Making Conventions Friendlier for Women

making_conventions_friendlier_for_womenIt’s only January, but it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming convention season. It’ll be here before we know it, with some of the earlier conventions starting in March. Last year was my first convention season, and I’ve reflected on it as I prepare for the coming season. The more I think about it, the more I realize there are some things convention organizers could do to make conventions friendlier for women.

Organization – This one is key. When Claire and I went to Fandom Fest, everything was a total mess. Emails said to go one place, websites said another, and by the end we just ended up following some people in costume until we got to the right convention center. While this may have been a primarily Fandom Fest issue, organizers need to have this straightened out. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling walking around a strange city being, and looking, a bit lost.

Transportation – Even if it’s just a few blocks to the majority of local hotels, make sure transportation is available. Arrange to have some cabs around the convention center. I don’t want to walk around a strange city (or even my city at times) by myself at night. In some cities, simply calling a cab can take hours, which is fine for leaving my hotel (I can plan for that), but not for leaving the convention center. If I don’t feel I can get around safely, I’ll be skipping the evening events.

Security – Having your own volunteer security team is great and can help to keep order in long lines. But they are not a substitute for having uniformed security walking around. If I feel I’m being followed at a con, I’m not going to have faith in the volunteer to do something about it. And really, it isn’t safe for your volunteer to be asked to do something about it.

Be Conscious of Vendors – At Gen Con this year there was a booth of adult (adult as in you must be over 18 to see this) cosplay models. Fans could pay to have a photo taken behind a curtain with these models. It’s awesome that the models are making money doing something they want to do, but it’s not something that belongs in the middle of an event hall. It was a section of the convention floor I made sure to avoid. If you want to have vendors that cater to an exclusively adult audience, it should be an evening only vendor or possibly in a different hall. Adult vendors do not belong in the middle of an otherwise family friendly expo hall.

A shameless selfie of me in my Louisville Arcade Expo shirt.

A shameless selfie of me in my Louisville Arcade Expo shirt.

Cute Convention Souvenirs – This seems like a really silly, small thing to be worried about. But when I see convention souvenirs that are more than “print the same thing as the men’s design on a smaller shirt,” I know that the organizers actually gave some thought to the women attendees. The best example I have of this was last year’s Louisville Arcade Expo. Now the design was the same, but it seemed to me that they scaled the graphic to be appropriate for a women’s shirt. They also didn’t pick whatever boxy shirt was the cheapest. They picked one in a cute color, that is made with soft cotton, and cut well. Like I said, it’s a little thing that shows a lot of thought. Plus, if your shirt is cute, I’m more likely to wear it which means you get more advertising. It’s a win-win!

Have Women Involved With Planning – Most importantly, have a woman involved with planning your convention in a major way. If you have a board of directors, make sure there is at least one woman on it. She will think of things that concern women that would have never occurred to someone who hasn’t lived life as a woman. It’s not that men are trying to ignore the issues of women attendees, it’s just that their experiences have been different.

I know I can’t speak for every geeky woman, but I know these things would make me more excited about conventions as a whole. But I want to hear what the rest of you ladies think. What can conventions do to make them feel friendlier for women?

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