There are some sad truths that exist at almost any nerd convention in the United States. One of these being that if you identify as a women, you’re going to have a slightly different experience than the others. It’s not fair or fun, but it happens. Depending on the con, the differences may be tiny and easy to ignore. But at some cons, the differences are obvious and near unbearable.
Every gaming tournament – video games or TCG – will probably be mostly men. You may be able to see a couple girls hanging around, but it’s not likely. You may have to prepare yourself for hearing gender insults and not being taken seriously.
You will definitely see at least a few people carrying ‘Free Hugs’ signs. Most of them are inoffensive and just walk around smiling, offering hugs politely. But some of these huggers are aggressive and outright creepy. They may harass you for physical attention or even force it on you. The safest thing you can do is politely decline when you’re not interested and dodge if one looks like they’re coming for a full-force hug.
When you’re cos-playing, everything changes. People will come up to you and shower you with compliments that you weren’t necessarily expecting. Of course, there will be people that love your outfit, watch that show, or you’re dressed as their favorite character. But there are also people that will stare at your chest, your butt, or physically try to grab you. Make sure you have a friend nearby who can watch your back during photos.
Lastly, there are no panels about women. Scratch that, if there are panels about women, they’re about women’s bodies. Only at fairly larger conventions have I heard of a panel about girl gamers or female characters. When you go to the local conventions, you’ll see panels about breasts in anime or who has the sexiest outfit in video games. It’s quite apparent that these panels aren’t targeted towards the girls who want to discuss their representation – or lack thereof – in nerd culture.
All around, being a woman at a convention can be terrifying. Sometimes, it can be disappointing. If you can keep a buddy around and stay safe, it may be easier. Just remember, things are going to change. More and more girls are coming to conventions. Soon, we’ll have panels all about our favorite heroines and how much they kick butt without skimpy outfits.