation of Latinx identity within mainstream media, such as characters from “Jane the Virgin” and Cisco from “The Flash,” as well as the re-vamped America comics from Marvel. Alongside these positive representations, the panelists also expressed uncertainty about Claire Temple from “Luke Cage” and frustration over the fact that white brunette actors are often substituted for Latinx characters and that Afro-Latinx women are usually cast as Black characters. Because of the disappointing nature of so much media representation of Latinx identity, many of the panelists spoke about purposefully avoiding content that promises Latinx characters in the understandable fear that they won’t deliver. The representation that is necessary is of Latinx characters as authentic, well-rounded, diverse people – a low bar, but one that mainstream media all too often fails to meet.
Image Description: Panelists speak at the “Como se dice ‘Nerd'” panel at 2016’s GeekGirlCon. Source: Sayed Alamy via GeekGirlCon flickr
The panel concluded with a question and answer period. One attendee reflected on the fact that too many Latinx characters are written by white people and the result is almost uniformly terrible. They wondered where consumers should be looking right now to nurture Latinx creators. In response, the panelists pointed to the aforementioned #latinxscreate hashtag along with the #comesedicenerd hashtag as valuable resources, as well as the power of writing and creating for yourself. They noted that it’s important for Latinx creators to allow themselves space to fail and get it wrong, but that putting their work out their is too important to stay silent out of fear.
Another attendee asked about Latinx-owned businesses to support, to which the panelists noted that many creators at the Con itself were incredible and more than worthy of support. They also highlighted zine fests, creator Patreon pages, and the importance of supporting friends and utilizing community resources, as well as prioritizing money to support independent creators of color. One of the final questions centered around “passing privilege” as a light-skinned Latinx person, and wondered how they could interact within Latinx spaces without bulldozing and taking advantage of their privilege. In response, Artiga noted that “there is space for people to be the scaffolding and make the space” for others to speak, to provide crucial behind-the-scenes support and signal boosting and to use privilege and the energy that privilege provides to call out racism and prejudice where those with less privilege might feel unable to. Ultimately, the panelists also emphasized the fact that light-skinned Latinxs are “part of the story too,” and have an importance space within the larger fight for greater representation of the incredibly diverse Latinx community.
This panel was thought-provoking, beautiful, and an important reminder of the power that creators have when nurtured by an inclusive and committed community. Here’s hoping that the panel will be back to provide additional insight and inspiration at this year’s Con!
(Also, a reminder that, more than three months after Hurricane Maria, nearly half of Puerto Rico’s residents still do not have power and the devastation from the hurricane (and the lack of an adequate governmental response) means that attention and support is as necessary as ever. Alongside supporting Puerto Rican creators, please consider checking out the following links and directly contributing to disaster relief efforts:)
No matter what holiday(s) you celebrate this time of year, we all love to give something back to the people in our lives. Gifts that show our geeks that we care—that we support their interests and passions and love what makes them unique.
For many, this past year has presented difficult trials, and we will continue to conquer them in 2018. These trials will never dull or cease, but we should step back and look to our friends and family, to those who inspire us most. We need to look to our artists, who bring color into our lives. Our dreamers, who show us how magical each day can be. Our philosophers, who challenge what the world should be. And our scientists, who push the boundaries. The geeks in our lives deserve something special, a little something to express our love as we end 2017 and look beyond.
Without further ado, here is the GGC Gift Guide 2017:
Gifts for your Artist
Mudcloth Paper Journal
Beautiful, yes, but what makes these journals from Raven + Lily an amazing gift? They were handcrafted by artisans at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. Raven + Lily works to empower women by employing artisans who otherwise had difficulty finding work, so that they can earn an income to support their families and community. I’d highly recommend taking a look at their mission statement and values while you scroll through their stunning pieces.
I came across this doll while watching Youtuber Jessica Kelgren-Fozard’s October Favorites video. Mia is a Wildlife Photographer. Inspired by a real nine-year-old girl, the description on the back of the box reads: From birds and butterflies to all kinds of creepy-crawlies, I’m just mad about wildlife. Everywhere I go, I carry my camera with me. Because who knows when—or where—a brilliant photo opportunity will pop up? A beautiful photo can tell its own story. I hope that my pictures will inspire other children to love wildlife as much as I do and to take good care of this wonderful planet of ours! Mia also has a cochlear implant, and it’s just a part of what makes her unique.
I started reading Darling a few years back myself, and I can’t sing enough praises for the magazine. Darling is self-proclaimed as “the art of being a woman,” but what initially caught my eye is that they are very vocal about not using Photoshop or other editing programs to alter women’s bodies and faces. The photographs used are beautiful and raw images of very real women. It focuses on a handful of women each issue and discusses their creativity and careers in a positive, supportive, and intellectual light.
Not going to lie, when I first read the description for Refill Your Hearts: Fandom Librarians Recommend Stories to Get You Through the Bad Times, I was a little skeptical. The panel was meant to be a group of fannish librarians providing personalized reading and viewing recommendations for the audience. According to the description, they would focus on uplifting fanfiction, online and self-published fiction, webcomics, tv shows, movies, and other media created by and centered on women; queer, trans-, and nonbinary people; people of color; neurodiverse people; and other marginalized groups. As someone who has read fanfiction for over sixteen years, I was specifically doubtful that the panelists would have read enough fanfiction in enough fandoms to make useful recommendations to the audience. I did love the idea that they might have a couple story suggestions that would fit my preferences, though, and I wanted to see how the panel would play out, so I gave it a try.
As a pop-culture geek, I’m all about the suspension of disbelief. Give me mythical creatures, interdimensional travel, and fireball explosions in the vacuum of space—I prefer creativity to realism. But I also enjoy digging into whether or not fictional realities play by their own rules, and GeekGirlCon ‘17’s “The Science of Wonder Woman” panel did not disappoint.
“The Science of Wonder Woman” was a fantastic discussion of the Wonder Woman film from a scientific perspective. The panelists included astronomer and physics professor Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, forensic chemist and GGC DIY Science Zone project manager Dr. Raychelle Burke, and science writer R.K. Pendergrass.
GeekGirl 2017 has come and gone. It was a weekend of laugher, tears, a pinch of nostalgia, and an enormous amount of fun. As I’ve spent the last week recuperating, I’ve seen an influx online of happy memories, pictures, articles, and thoughts about the weekend. Words of wisdom caught during panels, big smiles after seeing a particularly great cosplay, and shared pride over the community that we’ve built together, we’re all going through a bit of emotional catharsis.
Here are but a few of our favorite moments from the weekend on Twitter and Instagram, recaps and articles on blogs and in the news:
I spent a solid hour in front of the mirror this morning, preparing for the first day of GeekGirlCon 2017. My outfit was already laid out on my hotel bed, and I sat peppy-eyed and ready in front of the mirror, a splay as makeup scattered about. A morning ritual I do often, but something about getting ready to spend the day covering panels, live tweeting, and flat out expressing my geekdom made it all the more special. I mean heck, it was the first day of GeekGirlCon 2017!
When I’m not reading my daily dose of YA fantasy, spending hours regretting my latest playthrough of The Witcher 3’s ending, or rewatching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, makeup plays a major role in my geeky life—all of fashion does, really. Dressing down or dressing up, fashion is just as important to me as a good book or a good game. My (functional, yet decidedly trendy) vestment of choice is a super villain-esque pair of running pants that pass for “real” pants, paired with a leather jacket—just like I waltzed out of the Slytherin common room. I adorn a subtle, but graphically appealing nerdy tee, add a full face of makeup and I’m good to go.
This year we brought back the GeekGirlCon Fashion Show. Tonight, the main stage was lit up with body-positivity, a collection of proud, geeky designers and models—and a surprisingly robust playlist of modern music covers (but like, super geeky covers, I’d never heard “Talk Nerdy To Me” before).
Hosted by Sophy Wong, a designer, maker, and costumer herself, she opened the show with a question: what does it mean to be represented and reflected in fashion, as geeks? Simply put, visibility. Wearing your fandom (quite literally) on your sleeve is showcasing your community. It shows that there are others out there like us, who share our interests. It shows those who are not necessarily apart of our fandoms what we are interested in—it reflects a piece of ourselves. Geek fashion is an ever changing field, and every year more and more designers bring new looks for us to better express our geeky side. Whether casual, a little more daring, and maybe even a bit feminine with some frill, there are so many ways we tell the world “Hey, I love Daenerys—and you should too.”
Who: All ages are welcome! The party will also feature a 21+ area with a cash-only bar.
Admission: Your GeekGirlCon ‘17 pass gets you in for free. If you registered and paid online, you can pick up your pass at the party. If you don’t have a pass, you can still join us for $10 at the door.
Details: This year our theme is Geeky Anniversaries! 2017 is a big year in geekdom—Harry Potter is turning 20, Sailor Moon is turning 25, and Star Wars is turning 40. To celebrate, we’ll be hosting a contest to determine which of the three is the ultimate fandom. Guests can pick their favorite fandom and complete activities to earn points for their team. At 9:00p.m. we’ll tally up the points, and at 9:30 we’ll announce the winning fandom and give one randomly selected member of that team an awesome prize!
Ways to Earn Points: Start planning now to give your fandom an edge. You can earn points by:
Writing your name! Write your name on a piece of paper and add it to your team’s jar at the kickoff party to earn ONE POINT.
Dressing up! Wear a suit, gown, team-pride shirt, or cosplay to earn ONE POINT. If you cosplay a character from your team’s fandom, you will earn a SECOND POINT.
Tweeting! Tweet a team picture with your fandom’s hashtag (#TeamHermione, #TeamMoon, or #TeamRey) and #GGC17 to earn ONE POINT.
Playing Rock Band! Play a Rock Band song at the party to earn ONE POINT.
Knowing trivia! Each fandom team will get a trivia sheet full of questions about their fandom. Each correct answer is worth ONE POINT, plus answering all of the questions correctly is worth an additional FIVE POINTS.
Come out, support your fandom, and begin #GGC17 with a bang! We’ll see you there!
Con Prep is a new series of blog pieces providing tips, suggestions and other ideas as to help you prepare for convention season.
The second installment of Con Prep was written by Guest Contributor Mike James.
Conventions should be somewhere that everyone can have a good time and feel safe to be themselves. But if it’s your first time going to a convention it can be an unusual experience that’s quite different to anything else in the world. It’s important to understand convention etiquette so that you, and everyone else, can have a great time.
Things You Need To Bring
Let’s get started by looking at the things that you need to remember to bring to the convention. Firstly, possibly the most important item is a good, sturdy backpack. There are plenty of things that you will need while you’re here so you need a way to carry them. Remember you may want to buy things or pick up freebies.
Also remember to bring a charger for your phone – many conventions have charging stations, but you usually need to provide your own lead. And it’s also a good idea to bring along some anti-bacterial gel. Lots of people all touching the same things all day can make conventions a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s best to have gel available to clean your hands every so often.
What to Wear
Comfort is key word when it comes to convention wear. You’re going to be on your feet for a significant amount of time so prioritise comfortable shoes over stylish ones. It’s also a good idea to dress in layers, so that you can remove or add if you get too hot or cold.
If you’re playing on cosplaying at the convention, this can be a lot of fun, but it may be best to have some comfortable clothes that you can change into if you overheat or get tired of the attention that outfits inevitably bring.
Conventions are often filled with both famous and talented individuals that you might admire as well as people cosplaying in fantastic costumes. As such, people taking photos is expected at many conventions. But that doesn’t mean you can just start taking photos of whoever you like, from any angle you like. Just as you would in almost any scenario; if you want to take a picture of or with someone, it’s just good manners to ask their permission first. At many conventions this is a rule, so be aware of what is allowed at the convention you’re visiting.
You might want to avoid the embarrassment of asking someone if it’s fine to take a photo of them, but getting caught trying to covertly take pictures is far worse. In most cases, as long as they are not too busy, most people will be delighted to take a photo with you. Just remember to approach them at a time that is convenient – don’t butt into someone’s conversation just to get a photo. And always remember that you are taking up someone else’s time, so be courteous.
Follow The Rules
If you are bringing a costume or anything unusual, it can be best to check the rules or ask the convention directly whether it is acceptable. For example, you might be tempted to bring a hoverboard to your next convention. These slick and stylish personal transportation devices might seem like the perfect way to take the weight off your feet, rather than walking around all day. But it might be the case that devices like these are banned at the convention you’re visiting.
Of course, you want to stand out from the crowd, but be careful that you don’t bring along anything that is against the rules.
Additionally, you should note that each individual convention will have their own rules about what is and what is not acceptable in terms of behaviour. You should definitely familiarise yourself with the rules if it’s your first time at this particular convention – what’s OK elsewhere, might not be OK here.
Get Permission First
This goes for almost anything you want to do. Whether you want to have a chat with someone, hug them, touch a part of their costume, or anything else, make sure you graciously ask if they are happy for you to do so. Even if it seems like something innocuous or something that that wouldn’t bother you, that doesn’t mean that it is acceptable behaviour for everyone. So respect everyone’s space and ask permission before you do anything. And don’t be offended if they say no.
Do you have other tips for con attendees? Let us know in the comments below!