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Superheroines, Etc. to explore 'geek feminism' at Cincinnati Comic Expo

Nonprofit wants women 'to be geeky as they want'
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Posted at 9:00 AM, Sep 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-24 09:00:50-04

CINCINNATI -- Carolyn Noe started Superheroines, Etc. for one simple reason: She wanted to get to know other women with similar "geeky" interests as her own: comic books, gaming, television and books.

“What really prompted me to start the organization was it is really hard to meet friends once you are an adult,” said Noe, who started Superheroines, Etc. in 2012 while living in St. Louis.

Noe moved to Cincinnati with her husband in February for a new job as program coordinator for the University of Cincinnati’s Leadership, Empowerment, Advancement for Women STEM Faculty program. 

"I was seeking to meet new people," she said. "From there I noticed there were quite a few people feeling isolated in the geek community. Women often can be harassed and can feel they are not geeky enough. And so I wanted to create more of a safe space for women where they could be as geeky as they want to be.”

Today the organization is a bona fide nonprofit with 1,600 members. The group's mission is to empower women personally and professionally and to spark discussions of how women are portrayed in the media during public events. 

Noe will launch the next phase of her organization at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cincinnati Comic Expo, with a panel titled “Geek Feminism.” It's her first step in establishing a new chapter of Superheroines, Etc. in the Queen City.

“We are hoping to grow a new chapter in Cincinnati in early 2017,” Noe said.

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Current Superheroines, Etc. president Fox Smith and group member Marissa Roe will join Noe on the panel. They will discuss how media currently portrays minorities and women and explain why more diverse representation matters.

The panel is part of the organization's push to empower women who consider themselves "nerds" with passions ranging from pop culture to engineering, according to Smith.

“We want to bring these ideas to places where it is starting to bubble to the surface and open spaces where people can talk about that more,” Smith said.  “We did one [panel] that afterward this guy came up to me and said he brought his daughter. He said it was her absolute favorite thing in the entire con. That was a really cool moment.”

At the end of Saturday’s panel Noe plans to hand out questionnaire cards and ask attendees for feedback. She is also trying to connect with people in Cincinnati to begin a network similar to the one she established in St. Louis four years ago. Once a local chapter of Superheroines, Etc. is established, the group could host more forums, book clubs and “Nerdy Networking” events, where women who consider their jobs to be somewhat nerdy are invited to come together and share their passion for what they do.

“Something that I always say is it is more important to raise your personal network than your professional network,” Noe said. "That is what helps you feel connected to your community. And those folks are also the folks that help you find jobs, help you find resources in your community.”

Local illustrator Christina Wald said she is aware of many professional organizations for women across the country but no group as described by Noe in Greater Cincinnati.

“I do think this is a good thing,” Wald said. "I think it’s always been hard as a woman, because they do get cut out of the conversation. I think it’s exciting that there is a push now. One thing that helps people advance in fields is seeing people like themselves to look up to.”

Ultimately, Noe said Saturday’s panel at the comic expo is just that, a celebration of women and a chance for people to see someone who looks like them who has a similarly strong interest.

“At the end of the panels it turns into a cheering session for the women in the audience,” she said.  “Fan culture in particular is so accessible now. Those folks who are trying to say, 'This is mine and only mine' don’t see how wonderful it is that it isn’t only theirs, but it is for anyone to share.”