11:30 am EDT, July 2, 2015

Indy PopCon 2015: A how-to guide to creating female-friendly conventions (opinion)

Where are all my ladies at?

Comic book and other types of conventions have really become more inviting and inclusive in the last few years, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Conventions used to feel sort of like boys club meetings (or, at least, that’s how I used to see it). However, now it feels like anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend any and all conventions, from children to grandparents and beyond.

While it’s great to see kids walking hand in hand with their grandparents through the jam-packed convention hall aisles, I’m most excited about both the rising attendance of ladies at conventions and the atmosphere surrounding the inclusion of women.

Though other conventions that I’ve attended have had a few things geared towards women, I have to say that Indy PopCon 2015 definitely had all other cons beat when it comes to female inclusion.

This year, Indy PopCon cultivated a program and atmosphere that promoted inclusivity, especially for women; here’s what other cons can learn from it.

Related: Indy PopCon 2014: A con for everyone

The guests

PopCon guests Brooke Allen and Elspeth Eastman

In only its second year, Indy PopCon managed to attract a wide variety of guests who had a wide variety of appeal. There were famous YouTubers (that apparently everyone and their mother had heard of before but I hadn’t), actors, voice actors, and creators. But it was really more than that. PopCon’s guests list had more than just wide appeal; it also had an emphasis on strong ladies.

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For instance, Elspeth Eastman (voice artist in League of Legends) and Brooke Allen (one of the main artists behind the comic series Lumberjanes) were two of the most featured and talked-about guests at the convention (aside from YouTubers like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye). While the YouTubers were stuck at their tables for pretty much the entire convention, these two ladies were invited onto multiple panels and podcasts (including our very own Hero Hype) and really got to have in-depth chats with anyone and everyone.

Their presence demonstrated that other women can really make it in the entertainment/comic/geek business and carve out a place for themselves. In essence, their large and widespread presence at Indy PopCon was a great inspiration for ladies in the fandom community.

The panels

Men in Comics

Speaking of panels and podcasts, the PopCon panels reflected a clear and active effort on the part of the organizers to represent a broad range of female voices and bring them all together to discuss interesting topics, rather than selecting one or two to be the token woman panelist which happens frequently at conventions.

From the Hero Hype podcast that Donya, Karen, and I recorded on the Saturday to the all-female “Men in Comics” panel that was a tongue-in-cheek riff on the all-male Denver ComicCon “Women in Comics” panel held earlier this year, there were so many great places for women to turn to during PopCon to find programming that spoke directly to them.

Not to be biased or anything, but the “Women in Fandom” panel that featured my good friend (and fellow Hypable staff member) Donya Abramo was especially great. It rounded up ladies from different trades and fandoms to discuss women’s place in fandom and how we can all support each other to make it a safe and enjoyable place for everyone. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t tear up a few times while watching and listening to the women talk about their fandom experiences. Why? Because I’ve had a lot of the same experiences, from being silenced to figuring out how to navigate my own interests. “Women in Fandom” was definitely one of their best pieces of programming and I firmly believe other conventions need to hold similar panels.

The art and vendors

Indy PopCon purchases

For me, one of the best parts of conventions is the variety of vendors and artists on the show floor. I love discovering new artists I’ve never heard of before or finding a fun figure or cute piece of jewelry that I just have to have.

However, I’ve been to conventions where the artists and vendors are all selling similar-looking pieces or products, namely art that’s tailored toward the male gaze (pin ups, naked ladies, stylized muscular heroes). I’m not into that kind of stuff because it wasn’t really meant for my consumption, you know?

I loved Indy PopCon this year because they had so many different artistic styles and products on display, many that really caught my eye (and a few dollar bills out of my wallet). There weren’t many pin up/naked lady artists, which made browsing through the alley a much more comfortable and enjoyable time for me. Plus, I noticed a ton of art featuring strong female characters that aren’t really in the public eye at the moment. For instance, I saw quite a few Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers pieces that made me squeal in delight. In short, PopCon’s perfect balance and variety of vendors on their show floor this year really added to the atmosphere of inclusivity.

The whole atmosphere in general

Indy PopCon atmosphere

I have never felt more comfortable or at ease at a convention than I was at Indy PopCon 2015. Honestly. While I love casually cosplaying at conventions, I’ve never felt more excited to do so (or take my cosplay game to the next level) than I did at this year’s PopCon.

The atmosphere of the convention was really relaxed and welcoming. More than that, it was encouraging. Indy PopCon has a firm stance in support of Cosplay is Not Consent, which made cosplaying easier for me because I didn’t have to worry about being harassed or made uncomfortable for what I was wearing. I wasn’t even wearing anything all that revealing, but just knowing that Cosplay is Not Consent was being promoted really put me at ease.

Plus, there was just a general “you can be whoever you want to be” vibe that was far stronger than any I had ever felt at a convention before. Everyone was just having a great time and complimenting each other’s cosplays left and right. It was like, for those three days, I was surrounded by strangers who felt like friends. PopCon’s inclusivity-promoting atmosphere did wonders for my confidence and overall enjoyment of the event.

When it comes down to it, Indy PopCon 2015 was top notch in promoting inclusivity, especially for women. From panels to guests, artists to general attitudes, their female-friendly program and atmosphere are something that all other conventions should strive to emulate.

Thank you, Indy PopCon, for welcoming me and my friends so wonderfully and for making me feel so comfortable. I’m proud to be a part of the PopCon family.

In what ways have you noticed conventions becoming more inclusive and welcoming?

Related: Conventions: Why you should attend them big or small

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