Back in June, I attended Denver Comic Con, and one of my favorite moments from the con was attending a Women in the Geek Industry panel. There were some truly awesome women at the panel, Bonnie Burton, Jen Timms, cosplayer Evil Mech Meru, and Vicky Connolly from Escape Velocity Comics. It was so amazing to hear these women from their various areas of geekery talk about working and being a woman in the geek industry. There can be a lot of negativity in the geek community around women in various geek industries, but that panel was so incredibly positive and inspiring, that I wanted to bring some of that here to the blog. So I’m going to be running a Women in Geek series here on the site, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! While I’ll definitely be talking to Bonnie, Jen, Tiffany (Evil Mech Meru), and Vicky, I’m also going to be talking to several other women from different geeky lines of work. I’m so excited to highlight these awesome women, and I’m kicking off my Women in Geek series with Sarah Rodriguez.
Sarah works at Geek and Sundry as the social media and community manager, as well as running a site called Nerdy But Flirty. A few weeks ago, Sarah agreed to answer some of my questions about her place in the geek industry. Check it out:
1.) What do you do in geek culture (on your own time and professionally)?
I’m currently the social media and community manager over at Geek & Sundry, Felicia Day’s YouTube network. In my downtime, I run a website called Nerdy But Flirty, an all-female-staffed geek and gaming website.
2.)Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?
This is my day job! NBF is my fun hobby.
3.) How did you get started in your geeky line of work, and what got you interested in it?
When it came close to graduation time in college I began to think about what type of job I wanted. I realized that I wanted a job that I was passionate about, so I thought about things I loved, and the first answer was video games. I pursued PR jobs in the video game industry (because communication arts is my other passion) and wham bam here I am. It was all about putting in the extra work, networking and staying in the know about developments in the industry.
4.) Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?
Gail Simone, Aisha Tyler, Felicia Day, Brenda Romero and Kellee Santiago to name a few.I love Gail and Felicia because they’re feisty and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I love Aisha because she embraces herself fully and lets the haters step to the side. And I love Kellee and Brenda because they forced the gaming industry to look at their work, not their gender.
5.) You work at Geek and Sundry, which I think is SO COOL. What is that like? Do you get sick of asking questions about working with people like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton?
Working with Geek & Sundry is awesome because the community is (as a whole) so polite, positive and encouraging. It really demonstrates that proper moderating can create a healthy online community.
And I do get sick of those questions! It’s hard because Felicia is my boss, but no one wants to hear that Felicia is just like any boss. Think of your boss: that’s what it’s like working with Felicia.
6.) Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance, and do you find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman?
At Geek & Sundry it is never directed at me, but I am the one who has to read and delete the horrifying comments whenever we bring on a new female host (such as Ashly Burch, Nika Harper or Amy Dallen).
At Nerdy But Flirty, we experience hatred and get into intense “I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate” arguments with folks all the time. It’s the nature of running a feminist site in the fairly anti-feminist gaming culture. I mean, even other women are afraid to call themselves feminists because of all the negativity surrounding the word. A lot of men also call me fat, which I find funny.
7.) What is the best thing about your line of work?
The best thing is that I get to do what I love every day. I get to be my own natural, nerdy self and not only do the people that I work with not judge me for it, but they love me for it. It feels pretty good.
8.) What is the coolest/most meaningful thing you’ve experienced since working with G&S and creating your own geeky space with your vlog and Nerdy But Flirty?
I’d say the coolest experience was hanging out with Wil Wheaton at Gen Con. I knew nothing about board games and now I’m totally addicted. It opened up a new world for me and I’ve had board game nights ever since. His love of games is just infectious. Plus, I got to meet one of my current NBF authors, Caylie Sadin.
As for NBF, the most meaningful experiences are when game devs email me after a negative review, letting me know that they appreciate this perspective and want to do better with female characters in the future. From big studios to small studios, I’ve been informed that my efforts are helpful and appreciated, and I’ve seen real change come about as a result of these little reviews on my little site. It’s kind of amazing.
9.) How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?
First, a reasoned and logical response. Second, a show of solidarity with all my other female geeks (and non-geeks). I think working together and using facts is the quickest way to take the bite out of an sexist argument. When that doesn’t work, I troll. Might as well have some fun with the idiots!
10.) There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?
First I’d say check out some of our interviews on NBF. We’ve interviewed women in all sorts of roles and that’s always the last question we ask them! Second, do something meaningful in the community if you don’t currently have a day job. Volunteer, attend meetings, participate in game jams, moderate forums, make a website: find a way to show that you are still a part of the space. Then, network your butt off at conventions, meet-ups and on Twitter. Third: know your stuff and know what you bring to the table. Have your 30 second elevator pitch ready and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Women have a problem with self-promotion, as most of us have been schooled our entire lives to be humble and modest. Check out some TED talks on that topic for more advice as well.
11.) Last but not least, what do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?
I wish people understood that we can’t please everyone. Just because YOU hate something or LOVE something doesn’t mean that the majority of people feel the same way. I think if more folks learned to phrase their arguments as opinions instead of facts, we’d get a lot more accomplished in the geeky community.
Be sure to check out Geek and Sundry (I talk about that site enough, if you haven’t checked them out already, you need to rethink your life choices), and check out Nerdy But Flirty, and be sure to check out Sarah’s Twitter, @SarahTheRebel. Stay tuned here on the blog for more on women in geek. I’ve got some truly awesome women who have agreed to come here and talk about women in the geek industry, and I can’t wait to share who’s up next! I’ll be announcing my next guest in the next couple of days.