2015 was an awesome year for women in geek culture! I learned some major life lessons from the women listed below. They inspired me to learn when to walk away from an argument, care more, care less, educate myself, educate others, when to head into workaholic mode and when to take a break.
This is by no means a definitive list, but it does include a variety of women who have shaped how I see life as a geek. They’ve also had positive influences on their communities.
My list includes women actively crowdfunding projects, journalists, authors, actors, LARPers, dreamers, roleplayers, writers, costume designers, fighters, thinkers, athletes, and all around fantastic feminists.
For the sake of satisfactory subversion, this list is in reverse alphabetical order by first name!
Ysabel Dela Riva
If you ever want to learn how to really get into your character’s head, you’ve got to RP with Ysabel. I met her several years ago when we started writing collaboratively online. She inevitably joined the LARP (live action role playing) community and has made a real impact when it comes to community building. Her involvement and recruitment have helped our community, local games, and kingdom group thrive.
Tina blogs all about her experiences in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) as a female fighter and LARPer, as well as her weight loss and fitness journey. I’ve known Tina for over eight years now and have witnessed her journey through many transformative life experiences.
In 2014 and 2015, Tina created a massive amount of content for TGI about The Quest, the show that inspired her self-improvement. I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her next!
Thor (Jane Foster)
In 2015, we learned Thor’s identity in the current comic run.
Thor is the only fictional character on this list, but in terms of influence, she’s incredibly significant. And in the event that I forget, all I have to do is post on Facebook about how awesome she is only to be met by a chorus of naysayers.
I’m not going to fight to get them to agree with creative decisions validated by sales and fan testimonials, but I would at least like my friends to recognize why this character means so much to me.
So how does Thor help? Overall, the character is extremely validating.
As we came to learn that the new Thor is in fact Jane Foster, I had a major epiphany: you could maybe fantasize about being with a strong protagonist – or you could just be one yourself.
Thor has gone on to tackle her worst critics on the very pages of the comic itself, and I needed to see that.
So, fine – have your criticisms with the creative decisions at Marvel, but I think the story is brilliant, and after decades of thinking I need someone else to be my hero, now I read the Thor comics again and remember that I can bring my own awesome to any villainous situation.
This has impacted how I roleplay my main LARP character, how I conduct myself in a professional environment, and how I run this website.
My life as a fangirl wouldn’t be the same without her!
I’ve known about worldbuilder, LARPer, and Phoenix Outlaw Productions Co-Founder, and game designer Shoshana Kessock for quite some time, mostly because we’re both involved in the NJ/NY LARP scene. I finally got to meet her at New York Comic Con this year right after the Women of Marvel panel.
Shoshana shared her first look at episode 1 of Jessica Jones at NYCC. I look forward to finally LARPing with Shoshana at New World Magischola in June of 2016. As a blogger, she eloquently distills and expresses her feelings on core controversial issues in the geek community. Check out her blog.
Sarah Lynne Bowman, PhD
What I appreciate most about Sarah is her ability to understand the personal and community centric nature of LARP as well as the psychology and academic theory behind it. Her eloquence on LARP, culture, and community have helped her clarify and moderate many online discussions about heated topics in the LARP community. She’s also the lead organizer for the 2016 Living Games Conference in Austin, TX.
Do you ever feel a little awkward when you use the word ‘feminist?’ I did. For other people, it comes with all sorts of preconceived notions. In 2015, that changed for me, thanks to the proclamations of author Sam Maggs. She proudly declared “I a geek girl and I am a feminist,” the beginning of The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism. You can read the full thing on the poster or in her book, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I was able to meet Sam on her book tour when she stopped in Philadelphia. When she spoke about the geek girl experience, it was awesome: all the ladies in the room related to her candid experiences. That sort of openness and self-knowledge demonstrates how Sam makes a meaningful contribution to women in geek culture every day.
“Woah! You know the Nana? How freaking awesome!”
I hear that a lot, and for good reason!
You might also recognize her as Crimson from Realm of LARP:
This multitalented LARPer posts makeup tutorials on YouTube. Watch her videos and subscribe to her channel!
Earlier this year, there was a big discussion among the LARP community on Facebook about whether talk about racism (and all those other nasty -isms) should have a place in the LARP community.
The result of this revealing conversation led Nana to create LARPers of Color, “redefining geekdom through education and empowerment.” This is a safe space for people of color. (You can find more awesome Facebook safe spaces for marginalized groups here.)
Maury Brown is co-founder of New World Magischola (still in its final hours of funding as of this post’s publication), a College of Wizardry LARP taking place in North America. As soon as NWM had a presence online, Maury made it clear that the staff were committed to running the LARP from an inclusive perspective. (You can read more about this in my interview with Maury and NWM’s co-founder Ben Morrow.)
I respect Maury’s unfailing commitment to her ideals and her unfailing diplomatic professionalism. I can’t wait to LARP in her world with several of the other women on this list!
Lynnaire MacDonald is the driving force behind The Film Sprites. Along with her New Zealand-based team, Lynnaire provides professional promotional support for the film industry. Lynnaire’s commitment to providing affordable publicity to films (most notably indie films) is passionate. She’s the professional who follows up regularly (but never bugs you!) and knows how to maintain positive relationships on social media.
Her recognition has meant a lot to The Geek Initiative and its success, and I’m happy to congratulate her on The Film Sprites’ success.
Krysten Ritter and Melissa Benoist
Marvel and DC = rivals forever, right? Well, maybe in some ways – but not when it comes to pitting Jessica Jones and Supergirl against each other in a negative way. When bloggers started trashing one in favor of the other, Krysten Ritter and Melissa Benoist showed us how women should support each other in the face of negativity.
It really stinks that women are conditioned to compete and hold each other back. Fortunately, these real life superheroes offer a much healthier example for their fans. And considering the values and undertones of these shows, the mutual support is especially significant.
Jill Pantozzi is a pop culture journalist (AKA The Nerdy Bird) who knows all about the geek culture space. Jill has plenty of access, but she’s also extremely well connected to fan communities and knows exactly what kind of content we like to see – a combination I admire immensely.
Anyone can cover a niche, but Jill lives in it, making her a trusted and ethical source for all things girl geek.
She’s also your superhero for the important stuff, like finding Rey merchandise.
Jamie Lynn Metzger
Running a LARP? At a boffer tournament? Sewing extremely intricate costumes? Still taking time to check in with friends? All of the above – that’s Jamie Lynn Metzger, founder of Mad Mod Merchandise. Along with her team, Jamie put together one of the best and most detailed LARP mods at Dreamation 2015.
Her positivity, leadership skills, enthusiasm, and ability to ask for help when she needs it makes Jamie one of my favorite women in geek culture. (Help her with her starting funds for Mad Mod Merchandise!)
Holly Fulger is on a mission to uncover and reveal the mysteries behind beauty in Hollywood. She is The Hollywood Beauty Detective. Since crowdfunding in 2014, Holly’s gone on to make several episodes of THBD, now available on her site.
What I appreciate most about Holly is that she doesn’t take a removed perspective when it comes to examining beauty. She gets personal and thoroughly explores her own feelings in a way that makes her observations into especially valuable art.
Holly’s almost got the finishing funds required for this show’s season. Help her reframe beauty!
Hayley Atwell continued to kick ass in 2015. I was fortunate enough to get a photo with her at Wizard World Philly and also ask a question at her Q&A. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of her real-life mannerisms are also my very favorite qualities of her character, Agent Carter.
She’s confident, unapologetic, always committed to doing better, and fiercely grateful to her fans and community. While I’m sad Hayley left Twitter, it’s also a great example of how she lives her life on her own terms, and for that I admire her greatly.
The second season of Agent Carter premieres this month!
— Agent Carter (@AgentCarterTV) December 30, 2015
D. H. Torkavian
I first met Devin LARPing and after connecting on Facebook, found out that she’s also a witchy writer. Her ability to live freely, take creative risks, and be true to herself inspire me daily.
Devin helped TGI out a lot in the past year or so, writing several pieces including one about growing up as a trans geek girl. Devin also participated on our 2015 panel at Camden Comic Con, where she spoke from the heart about both hurtful and empowering experiences.
Also a talented writer who did not know how to read until her teens, Devin’s the author of several books. She’s now one of TGI’s favorite West Coast Warrior Women!
You may remember Bonnie Gordon as the bard on The Quest. Bonnie’s also one half of The Library Bards (with Xander Jeanneret from King of the Nerds). I have no idea how this woman accomplishes so many nerdtastic things, but my guess is that it involves sugar, unicorn magic, and lots of natural talent.
Bonnie’s focus and dedication to her career has been a huge inspiration to me in 2015.
Marvel’s heroes and agents look real, and that’s thanks to a lot of behind the scenes work from people like Ann Foley, the talented costume designer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’d interacted with Ann during some AoS livetweets before and was really glad to see her turn up at the #WomenOfMarvel panel at NYCC in 2015.
Ann responds to fan questions and comments via Twitter and Instagram and has brought a lot of perspective to the thought and symbolism behind what characters wear.
Ann has definitely changed the way I watch TV in general – and Marvel shows in particular.
Additionally, I’d like to recognize Khaleesi / Arianna, Catherine C. J. Baxley, Megan / Smiling Flowers, Steph / Violet, Sarah / Cailleach, Kelly Osborne, Avonelle Wing, Carrie Biermann, Jessica C., Jacqueline Bryk, Jessica B., Amy W., Kathleen Burns, Vanessa N., Jessica T. and more for their awesome contributions to the NY/NJ/PA LARP community. You are strong forces: and you’re literally game-changers!
I’d also like to thank The Geek Initiative community: our editors, contributors, supporters, and interview subjects, as well as Ciel, a fearless programmer friend who swoops in to fix emergency tech issues.
The list of impactful women in geek culture grows by the second! If you know one worthy of a shoutout, please include her name below in the comments!