I was once accused of being a unicorn. It happened in 2004 and was meant to be a compliment. But I was confused. I’ve never had an affinity for unicorns, so I corrected my accuser. I’m a cat or a hummingbird, but a unicorn? Nah.
He explained: I’m a unicorn because I’m a girl who likes nerdy things. I like Magic the Gathering and can quote Monty Python skits; apparently girls don’t do those things, and to find one was like finding a unicorn. I reflected. Was I a “unicorn”? I guess I did grow up doing “nerd” things with mostly male family and friends, but was I the only one? I didn’t want to believe it was possible. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe in unicorns.
During my young adulthood, I connected with a lot of amazing women, all of whom I love and cherish, but they never understood that side of me. That nerd side. The unicorn haunted me. But then something amazing happened the winter I moved back to Seattle. I learned about GeekGirlCon, a convention that celebrates the female nerd in all aspects of geek culture. And I do mean all aspects. It features women involved in gaming, comics, pop culture, STEM, literature, and the arts. GeekGirlCon provides geeky women and their supporters with an avenue to connect and discuss their loves and concerns regarding the geek community. There is an exhibitor hall (featuring a lot of indie businesses), panels galore (talking about every geek aspect you could think of), a gaming dungeon (yay RPGs!), and even a connections room (for professionals and those school-bound). A whole convention dedicated to female nerds?! Sign me up! And I did, as a staff volunteer (going on two years now).
Many moments and people from my first GeekGirlCon stand out in my memory, but one person in particular I think of more than any other. On the first morning of the con, I was helping direct attendees to the proper lines when suddenly a little girl walked in dressed up as a Darth Vader princess. She wore a pink tutu and cape, with a pink lightsaber in tow. She adorned the outer case of Vader’s helmet with a perfectly placed tiara. Her shirt sparkled in gemmed buttons and glittery letters, proudly declaring her “Darth Makenna.” I asked to take her picture and she gave me the biggest smile, instantly melting my heart. Darth Makenna embodied GeekGirlCon in that one smile. She found a place where she could be a princess and a dark lord. Brilliant. (Note: Darth Makenna was beloved by so many, she now has her own Facebook fan page!)
Being a part of GeekGirlCon has been a marvelous experience. Besides participating in the cool geek events that GeekGirlCon hosts all year long, I’ve also formed lifelong friendships. Just a bunch of unicorns galloping in happiness.
Sadly in the geek culture, women are often isolated and dismissed. We all have war stories. People questioning our “nerd-cred” like it’s some kind of certificate you earn; asking if we even like the fandom displayed on our shirts; assuming we’re at a convention or playing an RPG to be a “good girlfriend.” The assumptions and dismissals are huge. So women are misled into believing they are alone, that their opinions don’t matter in gaming or comics since they’re “not the demographic.”
But this is simply not true. Women are not rare in geek culture; we make up 47 percent of gamers and 40 percent of Comic-Con International attendees. That is almost half, people! Not really rare or mystical. Yet the unicorn myth continues, and women continue to be marginalized in geek culture.
GeekGirlCon believes that everyone deserves to pursue their nerdy passions, without ramifications or harassment. You won’t be quizzed on your fandoms, you won’t be expected to dress in cosplay, and you won’t be harassed because of your gender, age, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The only thing we expect you to do is have fun and be respectful of others. All (yes, guys too!) are welcome! Glitter horn and tail optional.
GEEKGIRLCON Washington State Convention Center, geekgirlcon.com. Kids under 5 free w/adult pass; kids 5–10 $5. One-day pass $30, two-day $45. Sat., Oct. 19–Sun., Oct. 20.