Lady Geek of the Week: Bonnie Burton
Kicking off the 2013 Lady Geeks of the Week is the lovely Bonnie Burton. She’s a flourishing author, journalist, vlogger/blogger, and tweeter (@bonniegrrl). Her outrageously successful website Grrl.com (launched in 1996 – I was 5!) was one of the first geeky pop culture sites geared towards women. It receives over 1 million hits per month. She’s definitely a who’s-who in the Lady Geek world.
Burton has about a thousand different projects on her hands, so we were so grateful when she took some time over the holidays to answer a few of our questions.
Read on to learn about her crafty beginnings, her sassy 13-year-old self, and her fictional crush.
Q: What inspired you to launch one of the first women’s pop culture websites, Grrl.com?
A: At the time, in the mid ‘90s when the web first started, there weren’t any web sites just for geek girls. I wanted to mix the DIY feminist sensibility of Riot Grrrls with women who loved to be geeking and the result was Grrl.com! I even made a print zine companion to the Web site. It started as tributes to my favorite girl icons from Bettie Page to the awkward girl who won the National Spelling Bee Rebecca Sealfon. There are dating tips & bad dating stories, comic book reviews, weird collections, craft & gardening tutorials, and more. Plus links to my vlog Ask Bonnie, and other web shows I do. I’m about to undergo a redesign for the site – a first in almost 10 years! So stay tuned for more geeky fun! My web site has always reflected everything I love about being a geek girl, so hopefully I can inspire other girls to be proud of their geekiness!
Q: We love the premise of your book Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change. What prompted you to explore the topic?
A: Bullying has always been a sensitive subject for me. I was bullied as a kid, but worse than that I was often betrayed by would-be best friends that are best referred to as frenemies. None of the “How to Be Popular” books in the school library every explained how to deal with bullies or friends that secretly want you to fail in life. So I wrote the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a teen. I interviewed my favorite women icons in music, art, acting, business and activism for their advice and stories as well. Great stories from the likes of Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s and Tegan from Tegan and Sara made this book what it is – a modern approach to dealing with frenemies/bullies and how not to turn into one yourself. The book was recently picked by Barnes & Noble as part of National Anti-Bullying Month, and I get emails from parents and teachers who all say the book has helped them with students in trouble – which means the world to me.
Q: You have quite the track record when it comes to crafting. Your books and your new web show highlight the benefits of scissors and felt. What led you to combine crafting with geekery?
A: I’ve always been a crafty kid. I didn’t grow up with a lot of toys and video games. I’d rather spend my day making toys rather than begging my parents to buy them. My mom was a children’s librarian so she’d often bring home old magazines like Highlights and Cricket, which had craft projects in the back. I’d make everything from space mobiles to doll house furniture. Then when I discovered the Muppets, I turned most of my socks into puppets! I also was part of 4-H and Girl Scouts - which have very big crafting components to them. Crafting as an adult takes me back to being a kid where I couldn’t wait to get covered in glitter and make something fun. I still get giddy making puppets!
Q: If you could take any fictional character out for a drink, whom would you choose, and what would you drink?
A: Sherlock Holmes. I’ve had a crush on that character long before Benedict Cumberbatch perfected him in the recent modern-day interpretation in “Sherlock.” I know he’s a highly-functioning sociopath, and most likely never drinks. He’d probably size me up in 2 minutes while making fun of my shoes. But he’d still be fascinating to watch in action. And my favorite cocktail is called Blood & Sand. So in a way, that might intrigue Sherlock.
Q: We know you’re quite the fan of Bettie Page. Can you give us a few tips on channeling the late, great Queen of Curves?
A: Bettie Page has always been a role model for me because she was so unusual in her day. She made bangs popular. She was a vegetarian when it was unheard of. She went to the gym regularly. And she put the fun back into burlesque. It wasn’t seedy or salacious to her. Dressing up in corsets and leopard print bikinis was acting for her. She could look like a minx in one expression and an approachable girl-next-door in another expression. Her life was tragic, but she was such a muse and inspiration that I think she would appreciate how much we all loved her.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: Good question! To tell you the truth, the older I get the more unsure I get about what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. My 13-year-old self was so goal-driven and sure of herself. I actually admire my 13-year-old self. She’d never put up with jerks or date douchebags. She’d always stand up for herself and never listen to the haters. Half the time, I try to channel my inner teen self for pep talks and to remind myself that I’m not a big loser. I think my 13-year-old self would be proud of my accomplishments and excited to see what I did next!
(Photo Credit: Nicole Love)
Post by Emma Bauer, who works as BGC’s official intern. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic.
Follow her on twitter: @emmalynnbauer