SXSW: A Woman’s Perspective

by Rachel Gertz

Sausage Fest at SXSW

Day 147

It’s my first time.

This has been a response men have become accustomed to hearing from me this week. I am a minority at a yearly festival that gets Twitter aflutter, Gowalla & Foursquare spitting mad points of interest, and men of all ages giddy for weeks. What is it that makes South By Southwest such an addictive draw?

Is it the conference panels unfolding their future interweb and media trends?

Or is the chance for male camaraderie in the midst of free booze, great food, sun burns, and VIP parties? Not sure, but I think they’re somehow intertwined. I don’t know. Ask Travis.

Myself? I’m here out of a morbid sense of curiosity. That and the fact that as my house is on wheels, my resting alternative is a roadside curb in the middle of the desert. I chose to stick it out with Walter (our Winnebago).

To tickle your ear, let’s look at the facts:

  • the interactive portion of SXSW (which is the portion we are mostly here for) draws attendance rates of at least 11 000 people
  • 99% of those attendees are male [citation required]
  • 98% of those males are geeks [no citation necessary]

All this equates to the fact that I am one of approximately 110 women in downtown Austin right now. I am surrounded by wasp-like swarms of men. Geeks who flock to street-meat vendors (that’s hot dogs for all you non-visuals), endless rows of pubs, karaoke parties, men who often leave the toilet seat up. It’s intriguing! National Geographic will cover a special on it called, “Smart Sausages: SXSW Men on the Loose.”

You have likely heard the male perspective on SXSW. Now listen to a female perspective. I don’t pretend to reflect what all 109 other South by women are thinking. But you can be damn sure there will be similar overlap. Since arriving in Austin, I have bought my hat back from a stripper ($2), chatted with 78 fascinating people —18 of those I added to Twitter, drunk copious amounts of Miller High Life, eaten a shitty piece of pizza as my only meal of the day, wheeled home drunk on my bicycle, ‘snuck’ into two VIP parties, witnessed people pull out their phones cowboy draw style, watched friends embrace like giddy kids, and filmed people doing outrageous things for free shirts. Oh and I contracted a case of the South by Scurvy. Four months of isolation x one week of secret handshakes = snot/sore throat. I think you could say I swallowed the gamut of the this festival’s highlights.

Panels? Who needs ‘em?

Oh, and did I mention I had a mini breakdown on Friday? That’s right, I was so over-duded (coined by yours truly), I shut’er down and went home to bed, sans husband. The sheer overwhelming company of men talking about manly things shut down my internal organs for the night, and I have been trying to recover ever since.

So how does this affect the future of SXSW? It doesn’t. Men will continue to go each year. Women will populate panels more often as they find their niches in the tech world. Mostly, I am hoping another South by woman might read this post and feel connected. Or perhaps the men, an ounce of sympathy. Let me say I do get why the boys insist on going every year; they can be teenagers again. How could I hold that against my dear husband?

Bottom line: would I ever do South by Southwest again? Hmm, would I ever choose to surround myself with thousands of geeky sausage, all voraciously or drunkenly chattering about the latest iPhone app, Wheezer’s greatest album, travel, ways to monetize a blog? And unicorns?

Yes. But, I’ll be bringing my girlfriend.

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