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The Monday after GeekGirlCon ’13 I posted the following on Facebook:

You know . . . I think I’ve exchanged the words “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” and/or, “You amaze me,” with more women in the past 72 hours than I have in my entire life so far. It feels really fucking good.

Before GeekGirlCon, I’d never been part of a female community before – even as a self-identified feminist. Being part of this organization with our passionate, committed, and hard-working all-volunteer staff, and the enthusiasm, support, and collaboration of our extended community has been enormously healing for me – as well as a source of personal and professional growth.

This year’s convention event went above and beyond to create an inclusive and diverse experience, both in terms of identity politics and genre or thematic interests. We bridged academia with career advice, nerdlesque with puppet shows, and cosplay with social justice issues. We had gaming, art, science, and crafty-vendors. The design was beautiful, operations kept things running smoothly, and marketing generated enthusiasm while keeping our public informed. The celebrations and the conversations were phenomenal. We had more programming, panelists, and attendees than ever before. Through year-round programming & events, and some damn fine marketing, we increased our audience by 50% over last year’s convention – and actually sold out before doors opened! And knowing my ambitious GeekGirlCon family – we will strive to be ever-better.

* * *

In the past, people have described the experience of GeekGirlCon as “warm,” “safe,” and “inspiring.” And this year these words were repeated again and again.

For GeekGirlCon ’13, here is a select collection of post-event thoughts, wrap-ups, and suggestions for improvement from press, attendees, staff, and contributors.

GeekWire – “GeekGirlCon: Where you can be whatever you want” by Emily Shahan

“In fact, above all else, it seems to me that acceptance is the main focus of GeekGirlCon. This is apparent from the curated panels to types of vendors and artists on display. . . . the classic nerd stereotype is changing as more women, LGBT folks and people of color step forward and claim their space in Nerd-dom. We are demanding that the media we love so dearly reflect its fanbase — that there are more stories to tell than that of the white, male hero.”

ICV2 – “Separate or Integrate: How Can Geekdom’s Minorities Preserve Safe Spaces at Conventions?” by Rob Salkowitz

“Is nerd culture fragmenting along dominant-minority lines? Will underrepresented voices retreat to their own spaces or continue to push the dialogue forward in fandom’s most populous arenas? . . . Though it is oriented toward women as a deliberate strategy, [GeekGirlCon] in practice represents the very opposite of ‘separatist’ fandom and aims to be an inclusive space where geek dads can bring their daughters and geek moms can bring their sons without the implicit biases that color interactions at other kinds of cons.”

“A couple things on my return” by Sigrid Ellis

“I have no insider knowledge of how Geek Girl Con is run. I don’t know any of the organizers. But, damn, y’all, that operates like a finely-run fan convention. It was like a professional media or comic-con, except run by cheerful, enthusiastic, friendly volunteers who all cared enormously about what they were doing. . . The thing I will remember most about Geek Girl Con is how HAPPY everyone was to be there, how HAPPY everyone was to see everyone else and to all be doing this awesome thing, together, at the same time.”

“Three Years, Three Different Experiences: The Magic of Seattle’s Geek Girl Con” by Megan Christopher

“[W]hile it’s still more intimate than many of its established cousins, in its third year, organizers should have considered renaming Geek Girl Con ’Katniss,’ because the ‘Girl’ was on fire.”

GeekMom – “Why GeekGirlCon Is Uniquely Satisfying” by Corrina Lawson

“I went expecting a regular-style con only with more women. What I found was a community basically throwing a huge getaway weekend. Instead of being exhausted at the end, as I feel like at most cons, I left energized and excited about the future.”

Through a City Geekly – “GeekGirlCon: A Geekly Recap”

“The message I heard over and over again as I spoke to attendees was clear: this is a safe space. As women have increasingly become a part of ‘geek culture’, the harassment they face has also increased. And women who want to work in the comic or gaming industries, or, heaven forbid, who want to be scientists? That’s an uphill battle of Sisyphusian proportions. Yes, thankfully, the game is changing and slowly — so, so slowly — the opportunities are starting to emerge. Organizations like GeekGirlCon are part of that solution.”

“GeekGirlCon 2013″ – by Anne Bean

“How do I describe GeekGirlCon? Do I talk about the gender distribution: maybe 75% women, 25% men? Do I talk about how much more visible queer geeks, geeks of color, and geeks with disability were than at other cons? Do I talk about the high quality of cosplay, the seriously good panels, or the interesting bits that other cons don’t have, like the DIY Science section or the networking section? . . . There are important conversations about women and race and disability and all kinds of neat things! There’s a lot of rad cosplay! There is actual science! There is a non-creepy vibe! . . . It is a magical place.”

Fangirl Confessions – “GeekGirlCon 2013 Wrap Up”

“The most beautiful thing about cosplaying at Geek Girl Con is that the cosplayers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, sexual orientations, etc. The cosplaying community here is respectful of each other. I felt as if I were a part of something special. . . . I have never felt so included in an event as I have here. I felt as if I had just dropped in on some old friends, even though this was my first Geek Girl Con and I was attending alone. I might have showed up alone, but I am leaving with a ton of new friends.”

“You’re Welcome Here: Geek Girl Con 2013″ by Elicia Sanchez

“[R]ight at that moment, it hit me. That special indescribable feeling of security and safety that comes over you when you realize you’ve just stumbled upon a safe space where you can just be you. . . . A feeling of belonging and acceptance, like a huge sigh of social anxiety relief. It may seem to some as a stretch to equate a sticker photograph policy to an encompassing feeling of acceptance, but it really was just my first reminder that not just women, but all geeks were free to be themselves here without the leering eyes of some creeper trying to gawk at tight or suggestive cosplay or some asshole trying to get a picture of a fat ‘slave Leia’ to make mockery of on Reddit. I immediately realized this may not be your average nerd gathering.”

XOJane – “I SPENT TWO WEEKS ATTENDING TWO WOMEN-FOCUSED GEEK CONS AND IT WAS PRETTY AWESOME” by K. T. Bradford

“There were far more men at GeekGirlCon than I expected and they participated at every level: on staff, on panels, and as attendees. And yet GGC people also spoke of the con as a Safe Space. Again, the idea of what is safe differs depending on what type of woman you are, yet I was pretty confident that there wouldn’t be anyone there saying that they ‘want to buy an umbrella [that comes] with an Asian girl,’ no matter the gender. It’s not about banning or even discouraging guys from coming to the con, it’s about making it clear what is and is not valued that leads to a con women can feel safe attending.

So forget any ridiculousness you hear about how cons that cater to specific or marginalized groups are all about self-segregation. They’re not — not completely. Because if the con has all the elements geeks flock to cons for, it will attract all the geeks. And if these cons can attract geeks away from events that foster a hostile environment, then those other cons (and the media entities that support them) will either have to change or die.”

Burlesque Seattle Press – “Bechdel Test Burlesque” by Paul O’Connell

“To understand GeekGirlCon’s perspective, Jo Jo says that she went straight to the source: Jennifer K. Stuller, Director of Programming and Events for the annual conference. ‘We love strong female characters and we love them even more when they are complex and we believe that performance provides opportunities to tell new, challenging and inspiring stories about our favorite female characters and their allies.’”

Fangirl Blog – “GeekGirlCon 2013: Convention Recap” by Tricia Barr

“Once again this year’s convention was a delight. The staff is friendly, the panels enjoyable and enlightening, and the venue is top-notch.”

Geekquality – “We’re Back from GeekGirlCon!” by Tanya

“At the convention, there were a lot more parents with young children, as well as teenage geeks this year. Many times I overheard kids excitedly discussing their favorite comic book characters or games, and it reminded me just how fun it is to discover your hobbies and interests for the first time. There is something really moving about seeing so many young people in a comfortable space where they can feel at ease, while also bonding with their parents who brought them to the Con. That enthusiastic, playful energy wasn’t just limited to the younger set, as plenty of geeks and nerds of all stripes came to GGC, making it a completely sold out event both days.”

ACLU of Washington State – “GEEKGIRLCON: A PLACE FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE FOUND THEIR OWN VOICES” by Alicia Briones

“It’s amazing to see so many women together, contributing to and creating a woman-friendly environment where people can openly speak about their experiences in their field. Many men come to the Con as well, supporting not only their mothers, sisters, friends, wives, and girlfriends, but also showing support for female-created works and incorporating those pieces into their own lives. There is room for both women and men in all these industries. . . . But most importantly, GeekGirlCon is a stepping stone for young girls looking for their voice by being able to interact with women who have found their own voices already.”

Almost Nerdy – “GeekGirlCon: A Growing Celebration of Female Geeks” by SIERRA HOUK

“The inclusive environment that GeekGirlCon creates is a lovely thing to be a part of. Panels ranged in topics from race, consent, and body image in regards to cosplay, self-publishing tips, how feminism is reflected in nerd culture and what it means to be a female nerd, to craft competitions and a fully improvised parody of classic Star Trek episodes. There was something there for everyone, no matter your gender or fandoms. It was obvious that everyone there wasn’t afraid to hold back, whether they were cosplaying as their favorite Batman villain or singing along with one of the nerdy musicians putting on a ninja gig (see: The Doubleclicks pleasing the crowd at their lobby show).”

The Backup Ribbon Project – “Coming Home: Geek Girl Con 2013″

“At Geek Girl Con, found myself connecting with random people with whom I was standing in line to wait for a panel. People told me their stories, asked for ribbons, and gave me their contact information. It was, in a word, overwhelming to see an entire con — including the staff and con com — committed to making geek spaces accessible for all. . . . In two days at Geek Girl Con, I felt more a part of the geek community than I have in more than 20 years of geekdom.”

WatchPlayRead – “My Adventures at GeekGirlCon 2013! Real Geek Girls, Seriously!!!” by Becky Hansen

“Attending GeekGirlCon gave me a feeling of empowerment, a feeling of respect for my contributions, and those of other females, to the world of geek. One of the greatest parts of the con was seeing women of all ages coming together to stand up for geek girls everywhere. There were girls as young as 5 getting dressed up as their favorite characters. An immense confidence filled every nook and cranny of the convention center.”

PopMatters – “Geek Girl Con 2013 Synthesized Pop Culture, Science, Technology, and Critical Inquiry” By Shaun Huston

“While Geek Girl Con has its roots in the experiences of mainstream comics conventions (see the organization’s About page), the event is not, specifically, a “comic-con”. The convention’s tagline, “The Celebration of the Female Geek”, points to this broader mission, which is to provide a safe and welcoming space for women and girls to share and express their geeky pursuits, whether in the lab, at the X-Box, or in the pages of a comic. . . .Other comics conventions will feature academic panels, even parallel academic conferences, and there are, of course, actual comics studies meetings, but I can’t think of another gathering of academics, practitioners, and fans that places comics alongside not just other pop media, but also science, math, and technology. . . .More importantly, unlike other conventions, which are largely promotional in nature, whether from a corporate perspective or that of individual creators, Geek Girl is rooted in the desire for a critical unpacking, interrogation, and re-construction of the category ‘geek’ in a way that is more open and inclusive than is normally possibly in the predominantly male spaces through which fields like comics, computer programming, and video gaming are defined.”

Suvudu – “GeekGirlCon 2013 Wrap Up” BY THALIA SUTTON

“GGC offers a safe place to discuss issues that women face, but upon attending I found that its programming tackled every highly-visible issue within the geekosphere, including bullying, women’s empowerment and equality, minority issues, portrayal of physical disabilities, geek parenting, geek children, cosplay and fashion, and freelance vs. corporate work, just to name a few. Whereas New York Comic Con the week before was a sink-or-swim atmosphere that continued to carry the apparent flag of ‘industry not issues,’ GGC was the stark reverse, a helping-hand mentality focusing exclusively on “issues within the industry” and what to do about them.”

Geek With Curves – “So, GeekGirlCon was amazing” by Amy Ratcliffe

“I have never been to a more organized, low-stress, and fun convention. That’s the surface level. Beyond that, most every panel felt like it was written just for me and every vendor felt like it was chosen for me. GeekGirlCon offered a comfortable space for all of its attendees, and the attitudes and general moods of others reflected that feeling. I never felt like I had to be on guard, and it was beautiful and so damn relaxing.

GeekGirlCon, you are my favorite.”

Off the Written Path – “GeekGirlCon: Fandom, The Next Generation” by Andrew S. Williams

“But ultimately, the number one reason I say that GGC felt like the next generation of fandom is because of how open, diverse, and inclusive it felt. To me, it felt like how fandom and geekdom could be, once we get past the misogyny and homophobia and various market-driven forces that seem determined to tell us how to be a geek in present times, how certain pursuits and books and games are ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. I was only at GGC for one day, but I still felt that in some sense GeekGirlCon represents the potential for what geek culture could become; hopefully it really is a window into the next generation.”

The Lobster Dance – “Geek Girl Con Recaps #1: Creating Safe Spaces in the Period of ‘Peak Geek’” by Leah

“I attended Geek Girl Con in Seattle over the weekend, and it was beautiful.”

Plastic Heroines – “Geek Girl Con ’13 Debriefing” by Wendy

“Summary: Geek Girl Con rocked, and I can’t wait for next year!”

Examiner – “GeekGirlCon 2013 recap, part 1: Uniting all nerds!”

“Fan conventions traditionally bring fans and creators together over shared passions, and at GeekGirlCon panelists repeatedly encouraged audiences to break down the barrier and become creators themselves.”

I Wrote This – “After the Geeks: On Arriving Home from Geek Girl Con” by Rachel Lynn Brody

“I went, I listened, I learned – now what? GGC ’13 gave me a lot to think about, and I’m sure the effects will be percolating and expressing themselves in my work and interactions with others for months to come. I want to look into some of the information from the STEM careers in the humanity – and the acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts & Math, as I learned on Sunday). I have a pile of books to read and notes to parse. I’ve already approached a few artists about cover commissions for upcoming books. I met new people. I had a blast. I’m already looking forward to 2014.”

Black Girl Nerds – Geek Girl Con Podcast

“Attendees Rachel Brody and Jaz will be featured on the podcast to provide us up-to-the-minute information about the event and how important this con is for nerdy girls”

Bitch Media – “Popaganda Episode: Dress Up

“Costumes have an undeniable power. In this show we examine tomboy fashion with founders of upstart company Wildfang, head to Geek Girl Con to talk with cosplayer Chaka Cumberbatch, and dig into sexy Halloween costumes with Portland fashion designer Adam Arnold and designer/retailer Cassie Ridgway.” [*With Transcript]

Have You Nerd – “GeekGirlCon Photo Roundup” By Terra Clarke Olsen

“This past weekend was GeekGirlCon, and boy was it amazing! Meg and I are both staff members, so we were busy running around all weekend. Happily, everyone seemed to have an amazing time! We’re still both recovering from it, so until we have the energy to give a proper report, here are some photos from the event.”

“GeekGirlCon: The Future Is Very, Very Bright” by Michael Shean

“In the end, what I really saw at GGC wasn’t just a supremely well-orchestrated nerd carnival staffed by immensely caring and motivated people, it was a community women of all ages, races and sexualities claiming their own in a community that in many corners still thinks that a woman in a video game tee must have raided her boyfriend’s closet.”

Heroine TV – “GeekGirlCon 2013: Saturday Panel Recap” by Lucia

“[Y]ou may be wondering, “What is GeekGirlCon?” It is a celebration of the female geek, inclusiveness in fan communities, and a place to discuss gender and race in geek culture. This was my first time attending, and the third year of the convention. Entertaining and informative, GeekGirlCon felt like a hybrid between a fan convention and an academic conference, with a hint of a job fair thrown in. I went as press, and was very impressed with how well-organized, welcoming, and downright calm the whole thing was. Seattle may be full of over-caffeinated people (of whom I am very much one), but everyone was just relaxed.”

Wonder and Risk – “You’re Welcome Here: Geek Girl Con 2013″ by Elicia Sanchez

“[R]ight at that moment, it hit me. That special indescribable feeling of security and safety that comes over you when you realize you’ve just stumbled upon a safe space where you can just be you. . . . A feeling of belonging and acceptance, like a huge sigh of social anxiety relief. It may seem to some as a stretch to equate a sticker photograph policy to an encompassing feeling of acceptance, but it really was just my first reminder that not just women, but all geeks were free to be themselves here without the leering eyes of some creeper trying to gawk at tight or suggestive cosplay or some asshole trying to get a picture of a fat ‘slave Leia’ to make mockery of on Reddit. I immediately realized this may not be your average nerd gathering.”

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve updated my blog – and there’s been so much that’s happened over the past year!

Highlights include:

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines – which drew research from Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors (and in which I appear!) – screened on PBS Independent Lens.

(Image Credit: Andy Mangels)

I’ve been speaking about Ink-Stained Amazons, Cinematic Warriors, and Superwomen in Modern Mythology through Humanities Washington at libraries, wineries, and schools across the state – and am bookable for 2014!

I had a blast working in Festival Publications for SIFF 2013 – and loved being a minion for a very special secret Whedonverse screening during the Festival, as well as participating in the forum Sheroes in the Media: From Guerrilla Girls to Women in Film.

Spike, Buffy, and Yummy Sushi PJs

First rule of Secret Screening: We don't talk about secret screenings, only about how they make us feel.

Dr. Amy Peloff, Jo Jo Stiletto, and I talked about Geek Feminism at Western Washington’s VikingCon – and we got to meet the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Geek Feminism

With William B. Davis - aka "The Cigarette Smoking Man"

I contributed a chapter on Lost Girl called, “Choosing Her ‘Fae’te: Subversive Sexuality and Lost Girl’s Re/evolutionary Female Hero” for the forthcoming anthology, Heroines of Film and Television (Edited by Norma Jones; Maja Bajac-Carter and Bob Batchelor).

The anthology I edited and contributed to, Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Intellect) was published.

Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And was celebrated with an epic launch party!

Scoobies FTW (Photo: Guy Eats Octopus)

With the help of my friends, there was a Handsy Puppet Joss Whedon, a Naughty Fan Fic Reading, Trivia, Rupert Giles singing “Behind Blue Eyes”, an Author Signing, Band Candy, and Snoopy Dancing. Drink Specials included “The Class Protector” and “Boinking the Undead.” We had music, limited edition GeekGirlCon buttons, squee-tastic photo ops, costumes, Scoobies and Slayerettes galore!!! Grr. Argh!

More Photos of A Night at The Bronze Here.

I got to talk about comics and gender with some of my favorite people at a Velocity Dance Center Speakeasy Conversation – BOOM! POW! COMICS, GENDER + MOVEMENT.

Boom Pow + Red Boots (Photo: Amy Peloff)

And of course, GeekGirlCon had its third annual convention! We had between 4300 and 4700 attendees – and sold out of passes before we even opened our doors on Saturday. Huzzah!

Plus, I got to make moments like this happen.

Something to Sing About (Photo: AltaStation)

And this – Where I experience Pure Joy.

Red, Karen, and Jen! (Photo by Josh Weiner: GeekGirlCon)

Most recently, Dr. Amy Peloff, Jo Jo Stiletto, and I took our Geek Feminism presentations to the National Women Studies Association Conference in Cincinnati. We were thrilled to have an enthusiastic and engaged audience – especially as we were scheduled at the very end of the conference!

What’s next for The Ink-Stained Amazon? There are a few projects on the table, but unless anything extraordinary presents itself I’ll be taking it easy for the rest of the year. (Though I’m always amenable to extraordinary. So if you think of me for something, let me know.)

Last week I was thrilled to participate in several events surrounding the West Coast Premiere of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines — an inspiring documentary I’ve watched evolve, and helped support, over the past few years.

On Saturday evening, there was a Festival Forum Discussion at the SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center called, “Sheroes in Media: Women and Girls Changing the Game.”

Look at those Sheroes!

Participants included, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan: Director, WONDER WOMEN!; myself: Author, Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology and Programming Director for GeekGirlCon; Daniel Tayara: Reel Grrls youth filmmaker; Megan Gaiser, Chief Creative Strategy Officer and former CEO of Her Interactive, and Marta Smith, IGNITE: Inspiring Girls Now In The Technology Evolution and the audience themselves.

Sunday, the film screened at The Egyptian theater with a post-screening Q&A featuring Kristy, Kelcey Edwards, Andy Mangels of the Wonder Woman Museum and Women of Wonder Day (previously known as “Wonder Woman Day”, cinematographer, Gabriel Miller, representatives from Reel Grrls, and moderator Dustin Kaspar of SIFF.

Afterwards,The Stranger hosted a Superheroine Happy Hour at St. John’s on Capitol Hill — and just around the corner from the Egyptian.

Monday, this Stranger Recommended SIFF pick was featured in a segment on Q13 FOX Morning News promoting Monday’s screening at the Harvard Exit.

In the green room

On the set

Additionally, I was asked by The University of Washington Department of Classics to write a few words on how I got involved with the film and how my experience in the Classics department enhanced my studies at the UW.(Note – The best part of the linked post isn’t what I have to say, but the Tag: “Student Success”)

Check out the Wonder Women! blog for more wonderific photos! Future screenings will also be posted at the blog, lovingly maintained by the film’s Executive Producer, Erin Prather Stafford. (Who I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo with – we’ll just have to get her back to Seattle!)

Great stuff in Seattle this weekend as Wonder Women! The Untold History of American Superheroines comes to Seattle’s International Film Festival for its West Coast Debut!

That means this weekend you have three opportunities to see a 30 foot Ink-Stained Amazon!

Photo Credit: Anita Sarkeesian

More importantly, that’s three chances to see Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines at the Seattle International Film Festival!

The film will be screening: Saturday, May 26, 3:30 p.m. at the Everett Performing Arts Center: Sunday, May 27, 4 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre: Monday, May 28, 6 p.m. at the Harvard Exit

WONDER WOMEN! will also be part of a free panel during the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) titled “Sheroes in Media: Women and Girls Changing the Game.” It will take place Saturday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. at the SIFF Film Center.

Join Kristy Guevara-Flanagan: Director, WONDER WOMEN!; Jennifer K. Stuller: Author, Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology and Programming Director for GeekGirlCon; Daniel Tayara: Reel Grrls youth filmmaker; Megan Gaiser, Chief Creative Strategy Officer and former CEO of Her Interactive, and Marta Smith, IGNITE: Inspiring Girls Now In The Technology Evolution, as they discuss how women, both real and fictional, are represented in American culture. Who influences and controls the media messages we receive about strong women – and how are they internalized by consumers? The event is open to the public.

Can’t make the panel? No worries, we’ll be tweeting from it live over at @wonderwomandoc, hashtag #sheroesSIFF.

Wednesday May 9th, 2012, I will be talking about images of women in media and pop culture with the brilliant, Dr. Amy Peloff, at Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in the Greenwood neighborhood. Marcie Sillman of KUOW moderates!

This free event begins at 7 p.m. – though it’s recommended to arrive early for a seat. These have been seriously popular community evenings and conversations!

Humanities Washington’s Think & Drink program brings hosted conversations on provocative topics and new ideas to pubs and tasting rooms around the state. For more information, please visit humanities.org/programs/think-drink.

And for a taste of the discussion, Amy and I talked with Humanities Washington for their “5 Questions series 5 Questions – Stuller, Peloff Talk Harlots & Heroines in Advance of May 9 Think & Drink Event, By Abby Rhinehart for Spark Magazine.

Haywire

“I don’t wear The Dress.”

I hadn’t heard anything about the new Steven Soderbergh film, Haywire, until about a month before its release. The trailer played at theaters over the holidays and began to show up on television but it didn’t tell me much other than “this is a female led action film.” But it was intriguing enough to put on my must-see list – especially as star, and MMA fighter, Gina Carano , doesn’t look like your average Hollywood action heroine. She actually looks like she could kick ass.

So over the weekend Hubby and I huddled up with some champagne and popcorn at Seattle’s Big Picture theater with the following questions:

Would Mallory Kane be:

a) a ground-breaking female character?
b) a stereotyped female character?
c) a potential icon to serve as reference for future female action protagonists?

The theater was packed, and while waiting, we were treated to these choice words from the drunk assholes behind us:

“I like Girls with Guns! . . . . And Mothra!”

Le Sigh . . . . Yes, I like action heroines and kaiju movies too. But “Girls with Guns?” Women action heroines marketed as titillation for the male gaze, rather than potentially empowering, or even entertaining, pop culture icons for women is part of why their success has been so elusive. (The drunk assholes also hated Hanna – who actually was a “girl” with a gun, and was filmed using firearms more than Kane.)

Carano’s Kane is a woman, and she does have guns. (Her idea of relaxing includes a glass of wine and gun maintenance.) But, thankfully, nowhere in Haywire do we see guns OR Carano fetishized the way we have with say . . . any Angelina Jolie action film.

She’s neither a “female James Bond” or a “female Jason Bourne” as so many reviewers have already stated. (And are descriptives I despise – I hope one day we have enough women action heroes that we can describe them by referencing each other, instead of the iconic male norm).

The plot is fairly non-existent. A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission. The betrayal is a MacGuffin that provides an excuse for 90 minutes of a bad-ass in action. (And, as The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald brilliantly notes, with a phrase I wish I’d coined, an opportunity for “Revenge Cornrows.”)

The fighting itself isn’t over the top or stylized, but actually fairly accurate in its brutality and reminiscent of Daniel Craig’s gut-wrenching hand-to-hand combat in Casino Royale. Carano moves fast, I mean really fast, and I couldn’t help thinking about how the fight sequence between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death had to be slowed down in order for the movements to be seen and appreciated. Carano’s speed made me wonder if something similar had to be done here.

It’s been pointed out that Carano is not yet as charismatic as she could be, but it should also be said that the dialogue in general is pretty goofy. Choice examples include:

“There’s some water in my backpack. Have some.”

“Turn around, punk.”

“Hey, Wonder Woman. You said your piece. Now shut up.”

“Hold up a sec, Mal. Let’s analyze your options.”

I do want to note, and even applaud, Haywire for actually being a somewhat progressive action movie. Here, as with Kill Bill’s The Bride, we have a female action star who is not hypersexualized. Sure, Kane takes what she wants sexually (namely, Beefcake Channing Tatum), but the story never depends on her sexuality and the camera never reduces her to an object of the male gaze. Even as she scoffs about having to play the “eye candy” (Cinnamon Carter she is not) when she does, it’s a tasteful evening gown rather than an excuse to put her in something as revealing as possible.

As a bonus, she’s generally not laden with some of the stereotypical narrative motivations given to other women action heroes: a literal or metaphorical child in danger (Ripley, Conner, Baltimore, Kiddo) or a rape to avenge (Sonja, Salander, Snowblood).

That said, we’re also never given any real reason to care about Mallory Kane – or whether she succeeds. It’s not that she’s unlikeable, but she’s also neither relatable or compelling.

Haywire is a spy/crime/mystery/revenge flick with an early 1970s-era genre feel, right down to the funky groove of the soundtrack. It’s little more than a tried and true tale of a covert agent betrayed by a greedy ex-lover.

Before the movie Hubby had asked me, “So it’s a female action heroine. But does she have a daddy who trained her, supports her, and is the only man she trusts?”

Why yes, in fact, she does. However could this have been predicted!?!? This ex-Marine is the daughter of what we presume to also be an ex-Marine and who now writes military based fiction. He sends her a signed copy of his latest, Desert Assault, that reads “Semper Fi, always – Love, Dad.” He IS in fact, the only man she can ever trust – a man she “could never lie to.” He says tender Daddy things like, “I haven’t shut my eyes since you were born.”

And would you believe her mother is never ever mentioned?

(So, will everyone who ever wants to write a tough female character please read my book? The daddy/daughter trope is played.)

Kane is the only woman in the film and it’s unclear whether this reinforces her status as a relative anomaly or, as we’re reminded by her former contractor and lover, we’re not meant “to think of her as a woman.” Does not considering her femininity save her from stereotyping, or does it undermine her potential as a progressive female action hero?

I feel it’s a bit of both.

Director Steven Soderbegh told Vulture of Carano that, “I wanted to build something around her, and I was looking to do something immediately, to get my head clear. I wanted to do a spy movie, like a throwback to the sixties, and I thought, Instead of a guy, why not her? I can tell you that this exact sentiment was actually expressed in the 1960s.

The Avengers’ co-producer Sydney Newman recalled that at the time they were replacing an actor on the series he thought the role should be played by a woman. He’s quoted in The Avengers: The Inside Story as saying:

“Why shouldn’t Hendry’s role be played by a woman, I thought. God knows, women were, in life, doing incredible things. . . . A woman [on television] actively physical, attractive and demonstrating intelligence would certainly be fresh and different. Now, thinking about it, it was years ahead of the women’s lib movement as recognized by the media today.”

Keep in mind this was 50 years ago. Is a “throwback to the sixties” moving forward? Perhaps. In the film, Kane [SPOILER] kills an MI6 agent. It could be argued that that Mallory Kane is meant to be a action icon capable of killing Bond. I don’t believe this is the message meant to be sent, but as no other government agency is mentioned by name, MI6 is mentioned repeatedly, and Bond solidified notions about the secret agent in our cultural imagination, it does give one something to ponder.

Regardless, while Haywire is essentially a revenge film with no emotional stakes, it’s also female action film that along with another two other action films, Underworld: Awakening (also with a female lead), and Red Tails, led the weekend box office. When two films with woman protagonists in a typically male genre, and another with an all-black cast, none of which are superhero films, can do that, something right is happening for the greater good of our culture.

*********************************************************************************************
The first five minutes of Haywire are available online.

Heroine Content, which otherwise praised the film, notes that this first scene could be triggering for some, as it initially may look like a domestic violence assault. Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly says of this initial scene that “The brutality is sickening, intensified by the shock of seeing a man whale on a woman with an ugliness that, in the grammar of movies, is traditionally reserved for men on men with the expectation of a fair fight. As it happens, the lady — a covert-ops specialist with the pulp-fiction name of Mallory Kane — can take care of herself.”

Our first morning in Paris!!!

We walked from our gorgeous hotel to Le Louvre to have breakfast, aka “petit-dejuner”, at Café Marly. It’s something all the guidebooks say to do (and some websites too). Apparently Parisians think it’s a must do/gauche.

Tea and baguette with butter and jam is something I could live off of so it wasn’t a total loss to us. That said, I’d advise skipping the restaurant, but think the terrace would be lovely people watching in warm weather.

Next, was Le Louvre itself. I have such mixed feelings about this majestic museum. It’s lovely, and full of history. But it’s also filled with people – people walking in all directions, but none looking where they’re headed. People – pushing, bumping, stepping on your toes, keeping you from experiencing artwork and artifacts. The experience becomes navigating visitors rather than enjoying and reflecting on art and culture.

Photo Courtesy altaStation

Because we had other plans for the day, we decided to just see a special exhibition, Art of Alexander the Great’s Macedonia, and return to the larger museum if we had time later in the trip. (Can you believe we didn’t?!)

Oo la la, was it ever a lesson in Frenchness!

First, every Frenchperson is an art critic and historian. They way they pontificate with complete conviction on everything is as astounding as it is amusing.

Second, no one gives a merde about your personal space. Fortunately, I had read David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris before the trip and was prepared with some pointers for handling myself. To paraphrase:

• Don’t leave room between you and anything: One woman next to me actually bent over in front of me to read placards detailing artifacts. As we moved slowly down the line of items on display, she contorted herself in some sort of museum-specific yogic side bend, reached her arms out across the length of my body – almost to where Ryan was on my other side – and felt across the descriptions as if they were braille. As her fingers crawled across the columns of names and dates it was as if she thought she could just crawl across the descriptions to wherever it was she thought she should be.

• Bump as you are bumped – it’s the Parisian way: We began to use the “It’s not my fault” statement learned from our initial hotel experience as a way to amuse ourselves over otherwise potentially frustrating cultural differences throughout the trip. It’s not my fault you were standing there when I walked into you. You shouldn’t have been standing where I was walking! It’s not my fault I brushed past your shoulder so hard you lost your balance and your shoulder is now bruised. I have no idea what your shoulder was doing there anyway. It’s not my fault you were looking at that piece of art and now I’m in your way blocking your vision. You shouldn’t have left space between you and the glass. It’s not my fault the dog pooped on the sidewalk. It’s not my fault most of the cabs in the city are on strike, and I’m not, but if you’re not going to the airport, then I don’t want your business.*

From Lebovitz I also learned to push and bump as good as I got, and soon, I had people apologizing, “Pardon” to me just like a real Parisian!

(Yes! The person being bumped is the one who apologizes – to the bumper! The Pacific Northwest mind boggles.)

Pilgrimage
After Le Louvre we made a pilgrimage to Les Halles in the 1er arrondissement. Les Halles was once a lively central marketplace.

It was torn down in the 1970s and turned into an ugly modern shopping area called Forum des Halles, but the surrounding streets still have a market feel to them and are lined with quaint, yet legendary, restaurants, bakeries, and specialty shops. Lebovitz has a handy guide of what to see and eat on his lovely website.

High on my priority list was a visit, nay a pilgrimage, to E. Dehillerin — the legendary cookware shop frequented by the likes of Julia Child and Ina Garten — aka “The French Chef” and “The Barefoot Contessa” respectively.

"Dehillerin was the kitchen-equipment store of all time." - Julia Child

Jen – to the dear husband who has gifted her with this trip: “Okay, you realize this is important.”

Ryan – the dear husband: “Of course!!! I will be both reverent and silent. . . . . Oh my God, it’s a duck wearing a scarf!!!!”

Yes. There in the window of the shop was indeed a duck wearing a scarf. I’ve come to expect this sort of exclamation, so I gave the guy a big kiss.

Inside we perused the shelves of gadgets, industrial-size soup pots, copper pans, knives, food mills, wooden spoons, cookie cutters and more.

A Happy Happy Woman. (Photo courtesy altaStation)

I limited myself to an olive wood salt holder (and would later buy obscene amounts of hand-harvested sea salt to fill it with), a wooden spoon, and a holiday tree cookie cutter – all made in France. Next time, I plan to buy one of their famous copper pots.

The store has a framed photo of Julia Child in a place of honor. The man behind the counter wrapping my treasures in brown paper teased me when he discovered I did not speak fluent French. Intending to charm him, I told him that I was there on a pilgrimage and pointed to the photo of our cooking icon. Smiling he said, “Ah, yes! Julia. She was here quite a lot.” Then he asked me if I’d seen the movie (referring, of course, to the film, Julie and Julia) then proceeded to chat with everyone around him, employee and customer, in English and in French about the film.

This seems inefficient.
We visited the fabulous G. Detou where I proceeded to buy 5 different kinds of dijon.

I was looking for a few other items, but the small shop was very crowded so I decided to queue up. The thing is, there were three different lines all with seemingly different purposes. Indeed, one line was for having items rung up. Another was for paying for said items. The third was for for showing your receipt and picking up your purchases.

Seemed kind of inefficient. But when traveling, you go with the flow.

Terroir, Appellation, and a 16th Century Wine Cave

Spring Boutique (photo: altaStation)

We didn’t get to see and eat everything we wanted to in the area, as next up we were off to a wine tasting at Spring. The restaurant and boutique hosts private afternoon tastings for small groups in English on Thursdays (and some Fridays).

We first stopped in at their boutique — where I bought the previously mentioned salt —

– and had a glass of champagne. Josh, who would lead of lesson and testing, actually gave us three different smaller glasses in addition to our Crémant for comparison.

Crémant at Spring Boutique

We learned how terroir is the single most important concept in understanding French wine. It’s the flavor of a place. A wine’s taste is influenced by sun exposure, microclimate (even from row to row in a vineyard), soil, and other regional factors. It’s terroir reflects the place the wine came from, and a legally defined terroir is its appellation. In the US we refer to wine by it’s varietal (grape) and in France it’s by region – which is why understanding terroir is so important.

We tried several whites and reds including from Burgundy (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot), but our last taste — a white from Jura – - was enjoyed in the restaurant’s 16th century wine cave. The things one gets to do in Paris!

Côtes du Jura served with Comté

The Handsome Hubby

We were planning to go to Willi’s Wine Bar but were surprised to find they didn’t even open for another hour and a half. (Who opens at 7:30?!?!) We decided to call it a day, and it had been a busy and fulfilling one at that. Back to the hotel for hot baths and an early bed. Tomorrow – Notre Dame!

Planning a trip to Paris? Here are my Relevant and Recommended Links:
Le Louvre
David Lebovitz
E.Dehillerin
Spring
À la Mère de Famille (scrumptious chocolates)
David Lebovitz on Fleur de sel de Guérande

* And here I discover “C’est pas ma faute.” is Very French indeed! In fact, I recall Mr. Lebovtiz discussing this phenomena in his book as well.

The Arrival

Ryan had used the many miles he’d accumulated traveling for work to buy us two round trip tickets to Paris. We were flying business class and only had to pay the taxes on our tickets. Oo la la.

I’d spent a couple of disastrous months as an au pair in a charming city near Versailles at the age of 21. It’s a long story, but suffice to say the only joy of the experience came from weekend visits to Paris. I’d long wanted to return under different circumstances, with a partner, and with the benefit of adult means.

 

 

 

 

We were all set with logistics. Ryan had booked us in a hotel that had received rave reviews on Trip Advisor.

Why, don't you *look* ever so charming?

I set out to research all we should eat, drink, shop, and see. I collected literary passages tied to key places (The Beats and 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, Julia Child and Les Deux Magots, Hemingway and Shakespeare & Co, Zazie and Le Metro), traced maps, made flexible itineraries, booked reservations. It was practically all I could think about!

We arrived in Paris on Wednesday, December 7th in the evening. Ryan had booked a car to take us from Charles de Gaulle to the hotel. It took another two hours to get into the heart of the city but the moon was full and we could watch it through the moonroof. It was raining – a good sign because, as Audrey Hepburn tells Humphrey Bogart in the movie Sabrina:

“This is what you do on your very first day in Paris. You get yourself, not a drizzle, but some honest-to-goodness rain, and you find yourself someone really nice and drive her through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi. The rain’s very important. That’s when Paris smells its sweetest. – It’s the damp chestnut trees.”

Arriving at our hotel, the courtyard, with its tiny Christmas lights was as picturesque as it looked in the photos on their website. The interior of the lobby was tiny, the elevator tinier, but this was Europe. Then I stepped inside our room and my heart sunk. The room was almost as small as the elevator. The bed, which was merely a double, had two hard small excuses for pillows. There were no night-stands. I took a deep breath and decided not to say anything because how often does one get to Paris? I’m lucky to have traveled internationally at all – let alone several times, and with my partner.

But the bathroom shower, while it looked clean, smelled like a high school boy’s locker room. There was some gross bodily fluid or other on the wall next to the toilet. The spare blanket in the closet was covered in hair. There was nowhere to plug in Ryan’s CPAP. It reminded me of places I stayed when I took a tour of Europe at age 14. It reminded Ryan of places he’d stayed while traveling through Europe at 23.

Were we too tired to see the charm? Were we too grown-up to stay in such a place? Were we being too snooty by thinking that maybe we were too adult to stay in such a place? How much would we end up spending by moving to another hotel? Could we rally and move then and there – or should we spend the night and think on it?

That our jet-lagged minds could even form questions at what was now after 9:00pm Paris-time and over 15 hours of travel was of surprise. While I sat there having a muddled debate in my head about privilege, our current finances and our known expenses for the coming year, my husband quietly pulled out his iPhone and booked us for a week at the Westin Vendome. Ryan for the win.

Down the stairs we went. We fully intended to pay for the first evening and just eat the cost. But this was Paris, and apparently checking out of a hotel isn’t always so easy.

You can’t check out. You’ve booked a week. And if you don’t like the room, that’s not our fault. You picked it.”

“You misrepresented it online. We’d like to pay for tonight and cancel the rest of our stay.”

The receptionist picked up the phone, called the manager, and handed the receiver to Ryan who was told that we could not cancel our reservation because it’s just not done and that – -

“It’s your fault. That’s not a good room.”

!!!!!???? Excusez-moi?!?!?!?

We were offered the chance to see other, presumably “better” rooms but had no interest. If you offer rooms in your hotel that even you think aren’t up to par then why the hell would we think that anything else would be better?

We asked what the cancellation policy was and the manager, sensing a losing battle, pulled a figure out of his ass. Before I could argue further, Ryan paid it and we left. (It turns out there is no official cancellation policy on their website and we are American suckers.)

So please now picture us, exhausted, rallying to drag our suitcases through Paris at night (though also invigorated after our first Very French cultural encounter) trying to avoid dog poop (which Parisians en masse refuse to pick up) and finally arriving at the beautiful Westin hotel to find ourselves much, much happier. Twice the price is apparently also infinitely more comfortable.

Tres Jolie!

We made a pact that this comfort would be our Christmas gift to each other. Sealed it with a fist bump. And finally fell asleep.

Bon Noël à nous!

I’ve been trying to get my husband, Ryan, to go to Paris with me for years. Horrible stories about rudeness, free-roaming cats, and lack of attention to what we Americans would consider proper food handling and hygiene had turned him off of the French.

But on a business trip last year he found himself having dinner in a centuries-old farmhouse in Bordeaux. And he tasted the bread. And that marvelous French butter.

And I think the experience may have piqued his interest.

Of course, he’s also traveled to many places in the past decade: Norway and Korea, Germany and England, Australia and Japan – he’s become accustomed to, adept even, at embracing different cultures with grace (or at the very least, professional patience). Some of these places we’ve been able to visit together. But Paris wasn’t yet one of them.

A Surprise for Zazie

On our first date – nearly 13 years ago – we’d sat at the B&O on Capitol Hill, ate cake, and chatted about our favorite books. He said I reminded him of Zazie, the eponymous heroine of Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le Metro.

Zazie is a potty-mouthed, smarty-pants little girl who on a visit to her uncle in Paris for the weekend only wants to do one thing – ride the metro.

But the metro is on strike.

This, naturally, pisses Zazie off to no end.

“Oh, the dirty bastards!” Zazie exclaims. “Oh, the buggers! To think they’d pull a trick like that one me! . . . Oh shit, it gives me a real pain.”

Ryan said that the book was hard to find, and that he would procure me a copy. Procure he did, and presented it to me 2 days later on our next date. (He’d had it overnighted from San Francisco.)

A few years later I found out that the book had been adapted into a film and directed by Louis Malle.

I called local gem, Scarecrow Video, and by coincidence, they had just procured a large inventory and had a copy on VHS which I bought and gave to Ryan.

Zazie dans le Metro was recently released by Criterion, and I dropped a hint on Facebook – something of the ZOMG! variety.

Ryan had been informed by his friend, Kristofor, that whenever a woman posts something on the social networking site with a link and a ZOMG! that means she wants it. So – a none too subtle hint it was.

For my birthday, which, by the way, is also the national French independence celebration, Bastille Day, I received a beautiful copy of the film. I hugged it to my chest and said, “Oh, Ryan. Will you promise to go to Paris with me someday?”

“Sure.”

“For reals?”

“For reals.”

“Even though you don’t like the French?”

“Yes, Jen. I promise I will go to Paris with you someday.”

Not believing him in the least I proceeded to check out the interior material of my new DVD. Nestled inside was an envelope addressed to “Zazie.” The card read “Meet me in Paris” and then had the dates 6 December – 13 December.

I couldn’t believe it!!!!! On y va!

*Illustrations by Jacqueline Duheme from Olympia Press edition of Zazie dans Le Metro.

I am so excited – - The first Geekquality podcast is live!

These awesome women were inspired by GeekGirlCon to create their own community to address Feminism, Race, Ability, Gender and Sexuality in Geek Culture. Take a listen, and follow them on Twitter (@geekquality) and Tumblr for more updates on their website and podcasts.

Additionally, Geekquality read Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology in preparation for their first podcast and there is a bonus podcast where I chat it up with Alice Marie and Elyse!