On Presenting at UNLV and Chaos Emeralds

girl-gone-geek-blog-jamila-rowser-unlv-BANNER-new

On Presenting at UNLV…

In October, I was asked to present about diversity in geek culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In November, I did just that.

When I first read the email from the Multicultural Program Coordinator at UNLV I thought it was a scam. It was so unbelievable. She said she was working with the Students Organizing Diversity Activities (SODA) and they wanted to bring me in as a speaker for their upcoming event called Uncensored on November 12th.

I’ve been on podcasts and panels, but I never did something like this before. In fact, I have stage fright. So when I was asked to speak in Vegas I was equal parts honored and terrified. Despite this good news coming during a particularly bad time in my life, I said yes.

It was a rough few weeks for me mentally leading up to the event. I was incredibly anxious the entire time to say the least, but I did it. In fact, I think I did a good job and I’m proud of myself. But I didn’t do it alone. Whenever I doubted myself (which was daily), my SO, brother, family and friends made me think otherwise long enough to get it done.

Speaking of doubting myself, this experience made me realize that I’m too humble. I tell myself and others that I don’t know how I got here. That I’m just lucky or that I slipped through the cracks when no one was looking. I feel like I have Premature Imposter Syndrome; I’m not even worthy of thinking that I’m not worthy. Ain’t that some shit? But, there’s another part of me that knows how hard I’ve worked and that I deserve to be “here”.

I’ve been thinking about contradictions a lot recently. Which you may have noticed because I just mentioned that I feel I’m both not worthy and deserving at the same time. I stumbled across this Walt Whitman quote from Song of Myself recently, and in a few eloquent words he sums up how I’ve come to terms with my seemingly opposing sides,

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

During my speech at UNLV I brought up contradictions several times in regards to enjoying problematic media. I’m a feminist who loves sexist hip hop songs. I’m a woman of color who enjoys some stereotypical characters. I’m confident and insecure. I contain multitudes and I’m cool with that.

… and Chaos Emeralds

sonic-the-hedgehog-image-special-stage-chaos-emerald
My experience as a geek culture blogger can be compared to playing Sonic the Hedgehog. (Stay with me now.) I started blogging because I wanted to talk about the stuff that I liked and I hoped that I’d make some friends along the way. Years later, those are still the core reasons why I continue blogging. Being interviewed, meeting creators, making new friends, speaking on panels and podcasts are all like the special stages in Sonic. The stages where you get to float around this pinball-like maze collecting rings and trying to get the chaos emerald before time runs out. I don’t play Sonic for the special stages, I play it because I enjoy it. But playing the special stages makes the experience even better. For me, the chaos emeralds are when people tell me that Girl Gone Geek inspired them or when I spoke at UNLV.

I hope I get more chaos emeralds, but even if I don’t, I’m still going to keep playing the game.

 

[Most of the photos are by Jemar Souza]
Advertisements

FlameCon’s ‘Transgender Themes In Geek Culture’ Panel

IMG_5462

I attended (and loved) NYC’s first LGBTQ Comic Con, FlameCon! It took place during Pride Month on June 13th at the fancy Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. Geeks OUT presented the con, which is a NYC based nonprofit dedicated to building a better community for LGBTQ geeks. For more about FlameCon read my recap and check out the amazing cosplay.

My favorite panel at Flamecon was Secret Identities: Transgender Themes In Geek Culture. It was moderated by Charles Battersby (Astonishing Adventures) and the panelist included Jennie Wood (Flutter), Lawrence Gullo (Baritaria), P. Kristen Enos (Web of Lives) and Marguerite Bennett (DC Comics, Marvel and Boom).

Transgender Narrative

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Transgender narrative was a big part of the discussion. It’s to no surprise that the further a character is from being heterosexual, cisgender and white, the more they are misrepresented… if they are represented at all. A common and inaccurate transgender narrative is, “I am a man, what if I wanted to be a woman?” Lawrence Gullo suggested the following narrative instead, “I am a woman, what if no one believed me and I had to prove it to people my entire life.”

Sci-Fi & Gender

robots artwork androids 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.wall321.com_89

Science Fiction is known to use aliens and androids as representations of LGBTQIA people instead of actual humans. This not only suggests that the creator views those groups as “The Other,” either subconsciously or consciously, but it also reinforces negative stereotypes about LGBTQIA people. Gullo suggests a way to combat this as a SF creator is to make humans LGBTQIA and gender fluid as well, not just the aliens.

Creators should also stop assigning gender to androids, especially self-aware ones. When you really think about it, it’s completely unnecessary, inaccurate and almost always reinforces gender stereotypes. Assuming that AI would have the same gender notions as humans is more than presumptuous, it’s pretty egotistical.

Positive Trans Media

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

The panel wasn’t only about the negative media representations of trans people. Steven Universe, Dragon Age: Inquisitions, and Saints Row 3 were all praised for being positive trans media.

  • Dragon Age: Inquisitions ran their script for a transgender character, Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi, by trans people and changed it based off their input.
  • Gullo shared an anecdote about his transgender friend who cried when she saw Stevonnie in Steven Universe because she identified with them. Although Stevonnie doesn’t have a gender and Garnet described their fusion as “a conversation”, the character has resonated strongly with genderfluid and trans people. 
  • In Saints Row 3, you can have a male voice actor for a female body and even go to a surgeon and change your sex at any point in the game. It’s completely up to the player.

When In Doubt, Ask

Dragon Age Inquisitions's Cremisius "Krem" Acclasi

Dragon Age Inquisitions’s Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi

Some advice if you’re a cisgender creator nervous about inadvertently misrepresenting a transgender character: When in doubt, ask. It isn’t a creator’s responsibility to make their work diverse, but it is responsible. Jennie Wood summed it up best, “We just want to see ourselves.”

NYCC 2014: Women of Color in Comics

jamila-rowser-girl-gone-geek-blog-nycc-2014-women-of-color-in-comics-panel_9

I was on a panel at New York Comic Con. I still can’t believe it happened. It has always been a secret dream of mine ever since I did my first panel about Women in Comics last year. Coincidentally enough, the same person who ran my first panel, Regine L. Sawyer, asked me to be on the NYCC panel. So everything has come full circle. I immediately said yes of course because it was the opportunity of a lifetime. But right after I said yes, the nerves hit me. I’m not used to a lot of irl attention because what I do (blog) lives on the Internet. So when I get asked to be on panels I’m always very excited and grateful and extremely nervous. NYCC was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I literally thought I was going to throw up. I tried to calm down by telling myself that it’s just my opinions, there’s no right or wrong answer. I’m not giving a dissertation on metaphysics. I’m talking about what I know, which is comics, women and race.
Sonic Eclectic39 8.43.42 AMThe panel was called Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book MediumIt was moderated by Regine L. Sawyer of Lockett Down Productions and the panelist included artist Alice Meichi Li, comic book artist Alitha Martinez, writer and cartoonist Barbara Brandon-Croft, cosplayer Geisha Vi, writer Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith, writer and actor Vanessa Verduga and myself. I didn’t throw up so as far as that goes the panel was a success. But aside from the low bar I set for myself, the panel actually was a huge success. The room was almost filled to capacity, I heard there were over 700 people in attendance.

The description of the panel was, “Diversity. Women in Comics. Both subjects are hot button topics in the comic book industry. However, it isn’t often that both issues collide…” In all of my years attending NYCC, I’ve noticed a lack of people of color focused panels and PoC on panels in general. Despite the fact that NYC is probably the most culturally diverse city on the planet and the NYCC crowd reflects that. As the years went on there were more “The Women of ____” panels, but those panels often lacked women of color. So a panel like ‘Women of Color in Comics’ is something that’s not only necessary but should be regarded as essential.

The very existence of the panel showed two things, the growth of WoC comic fans and creators, but also the need for more representation and accurate representation in comics. Because we all know there’s a lot of misrepresentation of women in comics, but a majority of those women are white. So, we (WoC) are barely in comics to be apart of that misrepresentation. We have not only sexism to fight, but racism as well. This is especially important in regards to science fiction. Sci-fi often depicts worlds that are supposed to be our actual future, and if people of color are not there then they’re writing us out. They wrote us out of the past and now they’re writing us out of the future. I want women and men to understand that equality includes everybody. You can’t ignore the needs of women of color and call it feminism. 

The importance of diversity in comics should be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand its significance. When a person doesn’t see characters that look like them, they begin to feel like they don’t belong. Young girls of color may stop reading comics because they feel like it isn’t for them, which stops them from becoming creators in the future. It’s cyclical. I do believe it’s important for creators of all backgrounds, straight white men included, to be responsible and make sure their stories are as diverse as their readers and the world. However, I think it’s much more important for people of color to create the stories we want to see. We shouldn’t wait for change we should make it.

The most important takeaway was what we can do to make the comic book industry a more diverse one. Coming from a fan’s perspective there are two things that are essential to promoting change and that’s using your voice and your money. Support diverse mainstream creators and comics and diverse indie creators and comics. The fact that there are so many young women who are reading comics now proves that our voice is bigger. We can affect change in the industry because we’re becoming such a large percentage of it. Use your voice to promote these diverse stories, characters and creators whether it’s in person or online. If you’re a creator, don’t be discouraged by the current climate of the industry. It will be tough to break into mainstream comics as a woman of color, but one of the best ways to make sure change in mainstream comics is to be apart it.

Forty-five minutes flew by and it wasn’t nearly enough time to cover everything about women of color in comics, but it was a start. Although the panel was over, the conversation doesn’t have to end. Blog, tweet, post, talk about these issues to help promote diversity.

Shout out to Mass AppealPC Mag (twice) and Flavorwire and Indiewire for covering the Women of Color in Comics panel.