Geek Girl Brunch HQ helps fangirls find connection

Fangirling. And bacon. And mimosas.

What could be better than that?

If you’re into all those things, you might want to consider joining Geek Girl Brunch, a meetup group for women who enjoy nerding out together. Founded in the New York City area by Jamila Rowser, Rachel Parker, and Yissel Ayala, the organization has spread around the globe, chapter by chapter. 

It aims to create safe environments where women who are geeks — known as brunchettes — can express their love of fandoms, network, build friendships, and hang out. The group also has a volunteer arm, #GGBDoBetter, with the goal of bringing positive social impact to communities, superhero-style. 

The three original founders parted ways with Geek Girl Brunch in August, but a new team of women has risen to take their place. I had the pleasure of interviewing five of the 15 members of the new Geek Girl Brunch HQ, who spoke about their work with the group, their favorite fandoms and, perhaps most importantly, what they like to eat for brunch. 

If you’d like to join Geek Girl Brunch, go to the chapter page of geekgirlbrunch.com to find your local branch and details about how to join. If your area doesn’t have a local, active chapter, you can find out about starting one by emailing geekgirlbrunchhq@gmail.com. 

Samantha Cross

Philadelphia Chapter
Web Management

How did you become involved with Geek Girl Brunch and what role do you play as a member of HQ? 

I started out as a member of GGB in 2015. A friend of mine reacted to a post from the DC chapter on Facebook and it came on my newsfeed.  It was definitely something I never knew I needed in my life but had to have after seeing it, so I searched to see if there was a chapter in Philadelphia. There was, and it turned out to be a pretty active chapter.

After I joined, I attended about half the brunches each year until 2018 when I applied for an open officer spot. Since then I have loved organizing brunches, meeting new people, and growing the Philadelphia chapter of GGB.

When the founders of GGB announced that they were resigning from HQ in 2019, I knew that I had to be a part of keeping GGB moving into the future.  As a part of the web team, I am now responsible for keeping our website running — editing and scheduling blogs posts, updating our active chapter page, and keeping everything cleaned up behind the scenes.

What’s your geek origin story?  

As far as I can remember, the start of my geek journey was Harry Potter. My grandmother worked in a library at the time, and brought home a hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, bound in the same plastic covering the libraries use; only she brought it home for my brother.

He wasn’t much of a reader at the time, so I took it from him and have been hooked ever since. I truly believe that growing up with Harry and friends helped make me the caring, compassionate, and dedicated person I am today.

What are your favorite fandoms?  

Get ready, because this is a list.  Harry Potter, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Disney, Star Wars, How to Train Your Dragon, musicals, Doctor Who, board games, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Great British Baking Show, The Magicians, Lord of the Rings, classic lit, escape rooms.

What do you most enjoy about being part of GGB? Is there anything you’d like to see change for women in fandoms and geek culture?  

I love getting to meet new people who are as passionate about their fandoms as I am. We don’t always all share the same fandoms, but you get to learn about people by what they love. And sometimes you are introduced to new things through these interesting people you meet and develop a new love you’d never even heard of before.

I think some things that need to change for women in fandom are respect and representation. A lot of times, in the “traditionally male” fandoms especially, there is an aspect of gatekeeping that can make an environment feel antagonistic to women. Making women, or anyone, prove that they love something by demonstrating knowledge is detrimental to the community environment a lot of fandoms try to foster and that fans seek out.

I have seen it most in the Star Wars fandom personally, and so some of my enjoyment of Star Wars recently has been tainted by this toxic attitude toward women. However, as more and more iconic franchises feature women as protagonists in their media, hopefully we will get to a point where we have equal representation in fandom.

What’s your favorite brunch item?  

Chicken and waffles. Or pancakes. Or pork roll and eggs. Oh man, I can’t pick. Let’s just say a Moscow Mule.

Casey Luizzi

Washington D.C. Chapter
Onboarding Manager

How did you become involved with Geek Girl Brunch and what role do you play as a member of HQ?

In early 2015, a fellow Air Force spouse brought the GGB idea from Germany and wanted to start a chapter in her new location in the St. Louis area. She put out a “call for help” on one of the local military spouse pages and I answered the call to be an officer with her.

From the St. Louis Metro’s launch brunch (June 14, 2015) to my last brunch with the chapter (July 15, 2017), I only missed one event (and that was to go off and give birth to my second nerdy son). When the old HQ put out a call for a new HQ, I signed right up. I had hounded the previous HQ a few times about issues I’d had, so I’m pretty sure my name was already in their radar.

I am one of the Onboarding Managers, which means when a new geekette wants to start a chapter in her location or an existing chapter adds a new officer to their roster, I’m on the team that gets them started. I chose this part of HQ because I know so many of my military wife friends who move to a new place and could use an easy plug into the community. I want to be a part of keeping those ladies informed of their options when they move.

What’s your geek origin story?

I don’t have an exotic story. I don’t even have a “girl power” story. I’m just a dedicated wife who has a husband that moves frequently because of his career in the military. Finding out about (and running the chapter of) GGB when we lived at our first duty station in the St. Louis area was wonderful because it gave me something to do each time I moved.

We moved to the Panhandle of Florida in 2017, and I launched the Emerald Coast chapter in October of 2017. We then moved to the DC area in July of 2019, and I’ll be handling the relaunch of this chapter in November of 2019. I’m an organizational nutcase so keeping lists, organizing members, and running brunches is right up my alley.

What are your favorite fandoms?

Star Trek is my number one. It is the base of all my other fandoms, the ever faithful constant fandom I can return to again and again. It really had a hand in creating the idea of fandoms, and sometimes I get goosebumps thinking about all the things in the world that Star Trek influenced.

I mean, Nichelle Nichols was a NASA recruiter! This actress was so popular in her portrayal of the communications officer that NASA gave her a job to get more people involved in real space! Amazing!

I also think that DeForest Kelley is the epitome of what a man should be: handsome, witty, curious, honest, loyal, and smart! (I may have named one of my sons after him … .)

Some of my other loves are Poldark, Game of Thrones, Eureka, Haven, Outlander, City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter.

What do you most enjoy about being part of GGB? Is there anything you’d like to see change for women in fandoms and geek culture?

GGB is fun for me because I get to be surrounded by other nerds, talk about our fandoms, argue over theories, and still remain dedicated geek friends. It also is a great excuse to get that one afternoon a month away from my kids (hahaha, I’m not kidding at all).

I also love the charity side of GGB (#GGBDoBetter) and have forced my two previous chapters to make it part of their repertoires. Over the last four years now, I’ve seen dozens of eye glasses, bags of pet supplies, trunkfuls of household items, fourteen hundred books, and 60-plus handmade pillow cases donated and distributed to local charities in the St. Louis and Emerald Coast areas. (You’re next DC, hahaha!)

I honestly don’t have any problems with the way geek culture or fandoms are heading. I don’t want to be pandered to at all, I’m 100% against the creation of female characters just to have them. I want well written “anybodies” to look up to. I refuse to like a character just because she is female. I really want good entertainment, zero politics, and the ability to be part of any fandom.

What’s your favorite brunch item?

I’m a sucker for creative Eggs Benedict and a Poinsettia (cranberry juice and bubbly). I also tend to drink a lot of coffee at brunches, which makes me jittery, which makes me talk uncontrollably, which makes for fun conversations!

Vanessa Richardson

Reno Chapter
Admin

How did you become involved with Geek Girl Brunch and what role do you play as a member of HQ?

I joined GGB in Reno back in 2015. I had moved the Reno five years prior, had two kids, and had recently quit my full-time job to stay home with my own little goonies. Needless to say, not only did I have very few friends to hang out with, but finding girls who shared my interests was simply a pipe dream.

I walked away from my first brunch humming, “A Whole New World” in my head, and knew that I had to make this a regular thing. When the founders here in Reno moved away and they asked for girls to step up and take their place, I jumped at the chance to become an officer.

My role in HQ is an admin, which means that I and my fellow teammates monitor and manage our HQ email, form and draft policies, send out surveys, and deal with any interpersonal conflicts, which thankfully are relatively rare so far. We took over from the original three founders back in August and now we’re brainstorming several new initiatives to reinvigorate the organization. We’re hoping to debut our revamp early next year.

What’s your geek origin story? 

My mother was the OG geek girl in my life, so I was raised without knowing any other way to be. I grew up overseas (the Philippines, then Spain), and one of our primary sources of entertainment was laser discs that we’d ship back from the U.S. every time we visited. I watched so many movies and TV shows on repeat that growing up reciting quotes from and making references to movies and shows was second nature to us.

I have most of the original series of Star Trek burned into my memory, the Star Wars OT, just so many Disney and other assorted animated movies, and almost every single nerdy film and franchise that was popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

In the Philippines, I went to an obscenely strict all-girls Catholic school and was one of the only non-Filipina, non-Catholic girls in the entire school. That’s probably where my sense of being an outsider began. With my (then) unpopular interests and an innate social awkwardness, making and retaining friends was always hard.

It was really Geek Girl Brunch that finally gave me, after 35 years of life, a way to find other like-minded ladies, and it’s been a game changer. That’s why I volunteered to be a part of HQ. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing such a valuable establishment, one that I’m pretty sure literally saves lives.

What are your favorite fandoms?

I got married as Princess Leia (to my Han), and am currently an active member of the Rebel Legion costuming group. My husband is also a Star Wars nut and is the official Darth Vader in Reno, and both of my kids are in the Galactic Academy and come trooping in their Boushh and Scout Trooper costumes. Essentially, Star Wars is a huge chunk of my life. That said, Star Trek is also a major part of my being.

My list of other fandoms is nearly endless, but my other favorites include The Legend of Zelda (my only geek tattoo to date is a triforce, as is my license plate), Firefly, Disney, Fringe, Jim Henson, Mel Brooks, LOTR, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, She-Ra (love the new cartoon!), Monty Python, Project Runway, DC, The Simpsons (1-12!), Avatar/Korra, Xena, Lego, film scores, costuming, science, space, grammar … but I could go for days like this, so I’m going to just cut myself off there.

What do you most enjoy about being part of GGB? Is there anything you’d like to see change for women in fandoms and geek culture?

Being a geek in general is about experiencing a level of wonder and enthusiasm that most adults typically associate with being a child. On the one hand, that’s often used as an insult — many people still think if you obsess over Star Wars or The Amazing World of Gumball then you are pathetic, and need to “get a life” (yes, a Shatner reference).

On the other hand, having never lost that ability to feel such unyielding passion for the things we love and to experience such wonder and awe over a trailer, or a convention, or a celebrity encounter, or a piece of music, enables us to regularly share in some truly joyous and infectious enthusiasm that most adults don’t get to ever experience in their entire lifetime.

Throughout my life of trying to fit in, I only ever really connected with guys, since my interests never seemed to match most other girls. Finding GGB was like a dream come true. I never thought I could share my nerdy loves with other women who were just as obsessed over my fandoms as I was, and they understood the complexities of things that typically minority fans experience, such as harassment, gatekeeping, female-specific costuming issues (everything from shapewear to pockets in dresses to body image issues to trooping on your period!), gamergate and the toxic masculinity we were regularly subjected to online, and so forth.

So many of the girls at GGB love coming to brunch because of the safe space it provides to express our love for our fandoms, without worrying that somebody will shoot us down because our opinions don’t match their own or are seen as less valid. I also truly appreciate the inclusive nature of GGB, embracing LGBTQ+ members, who face even worse harassment and exclusion than cis, straight geek girls.

I think one of the most positive elements of geek culture is that of normalizing people’s interests and social eccentricities so that they are not ostracized for them, as we often were in the past. This is also the area where the most change/growth can happen, and is already happening.

Icons like Carrie Fisher worked hard to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and the general feeling of not fitting in (both rampant in geek circles), and pop culture personas like Simon Pegg have been outspoken about how being a geek is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. This has been so vital towards people like me finding a happy place where we can fit into society and not feel constantly shunned by non-geeks or gatekeepers, or questioning our self-worth.

Thanks to groups like GGB, more female and minority fans are able to loudly, and safely, proclaim their love for geeky things and the more studios, publishers, game companies, and writers and other producers of content realize that geekery isn’t only or even predominantly for cis, straight, white males, the more our community will fill up with a greater diversity of characters and stories, and the more everyone will learn to accept a broader realm of experience. This will bring everyone closer to the equality that most of us dream of.

What’s your favorite brunch item?

Coffee and bacon.

Heidi Millerick

Seattle Chapter
Social Media

How did you become involved with Geek Girl Brunch and what role do you play as a member of HQ? 

I became an officer of the Seattle Chapter of GGB in 2015. After a few years of working for the chapter in that capacity, I’ve taken a break and am attending as a brunchette. I’ve been on the social media team for GGB since around the same time. Those corny Facebook posts? Yeah, those are me.

What’s your geek origin story? 

My dad was a sci-fi nerd, and we grew up watching old black and white movies. When he took me to see Star Wars, I was hooked.

What are your favorite fandoms?

Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural.

What do you most enjoy about being part of GGB? Is there anything you’d like to see change for women in fandoms and geek culture?

I love that we help women all over the world facilitate safe spaces and build community. In today’s world, finding somewhere you feel welcomed can be a game-changer for some people. I’ll sign up to be a part of that any day!

What’s your favorite brunch item?

Bloody Mary! With pepper vodka!

Jenna Hill

Philadelphia Chapter
Social Media

How did you become involved with Geek Girl Brunch and what role do you play as a member of HQ?

My sister was a member of our local chapter and after going to several brunches, she recommended the group to me. I started going in 2015 as just a brunchette, and became an officer in 2017, when our chapter’s former officers decided to step down.

What’s your geek origin story? 

My stepmom got me interested in a lot of geeky stuff. I’ve always been an avid reader, but she introduced me to Star Trek: The Next Generation and I never looked back. Some of our favorite shows to watch together were the Star Trek franchise, Eureka!, Doctor Who, X-Files, and Fringe. We also shared a love of board games. Yahtzee and Tri-ominos were two of our favorite to play.

What are your favorite fandoms?

Harry Potter is probably my number one. I also love Doctor Who, the MCU, Jane Austen, and musical theater, just to name a few.

What do you most enjoy about being part of GGB? Is there anything you’d like to see change for women in fandoms and geek culture?

I like being able to socialize with other women who have geeky interests and not be made to feel weird or out of place. Even if I’m not interested in a particular fandom, I still have fun getting together with the group each month.

I’d really like to see women accepted better into the larger gaming community. I also play D&D and I’m fortunate that my local D&D Adventurer’s League, PhiDDAL, is a wonderful community that supports its women players, but I know that’s not the case for a lot of women gamers.

We also have a LGBTQIA+ DDAL community that supports players who identify as part of this group. We have dedicated tables for women and LGBTQIA+ players, which I would love to see more at national conventions and events.

What’s your favorite brunch item?

Bacon! (JK, but not really.) I’d probably have to go with French toast and a Bellini.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s