PAX Prime 2011: Girl’s Meetup
Sunday morning, August 30th, was the second PAX Girl’s Meetup at The Diller Room in downtown Seattle. I strolled in a little after 10:00 a.m. to see some women hovering around plates of fruit and pastries, and others sitting in booths with bloody marys or mimosas. A few looked up and smiled at me. I peeked into a couple of booths looking for women I knew, then went farther in to…the bar. Why yes, I thought, I would like a mimosa.
Having found a couple of local women from the Gamma Ray Games crowd, I was introduced to Erudite Aphrodite, the organizer of the meetup. This, and the previous meetups, were organized solely on the Penny Arcade forums. She told me that at the first meetup at PAX East there were 15 women, but that attendance had grown this year to around 70! This is very exciting for future female-focused meetups. I asked her how it got started.
“Some girls were talking about how PAX is a bit of a sausage fest…and as much as we love the boys we want a place where we can say ‘I think David Tennant’s hot!’ and not have a bunch of guys go ‘uuugh.’”
I had to agree, over another round of mimosas. It’s obvious when checking the meetup thread and seeing these girls together that a lot of them are close Internet buddies. Forum member Chaos came all the way from China, and there are women from all over the United States, as well as many local Pacific Northwest girls. It’s nice to be around women who are genuinely interested in nerdy things; no one was dragged here by their husband or boyfriend. It’s refreshing to be around a group of geeks without having to deal with being the odd one out. Living in Seattle I can sometimes take for granted how nice it is not to stand out as That Girl who plays video games and reads comics. I can actually enjoy my hobbies, for the most part, without being constantly reminded that I’m female. I’m not taking it for granted today.
While PAX as an organization is welcoming towards women, it would be optimistic to think that every gamer that shows up shares these ideals. It’s not always about seeing someone negatively based on their gender; most women don’t want to benefit from being female any more than we want to be judged for it. During a conversation with a male friend during PAX, I was discussing how great it is to live in a city where I am free to be feminine and still be a geek. In Nashville, I was much more prone to play down my girliness in order to be “one of the guys.” The women at brunch seemed to be having the same experience as the room exploded in alternating giggles and clichéd nerd jokes, not all of them, ah, ladylike.
I regretfully had to leave to make an appointment on the show floor (thanks for the mimosas, Diller Room!), but I made a mental note to actually get on the PA forums and get to know some of these awesome women. You can never have too many nerdy friends.