I want to be clear: The idea of “reverse racism” is bunk. It’s made up. It’s not real. Same with “reverse sexism.” The reason why is pretty clear: American culture has a default switch in its cultural and political systems, and that default switch is white and male. Even now, in 2017, most popular entertainment is directed toward a white, male consumer; when women and/or people of color apply for positions ordinarily filled by a white male, they must endure ridicule, scorn, and outright hatred for daring to step up.
So racism and sexism is what happens when people who hold power—who occupy the default-switch position—exercise that power on people who do not occupy the default switch. Racism and sexism is not just a personal action; you can’t employ racism and sexism unless you have the institutional and systemic power to back you up. So the news that some white and male staffers quit independent Seattle convention GeekGirlCon earlier this year, citing reverse racism and sexism as the reason for their departure, fit a pattern that’s spreading through geek culture right now.
It is true that there has never been a better time to be a woman/LGBTQ/POC nerd. But that’s only because until about a decade ago, nerddom was almost exclusively a white, male place. We’ve seen great strides in representation over the past decade: Just about any comics bestseller list is loaded with books by populations who 15 years ago would never have had the opportunity to publish. But the mediocre white dudes are striking back, whining that they have to share their comics shops with gross girls and other “SJWs” and engaging in targeted harassment campaigns on social media.
This is precisely why spaces like this weekend’s Geek Girl Con are so important. We’ve made tremendous strides forward in representation in my lifetime, but regressive forces are actively trying to turn back the clock. Without spaces for nonwhite, non-straight, non-male nerds to network, geek out, discover new work, and promote their own, all that progress could be lost. Featured contributors include Seattle powerhouses like comics writer G. Willow Wilson and Maritess Zurbano (billed as “the only Filipina-American professional stage hypnotist in the world”) alongside nationally known videogaming figures like Lil Chen and Fryda Wolff.
You’ll also find hundreds of comics artists and novelists and assorted nerd personalities, including local institutions like Outsider Comics, Geek Boutique, Clarion West, and the University of Washington. And yes, straight white men are entirely welcome—so long as they’re OK with the fact that it’s not all about them, for once.
GeekGirlCon, Washington State Convention Center, The Conference Center, 705 Pike St., geekgirlcon.com. $40–$55. All ages. Sat., Sept. 30–Sun., Oct. 1.
Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.