Last weekend I was able to attend the fantastic, feminist Geek Girl Con 2014. This is a place of magical girls and feminist friendly dreams in the heart of Seattle, WA. The convention was amazing, by far one of the most supportive communities I have experienced, and the atmosphere really made me feel relaxed, and therefore outgoing!
On my adventure I moderated a panel on Feminist Community Building 101 with Angela Webber of the Doubleclicks, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, Sheena McNeil of Sequential Tart, Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds and Ashlee Blackwell of Graveyard Shift Sisters.
These amazing women gently guided our audience towards the end goal – build a strong sustainable project that makes real change in the world. This post will be a short summary of some of the lessons I pulled away from the panel.
- Pick a niche. Ashlee of Graveyard Shift Sisters had a really good perspective on this, she runs a community focused on horror fandom for people of colour. These kind of niches allow you to be unique and get a lot of opportunities you would otherwise be passed over for. However when choosing your project be respectful of your predecessors, maybe even contact them for help if a similar project to one you would like to start already exists.
- Do your research. It is super super important to think about issues from all sides. Angela mentioned some critiques she received of her popular Youtube video “Nothing to Prove”, where someone had mentioned a lack of people of colour.
With a bit of research you can be more inclusive and realize you may be being insensitive or exclusive to a group without realizing it.
- Do the work. Starting a project is like leveling up in Final Fantasy, you have to grind. No one is an overnight success and in order to get more people on board you need to have an established body of work. It is also important, when reaching out to people around you to contribute, that it is an equal exchange. It’s unfair to ask people to do work for you when you haven’t done anything yourself. A great way to start is creating some kind of web-content for your project. A blog, twitter account, facebook page allows you to add content and accumulate a community.
- Be inclusive. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be mindful of how to make your project inclusive. There are some really really simple ways to make your group appear inclusive, but it is really important to back up any policies you make. A great way to start with this is create an anti-harassment policy and a plan of how to enforce it. Other ways we discussed were specifically mention “all genders welcome” on advertising material, offer child care at events, or make sure events are held in accessible spaces.
- Ask for help. It was pretty unanimous that the panelists at one point had felt shy to reach out to their role models, but now in a position where they had experience and influence they encouraged up-and-comers to contact them. Twitter is a great medium for reaching out to others in the community and keeping in touch with current events in those circles.
- Social Media is your best friend. As previously mentioned, social media will help you contact mentors, build a community, and advertise. Jamie, the twitter queen, stands by her online community, and cites it as a way she has met so many people in the geek world. This helps connect her with the fanbase she is writing for, possible contributors, and guests for her podcast. She also spreads her awesome geekdom on twitter with weekly discussions and events like her Saturday night live tweet of Jem and the Holograms.
- Be strong, but also conscious of your emotional health. Finally it is really important to acknowledge that we are not all Anita Sarkeesian. Since summer 2012 Anita has received death, rape, and bomb threats almost daily. Due to the popularity of her Tropes VS Women in Games project she has been able to unearth much ingrained sexism in the gaming community and shed light on some really problematic behaviours. However not all of us can handle that kind of emotional strain, and that’s okay. No matter what, your emotional health comes first, and if the project becomes too much, prioritize your health.
Alright, that is a brief summary of the shenaniganery at Geek Girl Con. If you are interested in reading more about the convention here’s a blog post from The Distracted blogger – an awesome woman named Kendall I met at the Geek Girl meet and greet. Also a great list here about some of the Geek Girl merchants.