WSA: A Death in the Family

That was the subject line.

I had to read Rhonda Wilcox’s email twice in order to process what she’d written.

Dr. David Lavery, the “Father of Whedon Studies”, had passed after a brief hospitalization.

We’d all just wished him a happy 67th birthday.

* * *

Every week, the GeekGirlCon Basecamp sends out a message to the Board of Directors asking: “See anything great lately that inspired you?”

This week I’ve been inspired by friendships that embrace the professional and the personal; by communities that embrace online communication as “IRL”.

For my own process of grieving I want to answer the question by sharing how communities inspire individuals that inspire communities. This radiates out in ways that are measurable – and sometimes in ways we will never know. But this week, I have witnessed firsthand how one person can impact many people – people who go out and do the same.

* * *

When I went back to college in my late twenties, the place for me was in the Comparative History of Ideas program. CHID was founded to inspire interdisciplinary thinking in a community-focused environment. You may recognize in my thinking in its motto:

“The Questions are the Content.”

Shortly after I began the program, co-founder Jim Clowes was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He gave an astounding last lecture to the community before he passed away.

I never had the opportunity to take a course with Jim, or have a conversation with him, but his heart and mind are embedded in the spirit of CHID, as well as its bones. Passion. Community. Deep, reflective, critical, but joyous thinking. Putting your ideas into action. Recognizing your place in history, on this globe, in context, in relation to others.

CHID empowers students to approach scholarly inquiry in non-traditional ways. There is the opportunity for students to lead a Focus Group – a 2 credit course that embraces peer learning within a facilitated, discussion-based classroom. At the time I was starting, Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing, and the series aligned with my research focus – female super and action heroes in modern mythology. Amy Peloff, at the time the academic advisor for CHID, and Kathleen Belew, now an Assistant Professor at University of Chicago, were interested in co-leading a focus group exploring the show and invited me to join them in facilitating.

And this is how I became involved in the Whedon Studies Association, an organization that, like CHID, has seeped into my heart, mind, and soul.

The WSA provided great material for scholarly inquiry and discussion – from journals to anthologies and other edited collections to authored texts.

After graduation from the University of Washington, at age 30, I attended my first Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses – a biennial conference of interdisciplinary thinkers.

It was 2006, and in Barnesville, Georgia, that I met Slayers, Champions, and Big Damn Heroes. I’m marveling now in writing this at how they have been extended chosen family, much more than merely colleagues, for over a decade.

These are people who care deeply about education, and fandom, yes, but above all, they care deeply about the success and well-being of others.

Because of that conference, the connections made there, and yes, my own expertise and tenacity, I published my first book. (Just recently, a student of Kathleen’s approached me at Comic-Con International to say that Professor Belew had recommended the book for a paper. Everything is connected.)

In addition to providing a global community of individuals who support each other intellectually, professionally, and personally, the WSA has inspired how I think, how I live, and how I want to act in this world.

The Whedon Studies Association, along with CHID and the Comics Arts Conference, provided a model for me as Founding Director of Programming at GeekGirlCon.

Because of these organizations, I wanted to facilitate a space where makers, thinkers, writers, artists, and performers could come and be supported, mentored, networked, and celebrated. I wanted a space that was safe and welcoming and encouraging – especially for people who had never had a platform, or who had been discouraged because their ideas were (erroneously) considered too weird, too irreverent, too radical. I wanted to people to connect with each other, and then go out in the world and DO. This continues to be accomplishable only with others. Only through collaboration. Only with community.

* * *

“We will mourn together an incalculable loss.”

That was how Rhonda ended her missive last week when she had told us that the co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association, and The Father of Whedon Studies, Dr. David Lavery, had passed away.

But as with Jim and CHID, David’s heart, mind, and soul are embedded in the DNA of the WSA.

I felt that over the past week, viscerally, thanks to the technology that connects us, globally. I felt extraordinary love and friendship and grief shared across social media. Through email, texts, posts, images, articles, memories, stories, and video. I witnessed generosity in the person who held up her phone to livestream David’s celebration of life over Facebook so that our community could participate in mourning, crying, laughing, stories. Her arms must have been tired, but she held steady for one hour and twenty minutes. So we could be there together.
* * *
When I was asked to speak on fan activism at the Slayage Conference in 2014, I wanted to emphasize the depth, influence, and impact of our Whedon family. Thinking about CHID’s emphasis on rhizomatic community and how it is resonant in Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Willow marveling at how root systems are connected through the earth, like magic, I wanted to visualize that for this group of individuals.
I asked my husband, Ryan Wilkerson, to design an animated web that would illustrate, in movement, the ways our connections radiate out in ways that change the world – important ways. I wanted to celebrate, and acknowledge, with gratitude, how so many of you are contributors to my social, intellectual, and celebratory consciousness.
The result, both in the real world and visualized, is beautiful.


According to Professor John Toews, another co-founder of CHID,
Primary Characteristics of the Rhizome include:
No single Center—multiple centers like nodes that coalesce for periods of time and then dissolve and form new roots and tubers with new nodes from which spring new problems that create new extensions of the network and change the horizons for every participant.


Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 7.51.52 AM


For the chosen family of the WSA, our horizons have been altered with David’s loss. It hurts. It hurts to see others hurting. But we will continue to grow and pollinate. We will nurture each other and our seedlings. So that they may do the same, adding to our web, radiating out.

Because of David’s championing, our network is strong. Our root systems, molecules, and energy are connected. Through the earth.



 Cross-Posted at 


One of my most treasured GeekGirlCon memories involves puppets. Okay, several of my favorite GeekGirlCon experiences involve puppets (looking at you, Puppet Joss Whedonyou handsy bastard), but this one in particular involves the spectacular Red Fraggle and her handler, the extraordinarily talented & singularly kind Karen Prell.

Karen had attended our inaugural con in 2011 for a sing-along screening of Labyrinth at the EMP. We’d held a sock-puppet making workshop earlier in the day, led by our Design Team, and she pointed out some key moments for puppet participation. (Seeing happy geek women & girls singing and smiling and waving sock puppets they made themselves packing the JBL theater was SQUEE.)

In 2013, celebrations for the 30th Anniversary of Fraggle Rock were taking place, and GeekGirlCon was presented with an opportunity to get in on the joy. The Jim Henson Company agreed to loan us Red – but she needed to be flown out with a handler and put up in a hotel. Red was certainly not a diva, and the expense was less than I’d predicted, but more than our entire programming budget.

The Executive Director and I decided it was something too special to not make happen.

So we did.

(Dance your cares away . . . Worries for another day . . . Let the music play . . .)

And it was worth it.

L1010425Karen and Red were delightful in their spotlight session, engaging the audience with song and humor and curiosity. During the audience Q&A, a little girl, held up to the microphone by her mother, asked Red if she knew the song, “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” Red replied that since Fraggles live underground, she didn’t know the song because she didn’t often get to see stars – and asked the child if she could teach her the lyrics.

The little girl was shy, her voice nearly inaudible, and all of a sudden, whispered, gentle voices rose up around the room. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star . . .

Everyone in the room came together, collaborated, shared something as a community . . . Up above the earth so high, like a diamond in the sky . . .

It was heart-swelling tears and sparkling magic and quiet beauty. I’ll never forget the feeling and I cherish that experience. I know I’m not alone.


After the panel, Red and Karen enthusiastically posed for photographs for nearly three hours. Then, seemingly tireless, they graciously signed photos that Karen had brought special for the occasion. (THEN, Karen made sure to seek out and say thank you and goodbye to everyone. As I said, singularly kind.)


IMG_7646This story illustrates just one of the many reasons I am GivingBIG to GeekGirlCon on May 3, and I’m hoping that you’ll accept my invitation to help us make magic.


That may be through #GiveBIG, but it may be by buying a pass and coming to the convention. It could be following GeekGirlCon on Twitter, applying for one of our 100% volunteer staff positions, or coming out to one of our year-round events.

Karen Falk, the Head Archivist for The Jim Henson Company, once told me that Henson created Fraggle Rock with the intention of inspiring world peace. The hope was that the show would both entertain as it taught kids about getting along with people who are different from you, and, about sharing your environment. Falk said that it was one of the most important projects he did.

The mission of GeekGirlCon might not be quite so lofty as world peace – but in celebrating and supporting women & girls in geek culture, we are advocating for shared space. Or, at least a space to sing.


GeekGirlCon Closing Celebration: A Festivity of Fandoms and Friendship – JC Lau

“Our last official event of the day was our traditional closing celebration, with a brief speech from GeekGirlCon co-founder Jennifer K. Stuller, who acknowledged the things that GeekGirlCon has done in its five years. ‘Our atmosphere is joyous and celebratory,’ she noted. But Stuller also recognized that it could not have been done without the thousands of GeekGirlCon staff, vendors, panelists, attendees and other supporters. ‘You and I are part of this community… and I want to thank you all for being a part of us.’”

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.”


“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.”


“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

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.


“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.)

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
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.