Sexism in Table-Top Gaming: My Thoughts On It, and What We Can Do About It

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Every group has the right to screen its membership and decide whether you have a right to participate socially, and even if you deny that they have that right it doesn't change the reality of the fact that they do behave this way - right or not. This is true of cheerleaders, Hassidic Jews, feminists, communists, conservatives, jocks, construction workers, goths, etc. You might get more harassment joining a construction crew as a woman, but harassment wouldn't be exclusive to you being a woman. Believe me, it was a major obstacle for me to convince them an 'egghead' belonged in such a group.

Groups may do this, but not every group has the right to do it beyond their own little social clique. That's affording the practice a legitimacy that doesn't exist. That groups do this broadly doesn't make it a right at all. They certainly don't have the right to do it at a convention or on a web site that others have organized and are determined to make open and inviting.

And you really think that someone uncomfortable with your entry into a social setting is going to be more likely to admit defeat and cease being hostile if you .... what? Hold a rally? Call for diversity training? Angrily denounce his sexism? Challenge him for membership in the group? Threaten to exclude him? Appeal to the other members of the group for sensitivity? What do you think this is Survivor: GenCon? You really think even the sympathetic people of a group, the non-sexist people of the group, are going to be really sympathetic if you try to rally them against their friend on account of his sexism? You think this is a more workable solution than showing what you have in common? You think that's a better solution than showing you can't be put at unease and that your are good natured regardless of whether you are treated poorly? You think that's a better solution than showing you are emotionally tough and that you can give as good as you get? Because I promise you it's not, whether we are talking entry into a gaming group or a business situation or a position of leadership.

In the public venues in which this occurs, there are tools available that should be used including bringing in con security or other event organizers. And I, for one, am determined to do so when some cretin tries to alpha geek either my wife or daughter because they're not geeky enough for him.

Private attitudes are private attitudes. But public behavior is public behavior and can, and should, be sanctioned appropriately.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
Groups may do this, but not every group has the right to do it beyond their own little social clique. That's affording the practice a legitimacy that doesn't exist. That groups do this broadly doesn't make it a right at all.

Err... hmmm... That may be too deep of water for me to dive into this morning on little sleep.

They certainly don't have the right to do it at a convention or on a web site that others have organized and are determined to make open and inviting.

In the public venues in which this occurs, there are tools available that should be used including bringing in con security or other event organizers. And I, for one, am determined to do so when some cretin tries to alpha geek either my wife or daughter because they're not geeky enough for him.

Private attitudes are private attitudes. But public behavior is public behavior and can, and should, be sanctioned appropriately.

That may be true, but the original guide was explicitly not a guide to gaming with strangers.

Without being an expert on Convention etiquette, I'll say this, I tend to consider appealing to authority in any situation to intervene to be a last recourse which I am very reluctant to take. I can certainly imagine it reaching that level, but I wouldn't imagine it is normal for it to reach that level. In any event though, if that is solely the issue then there are problems. You are solely dependent now on the judgment of the authority figure; you've kind of eliminated any control you have over the situation. If the solution is really going to the authority figure to have them exclude the offending party and the authority figures are good with that, then what's the problem really? What is being advocated for? "You have a right to go to the authority figure every time you feel uncomfortable."; essay complete?
 

mythago

Adventurer
billd91 said it more concisely and wisely than I would have.

Celebrim, the solution is to talk about the problem, and both as individuals and as a community, work to solve the problem. That is exactly what we're doing here. And as practical action, that means, as billd91 notes, that the "sympathetic" and "non-sexist" members of the group need to tell the Self-Appointed Guardian to knock it off when he takes it upon himself to get in the face of a new female player, instead of quietly hoping that she can pull a nerd version of a Karate Kid-style finishing move to send him packing forever. It means that a public convention need to have policies and procedures in place to deal with people who for whatever reason are harassing or "hazing" others - because, you know, if the organizers of a con really wanted some kind of hazing procedure in place for attendees, they'd probably have one, instead of expecting random people to appoint themselves that function. It also means, as gamers, being clear that what we care about is whether you want to love this hobby right along with us, and not whether you pee sitting down or go to every Gen Con or own the original edition of Chainmail.

Celebrim, you keep bursting into these angry Grand Guignol rants about "contrition" and "diversity" and "sensitivity" and calling for rallies and repeately attributing arguments to people that they have never actually made. This is strawmanning. I get the impression that you are not doing so as a deliberate rhetorical tactic, but because you have very strong feels on the subject of sexism in general, but you may wish to consider that it detracts from your position. I mean, imagine how much consideration you would give to somebody who demanded "Clearly, you think the solution is for girl gamers to politely beg for permission to game after cheerfully meeting whatever Neckbeard Trivia Tests any dude wants to throw their way"? Not much, I'm guessing (nor should you) - so why expect that others will give much consideration to your arguments cast in the same emotional, accusatory mode?

As a side note: before you start on a grand lecture about How the World Works, you might want to consider that other people, too, live in the world, and may have some experience - perhaps even more than you yourself! - on dealing with harassment, or being the a member of minority X in a group of Ys, or what does and doesn't work to handle a hostile person whose goal is to put you down and keep you out. And perhaps, in the context of the discussion, that longtime female gamers might have just a bit more experience than you about the Fake Geek Girl issue and what does and doesn't work to address it.
 

Celebrim

Legend
And as practical action, that means, as billd91 notes, that the "sympathetic" and "non-sexist" members of the group need to tell the Self-Appointed Guardian to knock it off when he takes it upon himself to get in the face of a new female player, instead of quietly hoping that she can pull a nerd version of a Karate Kid-style finishing move to send him packing forever.

First, the goal is never to send anyone packing forever.

Secondly, judged as a practical action, what you've suggested at best buys the group some time. I've said before that if I had one player being a jerk to another player, it was something I'd have to deal with. I've never had to deal with this particular problem, but yeah, this is a pull the player aside at the end of the session and say, "What the heck, Bob?" sort of moment. "How about we not act like a jerk toward the new player, k?" And conversely, "I apologize for Bob's behavior Sue. That was uncalled for and I'm going to talk to him about it."

But there is a very strong possibility that me coming down on Bob, especially if I do it public like isn't going to have the effect you think.

a) Bob could now be jealous of Sue. Do you like Sue more than me? Is that why you are favoring them?
b) Bob could see the fact that I've intervened on Sue's behalf, proof she's a weak link. Why do you need to protect Sue? That's just what I thought she'd do - run to daddy GM for protection. Boo hoo.
c) The other players may side with Bob. Look, we all got along before Sue came along. Clearly Sue just doesn't fit in this group. It's not that she's a woman or anything, it's just she just doesn't really have the right personality.

And you know, I don't know whether the odds are higher of all this happening if Sue is a woman, but I can tell you that its a pretty normal human dynamic even if it is a boy named Sue. It certainly doesn't happen all the time (thank God), but it's the way I've seen people behave.

At best, if Bob really is being a problem my siding with Sue is just buying some time. Ultimately Sue still needs to convince Bob she brings value to the group, and the only way to do that is .... bring value to the group. Then whatever was motivating Bob's dislike of Sue, hopefully we get a new Bob that says, "Wow, X really can bring value to the group." One person. One relationship at a time.

Celebrim, you keep bursting into these angry Grand Guignol....

+1 geek point to you.

...rants about "contrition" and "diversity" and "sensitivity" and calling for rallies and repeately attributing arguments to people that they have never actually made. This is strawmanning.

For example, contrition:
"An important thing to keep in mind is that writers make mistakes. White Wolf screwed up with World of Darkness: Gypsies, but they since apologized...I have no problem continuing buying from them. Gary Gygax later on said that the female strength cap was a mistake to include...What's more important is how they react to criticism."

Do you are do you not think that contrition was cited as the major reason a gaming company or group should receive our support if they were attacked? Read the original essay again. My problem with that is that there was no defined standard other than, "Someone was offended." I asked for a particular standard, "Would my romanticized African Kingdom meet your standard of 'noble savage', or am I now in the damnable category of the non-contrite content creator? How can I avoid earning your outrage in the first place, if defending my creation is not an acceptable act on my part?"

For example, diversity:
"The One Ring RPG have non-stripperific armor as the default design for women warriors in their artwork. This is progressive because many other RPGs (both tabletop and video games) design women's armor to be titillating.

The designers of Pathfinder RPG are making attempts to be racially and LGBT inclusive. And possibly one of the first RPG systems to have a transgender iconic (I don't know which one, though). Unfortunately it has stumbled in some regards (stereotypical gypsies and Darkest Africa pulps), but the designers took criticism into account and considered it valid.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was the first Edition to alternate between masculine and feminine pronouns. Half of the PC class iconics were women (Druid, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, and Wizard)."

And so forth. I think it odd that you claim "contrition", "diversity", and "sensitivity" are topics I introduced to this discussion.

but because you have very strong feels on the subject of sexism in general,

I have very strong feelings that it is a bad idea to view the world through the framework of 'isms', yes.

but you may wish to consider that it detracts from your position. I mean, imagine how much consideration you would give to somebody who demanded "Clearly, you think the solution is for girl gamers to politely beg for permission to game after cheerfully meeting whatever Neckbeard Trivia Tests any dude wants to throw their way"?

I'd like to think I'd give everyone my every consideration. But put in a less snarky light, that's not entirely a bad idea. I mean if you really think that's the dynamic that is going on, you might be surprised about how a frank question throws it into light: "I'm getting the feeling you don't want me here. I really want to play this game. May I?" If there is any chance of the two of you playing together at all, maybe you'll embarrass him into acting decent. If the answer is "No.", well then at least you've got that out on the table. Or maybe go the other way and throw some flattery at the idiot, "Really? You've been playing since the '70s? What was it like back in the day? Did you ever meet Gygax?"

There is every reason to not act in the way a jerk expects you to.

(nor should you)

I disagree.

- so why expect that others will give much consideration to your arguments cast in the same emotional, accusatory mode?

Because I'd like to think that I would. How many times have I told this board, you can't chase me away by getting angry or calling me an idiot. I can deal with your honest emotion. The only thing you can really do to belittle me is not take me seriously, or persistently misquote me, or be dishonest, or otherwise disengage from me.

As a side note: before you start on a grand lecture about How the World Works, you might want to consider that other people, too, live in the world, and may have some experience - perhaps even more than you yourself! - on dealing with harassment, or being the a member of minority X in a group of Ys, or what does and doesn't work to handle a hostile person whose goal is to put you down and keep you out. And perhaps, in the context of the discussion, that longtime female gamers might have just a bit more experience than you about the Fake Geek Girl issue and what does and doesn't work to address it.

So tell me about your triumphs. How did you go about winning acceptance? How did you get your foot in the door? How did you change people's minds? That's far more value than any politically charged essay.

And you know, the story of how you called security on this jerk and had him removed from the convention. That's a tragedy. Even if it had to happen, even if the jerk left you know other choice because he'd become threatening, I feel sorry for everyone involved.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Secondly, judged as a practical action, what you've suggested at best buys the group some time. I've said before that if I had one player being a jerk to another player, it was something I'd have to deal with. I've never had to deal with this particular problem, but yeah, this is a pull the player aside at the end of the session and say, "What the heck, Bob?" sort of moment. "How about we not act like a jerk toward the new player, k?" And conversely, "I apologize for Bob's behavior Sue. That was uncalled for and I'm going to talk to him about it."

But there is a very strong possibility that me coming down on Bob, especially if I do it public like isn't going to have the effect you think.

a) Bob could now be jealous of Sue. Do you like Sue more than me? Is that why you are favoring them?
b) Bob could see the fact that I've intervened on Sue's behalf, proof she's a weak link. Why do you need to protect Sue? That's just what I thought she'd do - run to daddy GM for protection. Boo hoo.
c) The other players may side with Bob. Look, we all got along before Sue came along. Clearly Sue just doesn't fit in this group. It's not that she's a woman or anything, it's just she just doesn't really have the right personality.

And you know, I don't know whether the odds are higher of all this happening if Sue is a woman, but I can tell you that its a pretty normal human dynamic even if it is a boy named Sue. It certainly doesn't happen all the time (thank God), but it's the way I've seen people behave.

At best, if Bob really is being a problem my siding with Sue is just buying some time. Ultimately Sue still needs to convince Bob she brings value to the group, and the only way to do that is .... bring value to the group. Then whatever was motivating Bob's dislike of Sue, hopefully we get a new Bob that says, "Wow, X really can bring value to the group." One person. One relationship at a time.

If this is the case and Bob is still being a jerk, then the problem is Bob still being a jerk. The presence of Sue may have revealed how much of a jerk Bob is, but the problem is still Bob and he's the one making it a problem for everyone else. Bob is still the appropriate target of correction. There may be some people who prefer not rocking the boat, but that's not exactly a good definition of justice in the face of unjust actions.
 

Celebrim

Legend
There may be some people who prefer not rocking the boat...

Do I seem like someone who is afraid to rock the boat?

..., but that's not exactly a good definition of justice in the face of unjust actions.

I'm a bit skeptical of bringing the agenda of receiving justice to my gaming table. Among many reasons this sounds likely to go wrong is one should really really be careful before appealing to Justice - you are never quite certain where it going to fall.

So far we've been going with the assumption that Bob is being a jerk and Sue is innocent. But that isn't always the case. Bob may really be jealous with cause; Sue might be getting preferential treatment. Sue might be innocent in that too (which means the problem that needs correcting might lie with neither Bob nor Sue), but then again she might not be. For all we know, the fact that Sue gets preferential treatment and attention when she games might be one of her main reasons for liking gaming. I've certainly known men that fit that standard. So far we've assumed that Sue fits no sexist sterotypes, but that might not be true. Out in the real world before we accepted that Bob is a jerk a priori, these table conflicts can look a lot more murky. Once we get beyond, "Bob is making me feel uncomfortable, can you speak to him.", to "Bob is in the wrong, I demand justice!", things get really murky.

Asking the DM to pull a Karate Kid style finishing move on Bob is also a tragedy. I'm not saying it can't happen. I'm not saying there aren't times it shouldn't happen. But... sometimes we ought to be careful about crying out for everyone to get what they deserve. Making Bob the target of correction would give me no satisfaction, and not every group would survive that even if they generally agreed he deserved it.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Do I seem like someone who is afraid to rock the boat?

I dunno. Based on my reading of your posts, you seem to be making a lot of excuses for bad behavior because that's simply how the world works, that's how people behave, or because there may be unintended consequences. It may be a misreading on my part, but the only element you seem to want to confront in this thread is any attempt to not just describe how things work but efforts to change them.

I'm a bit skeptical of bringing the agenda of receiving justice to my gaming table. Among many reasons this sounds likely to go wrong is one should really really be careful before appealing to Justice - you are never quite certain where it going to fall.

So far we've been going with the assumption that Bob is being a jerk and Sue is innocent. But that isn't always the case. Bob may really be jealous with cause; Sue might be getting preferential treatment. Sue might be innocent in that too (which means the problem that needs correcting might lie with neither Bob nor Sue), but then again she might not be. For all we know, the fact that Sue gets preferential treatment and attention when she games might be one of her main reasons for liking gaming. I've certainly known men that fit that standard. So far we've assumed that Sue fits no sexist sterotypes, but that might not be true. Out in the real world before we accepted that Bob is a jerk a priori, these table conflicts can look a lot more murky. Once we get beyond, "Bob is making me feel uncomfortable, can you speak to him.", to "Bob is in the wrong, I demand justice!", things get really murky.

Asking the DM to pull a Karate Kid style finishing move on Bob is also a tragedy. I'm not saying it can't happen. I'm not saying there aren't times it shouldn't happen. But... sometimes we ought to be careful about crying out for everyone to get what they deserve. Making Bob the target of correction would give me no satisfaction, and not every group would survive that even if they generally agreed he deserved it.

If Sue is actually being a problem because of her behavior, then deal with her. But your own hypothetical, to which I was responding, was written with Bob as the jerk. Why change the hypothetical now? The point is to deal with people in the way they deserve to be dealt - that's being just. And if it is Bob being the jerk, then Bob needs to be dealt with rather than make excuses for him not responding in a positive way to the message that he needs to stop being a jerk.
 
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But we haven't even gotten to the question of whether 'the dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse' is or is not sexist (and you seem to be assuming that I do, in fact, think it is, which I have not said). You argued that because Shades of Grey is a novel written by a woman and with a female targeted audience contains very explicit sex scenes, any female player who is bothered by 'the dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse' is engaging in a double standard. I don't see how you get from the first sentence to the second, and you still haven't explained it.

By Hextor... So, if a man had written Shades, targeting a male audience, what would it be, in your opinion? :)
 

Celebrim

Legend
I dunno. Based on my reading of your posts, you seem to be making a lot of excuses for bad behavior...

I'm not excusing anything. If I was excusing Bob's behavior, I wouldn't be describing it as being a jerk.

It may be a misreading on my part, but the only element you seem to want to confront in this thread is any attempt to not just describe how things work but efforts to change them.

First, I'm not confronting 'Bob', because he isn't in this thread. 'Bob' already got sent from the room. The only things I can confront are the things that are actually in the thread. And I'm not confronting efforts to change things. The world is clearly broken and needs to change. I'm confronting the notion of how we change things. Just because I don't approve of the particulars of your plan, doesn't mean I disagree that things or broken or that I approve of the thing you are trying to confront.

The point is to deal with people in the way they deserve to be dealt - that's being just.

It is a rare person these days that actually knows the definition of just. It's actually refreshing.

And if it is Bob being the jerk, then Bob needs to be dealt with rather than make excuses for him not responding in a positive way to the message that he needs to stop being a jerk.

For the purpose of the original example, if I approach Bob and say, "Dude, what was that? How about we not act like a jerk to the new player?", and Bob comes back with, "How about we don't invite ***** to the gaming table?" Then, I'm like, "Sorry Bob. I can't really work with that, until you can learn to behave and treat other people like people out the door you go."

But not only do I insist that's still a tragedy and not a moral victory, I'd also insist in general that's probably the rare case where you can make a clean judgment of what the problem is and that there is no real way to solve it (or no better way to solve it). Or that Bob is so clearly in the wrong, and has so clearly placed himself in a neat little stereotype with neat little biases.

But maybe most of all, there is no change here.
 

I still don't understand what you are taking offense to? I am serious I don't understand your point at al.

Fair enough, I'll try again, then. Also, please understand that I appreciate you as a woman (if the "witch" in your nick is gender denominator, as much as the "Le" is in mine) speaking out soundly on the topic: While I disagree with the way things are said, we're perfectly on the same page when it comes to confronting sexist outings agressively.

What bothers me about the debate is that the OP did mix a plethora (yes, I am going there) of displays of sexist behavior, and that most of the posters in the thread followed up, without making a distinction. That makes most of this thread just the usual "mean men stories", which in my opinion misses the mark. As in, different forms of sexist behavior have been mentioned in this thread, and the arguments cross over in ways that are neither helpful, nor, frankly, appropriate.

Sexist game-writing - Very much open for interpretation. What about narrative functions, what about the author's intentions, and, more importantly, what about free speech?

Sexist roleplaying - Very much open for interpretation, as well. "Am I a murderer because my character murders somebody?" - I think we know the answer to that one.

Sexism within gaming groups - NOT open for interpretation. There's banter, and there's serious offense, of course, but, really, a normal person can tell when a line is crossed.

Sexism within the roleplaying community in general, or, sexism between people that don't know each other - also, NOT open for interpretation, and rarely excusable. Possibly criminal acts, really.


Those are different topics that should be addressed separately, in my opinion.



Now, what I find very problematic about this discussion, and about public discussions of sexism in general, is that there's always a certain notion that men need to be told. - In my experience, an average man, in adulthood, with responsibilities, with a job, with a formation, with an education, with manners, with life experience, with sexual experience, with relationship experience, with female family members, with female peers, with female coworkers, aaaaaaaaaaaand with or without a female sentimental partner, knows ABOUT AS WELL how to treat a woman, as women in general know how to treat men.

So, let's just not equate boys, or losers, or nutjobs, or creeps with normal men. Because for every chauvinist, or harasser, or stalker that you show me, I can show you a hundred men that are none of this. And not because they would be suppressing our innate bestial urges, but because men are just about as capable of civil conduct as women are.

Tika's chainmail bikini isn't the bane of modern women. Immature men are. But thank goodness there are less of them than women probably like to think. :)
 

FickleGM

Explorer
The "dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse" is offensive to whomever is offended, regardless of gender. If the specific individual happens to be a woman, the existence of 50 Shades makes no difference...even if she read and enjoyed it. If she partakes in that sort of humor regularly, then claims offense, then we'll have something.
 

To a certain extent, this is precisely how geekdom got started - the geeks were unable to impress any other group that they belonged. Your membership to a certain extent depended on having that experience as a shared experience.
That is one of the most blatant no-true scotsman fallacies ever created. By your weird definition some of the most famous geeks around aren't geeks because what they did is universally considered to be cool. Unless you really want to argue that the likes of Grant Imahara, Jamie Hyneman, Limor Fried, Adam Savage, and god only knows who else I'm missing aren't actually geeks.
But every social and cultural group has a high percentage of members that desire exclusivity because it fosters high commonality and trust between members of the group. You are threatening the groups cohesion when you try to force change on them, and frankly you are telling the groups 'it's me or you'. That's not a very workable solution.

There is no commonality in the group though. There never was.
 
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mythago

Adventurer
By Hextor... So, if a man had written Shades, targeting a male audience, what would it be, in your opinion? :)

What do you mean, what would it "be"? What about having a male author or a male audience would make the books "be" something else? (I guess the author photo on the jacket would be different.) Your non sequitur aside, you still haven't explained your claim because Shades of Grey is a novel written by a woman and with a female targeted audience contains very explicit sex scenes, any female player who is bothered by 'the dwarves and hobbits go to the whorehouse' is engaging in a double standard.

Regarding your other points:

Sexist game writing and "free speech": You should probably think carefully about what you mean by 'free speech', because that term gets used rather vaguely, and often people forget it's a two-edged sword. Writing Chicks Be Trippin': The RPG is free speech. Mocking the dudes who wrote the game as loser neckbeards? Also free speech. Announcing CBT:TRPG is the best game since the Sliced Bread OGL and you particularly like the Putting Her In Her Place random table? Free speech. Writing a review that CBT:TRPG achieves new heights of lamedom and would embarrass the average Maxim reader with its juvenile bigotry? Also free speech!

When you talk about "narrative functions" and "author's intentions", it might be helpful if you expanded on that instead of merely presenting these phrases as if they were a) self-evident and b) clear rebuttals to any charge of bad behavior. Bigotry, even unconscious or intentional bigotry, is very often the enemy of good writing and interesting narrative; it injects the author's failings into the work. Is it possible to write an interesting game with these elements anyway? Of course! Are "narrative function" and "authorial intent" magical Power Words that make bigotry reasonable and beyond criticism? No.

Sexist roleplaying - Yes, I do hope we all know that if I am LARPing, and while in character I shoot somebody dead because they are role-playing my character's worst enemy, that I am in fact a murderer, and the police are not going to be especially impressed if I explain that I really did like Bob very much, but I was only role-playing murder and so it doesn't count if I, coincidentally, also happened to murder somebody In Real Life.

A more apt example than murder: "Am I a jerk because my character is a jerk?" A lot of the time, the answer is going to be yes. Surely you've had the common gamer misfortune of sharing a table with the guy (or gal) who just so happens to roleplay an evil, obnoxious backstabber who argues constantly, steals from other PCs, doesn't pull their weight and messes up important beats in the game - in other words, messes up everybody else's fun - and then whines but I was rooooooleplaying! when called on it. It's possible to roleplay a jerk without being a jerk; it's not easy, and it's certainly not automatic, as if a LARP-style hand gesture magically dissipates any real-life jerkitude. Similarly, it IS possible to play a character who's a bigot without ruining the game for people who are targets of that bigotry, but it's often very difficult and "but I'm just RPing!" is not magic.

Sexism within gaming groups - What happened to "very open to interpretation"? Do you truly believe that normal people cannot disagree on whether behavior in a gaming group is sexist? We might all agree on extreme examples, but look in this very thread for how people differ on whether less-obvious things are or aren't "sexism". This especially gets complicated when people throw in all the other factors that you mention in other contexts, like "intent".

Sexism within the roleplaying community in general, or, sexism between people that don't know each other - There's no rational reason to artificially segregate this. If I walk into a convention and join a game full of people I don't know, and somebody makes a crack about dumb broads, is that not "sexism within a gaming group" as well as "sexism between people that don't know each other"?

"Normal men" - You'll note that the topic of the thread is not Men Behaving Badly, or Them Other Boys Don't Know How to Act. It is Sexism in Table-Top Gaming. Also, women can be sexist, including sexist towards other women, you'll be wholly unsurprised to hear. (In the comments to the link I provided earlier, you'll find a number of women excusing or even justifying the whole Fake Geek Girl thing.) The whole issue of 'normal men' is something you dragged in yourself, in your earlier comments about how mean gaming ladies pick on "virile men" and don't understand manly behavior like pretending your imaginary alter ego is having imaginary sex with imaginary prostitutes. Nobody, that I have seen, has suggested that sexism is some kind of endemic and uniquely male flaw. In the absence of someone claiming that it is, need we really derail the discussion into a pointless and redundant assurance that the (primarily male group of) people discussing the issue are not hating on the male gender?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There is no commonality in the group though. There never was.

There is some commonality in the group, or there wouldn't be a group. Don't confuse "no two are exactly the same" with "no commonality at all". Definition of the group is rather like definition of a fictional genre - there's a whole set of tropes, and if you have a goodly enough smattering of them, you're recognizable as a member of the group. The set of tropes, however, is fairly large. And what people fail to see is that there is no one trope, or even small set of tropes, the lack of which clearly means you aren't part of the group.
 

mythago

Adventurer
Do I seem like someone who is afraid to rock the boat?

Well, actually, yes.

That is, while you certainly don't seem afraid to go into a towering, operating rage about matters on which you have strong feelings, over and over again you caution against behavior that is "rocking the boat" in real life. It might mess up the gaming group! We might have to call in the authorities! (i.e., the people running a convention, whose job it is, in part, to insure that the convention goes well for everyone). Confront Bob by out-geeking him so that you can turn it into a friendly trivia match, or deferentially and politely beg for him to let you play! And we mustn't be confrontational; Bad Things Could Happen, as we never know where the brutal sword of Justice might fall or what might happen. (A return of the Terror, I suppose. Or the President declaring martial law at GenCon.)

As billd91 already said, if Bob is being a jerk, then the problem is Bob, and we deal with Bob. There is no moral obligation for the players, the game and the community to bend over backward to work around Bob's issues, and should not prioritize Bob's inclusion and comfort over everyone else's. At a con, if Bob is violating the code of conduct and being a bad customer, it is very much in the interests of the people running that con to find out about it at the time and handle it appropriately - rather than to find out much later via social media that a lot of people are saying unpleasant things about the con because Bob was allowed to run rampant.

Does that mean there may be unpleasantness? In all likelihood, yes, because Bob is a jerk, and thus may not quietly accept criticism and vow to change his ways. That's unfortunate, but the alternative is to prioritize Bob over the people to whom he's being a jerk - which may be rather a lot of people. To suggest otherwise is, yes, to caution against rocking the boat.

BTW, you asked (in somewhat overwrought fashion) what 'triumphs' I have had in dealing with jerks. I will tell you what doesn't work: pretending that Self-Appointed Guardian has any legitimacy or right to insist that I 'prove myself' before I can be allowed to game, or call myself a gamer, or participate in games at a con that I paid money to attend just like he did. What does work for me may not work for a lot of other people, precisely because I am an old gaming fart, I've been to (and run) gaming cons, and I have run into SAGs before and know the drill. A 20-year-old who just got into gaming by playing World of Darkness last fall at college and whose buddies are totally cool with girl gamers? Is not going to find it helpful for me to tell her "Just look him dead in the eye and tell them you were painting miniatures back when he was still in diapers, and you have more gaming experience in your little finger than he does in his entire, pasty body."

Of course, one of the things we're all working toward, I hope, is a community where that kind of behavior is treated on par with borrowing dice without permission or filching stuff from a dealer's table. That is, negatively, swiftly, and with repercussions in case anyone else thinks it's a good idea and they can do it with impunity.

BTW, I don't think it's a bad suggestion at all for Alice Newgamer to call out the real problem: "It seems like you don't want me in this game. Why is that?" I don't, however, think she needs to deferentially plead for permission to join. That doesn't shame the SAC so much as legitimize his belief that he is the Guardian of Gaming.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My advice is to treat this as the sort of minor hazing any cultural group does when trying to evaluate potential membership and go, "I'm geekier than thou" on them.

Your advice amounts to allowing people to be emotionally abused. Sorry, but I don't count that as one of the world's great ideas.

Turn your own idea around - the cultural group should be evaluating potential membership based in part on the question, "Are you a jerk?" and "Can you take beign asked to behave like a civilized human being?"

Don't focus on the sexism, since at least some of the time you'd be wrong - men would get the same treatment at least some of the time. Throwing it back at them is the appropriate response.

"Don't focus on the sexism," is really easy to say when you aren't so regularly subject to it. And throwing it back at them is *not* an appropriate response. That's turning it into an ego contest, and if you hadn't noticed those don't generally end well. We are not wolves, and it seems to me we left our poo-flinging monkey stage behind several hundred thousand years ago. We can, and should, do better.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Your advice amounts to allowing people to be emotionally abused. Sorry, but I don't count that as one of the world's great ideas.

What?? No body is being allowed anything here. No advice here can prevent a person from being 'emotionally abused'. If someone makes some one else uncomfortable, even intensely uncomfortable, no advice can retroactively stop what has already occurred. In this case the 'emotional abuse' in question is attack the identity of the person as a member of the social group, some variation presumably on, "You're not a real gamer, you're a girl!" Nothing anyone could advice to the person who has been targeted in such a manner can prevent that from having happened. What advice we must give must be in how to respond to that.

My advice is:

a) Wear your asbestos armor. Words can hurt, I should know, but at some point you have to develop 'damage resistance' to insensitivity, jerkiness, and teasing. I don't pretend that is easy, but it is necessary. Fundamentally, you should not be letting anyone, and certainly not strangers, dictate to you your feelings or any sense of self-worth.
b) Put as good of face on it as you can. It doesn't do to show you've been hurt, this just opens you up for additional bullying. Also, being polite and good natured adds to your sympathy. Yes, this often means treating people better than they deserve, but that isn't always a bad thing either.
c) Turn it back on them. Answer the implicit and explicit challenge. Some people are just jerks and aren't going to let it go, but many didn't mean to be jerks and many are willing to change their impression of you if you engage them. And like it or not, some of this is just biology. Deal with it on that level. Women in particular often inadvertently signal back low status and submissive behavior - distress cries, distress postures, losing self-control, threat displays, etc. You'd be amazed at what signaling back high status by showing you aren't distressed can accomplish at times. And I've seen women who are good at this, unconsciously imitating the demeanor of a high status male.

Turn your own idea around - the cultural group should be evaluating potential membership based in part on the question, "Are you a jerk?" and "Can you take beign asked to behave like a civilized human being?"

Certainly. And this is actually a major source of discussion within geekdom. Should we as people who in many cases were ostracized for failing to meet social norms, be understanding and accepting of everyone's antisocial behavior, and if not what do we do about it?

"Don't focus on the sexism," is really easy to say when you aren't so regularly subject to it.

I have the sense that emotional abuse is emotional abuse. I think it unfair to say that people can't empathize with other people's pain, and if it were true that everyone's pain was so individual to them that no one else could understand it then think what a terrible thing you are saying.

And throwing it back at them is *not* an appropriate response. That's turning it into an ego contest, and if you hadn't noticed those don't generally end well.

I'm speaking from experience here. I have had to socially integrate with a lot of different groups, many of which I was an obvious outsider in - from moving overseas to a 99% black nation, to moving back to rural America as a petwa speaking cultural foreigner, to working in construction as a college educated egghead, to working in academia as someone who is pretty far from the normal upper middle class progressive mold. Fundamentally, this sort of hazing occurs everywhere and in every group, and fundamentally I think it is simply attempts to establish social trust.

We are not wolves, and it seems to me we left our poo-flinging monkey stage behind several hundred thousand years ago. We can, and should, do better.

That we ought to do better I can hardly and won't deny. That we have left our poo-flinging monkey biology far behind I completely deny. Human social dynamics are still at a very real level those of simian tribal nomadic hunter gatherers. Any one with a biology background that watches a high school cafeteria or an episode of Survivor can immediately see that. For example, have you noticed that in a business environment, the highest status male almost always gives way to the lower status males but only after he 'signals' or 'allows' them to pass first. This is classic herd dominance behavior. It isn't meant as that and we've actually progressed culturally to achieve that point - in less civilized places you still see much more overt dominance/subservience behavior demanded as a cultural norm.

Do I like it? As a borderline autistic that instinctual does everything wrong, I can assure you I don't like it in the least. But I've learned how to deal with it.
 

Mallus

Legend
Turn your own idea around - the cultural group should be evaluating potential membership based in part on the question, "Are you a jerk?" and "Can you take beign asked to behave like a civilized human being?"
Yeah, I kinda though the notion that nerd socializing is defined by tribes engaged agonistic one-upsmanship over who knows more Who, Trek, and Forgotten Realms minutiae was, well, an unflattering caricature. The worst of us. A joke. It certainly hasn't been my personal experience of nerdery, ie various genre fandoms.

My social circles evaluated 'potential members' using criteria like, "Hey, do you like Star Trek/Babylon 5/LotR? Cool!", "Do you play D&D/RPGs? Cool!", and most importantly, "Are you a jerk? No. Cool!".

(actually, we other criteria involving liking the films of Wes Anderson, clever-talk, and drinking, but, as with all things, that's negotiable)

"Don't focus on the sexism," is really easy to say when you aren't so regularly subject to it.
I usually dislike using the term 'privilege' in it's current mostly-divorced-from-economics form, but a guy saying "Don't focus on the sexism" is a textbook example of it. Makes me reconsider my gut-level aversion to the term.

I'll try to summarize my feeling on sexism in tabletop gaming:

I feel lucky, privileged even, that I don't encounter much of it. Because I don't game at cons or other public places. Because my gaming groups are wonderful people. Because the (limited number of) mainstream RPG products are relatively free of overt sexism. And, perhaps, most tellingly, because I'm a guy.

I think RPGs have come a long way re: sexism encoded into the mechanics and the language choice in the rules text.

I think RPGs are doing better re: sexism in the art. A caveat: I have no problem with some Frazetta-style depictions of women, ie fantasy pin-up art. I don't want or need every woman to be in 'realistic armor'. I have a problem when the default depictions of female figures are as slave girls, eye-candy, rescue-bait, etc.

It's also a problem that --particularly with women, but not exclusively so-- there's such usually a limited number of body types/ethnicities/orientations on display in fantasy art. Diversity is nice -- especially when you arrive at it through a diversity of creators.

It's not really a problem that offensive niche/outlier products exist. Nobody actually plays F.A.T.A.L. It exists only as a gamer in-joke. I'm sure the number of Cthulhutech --a game I've only read about in online discussions-- campaigns is also fairly small. It sounds like Legend of the Overfiend: The Game -- how many people really want to play that? I'm guessing a number small enough to ignore completely.

I think the stories I've read about con behavior are horrifying. I can't add much more than that. There are some badly-socialized people in our hobby. These people need to be educated and/or ostracized.

I think the stories I've read about bad behavior in private games are even more horrifying. I can't image sessions where one player makes rape threats against other player's PCs. How these don't end --abruptly-- with the jackhole getting thrown out mystify me. Again, educate -- no, let's go straight to 'ostracize' here...

Lastly, to be a bit curmudgeonly, I think there are some bad social justice-oriented criticisms/accusations of sexism out there. For example, the minor kerfuffle I read about online re: the Nibovian Wife monster in Monte Cook's Numenera. I accept that some people found it offensive. But I found the criticisms pretty shallow and unpersuasive; just bad readings fueling (too easy) indignation.

But that's fine. Sexism throughout our society still exists, even if we disagree at times over what qualifies as it.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
I have found throwing it back at people when they go on how I'm not a true this or that works VERY well. Either they get it, or if they don't they shut up about it at least half the time.

But that's strying a bit far off topic as I can hardly (or at least don't want to) throw their sexism back them if I encounter it.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I have found throwing it back at people when they go on how I'm not a true this or that works VERY well. Either they get it, or if they don't they shut up about it at least half the time.

But that's strying a bit far off topic as I can hardly (or at least don't want to) throw their sexism back them if I encounter it.

I would never advice returning evil for evil.

I would advice responding to challenges to whether you belong to group with presenting your credentials and an attitude of calm assurance (if only feigned because you are hurting inside) and good natured humor that you do belong and your belongingness is so great that it can weather any challenge. I can't claim to know how it feels to be excluded or marginalized because you are a woman. I do claim that I can know how it feels to be excluded or marginalized or belittled because I am me, and that I would like to believe that people are not so far different that we can't empathize with each other's common pain. I believe that ultimately, whatever the proximate cause of the belittling or marginalizing behavior, there is a common root and that the sorts of things that work in one situation are likely to work to some degree in others.

When I say, don't focus on the 'sexism', I don't mean don't notice it or to pretend its not an issue. I mean don't dwell on it like an insolvable problem that is going to forever characterize how you experience the world and all your relationships with other people. Don't let it become the source of your own low sense of self-worth as if that jerk is the one to decide what value you have. I say this not because I'm 'male privileged', but because I've seen over dwelling on the problem of sexism become itself something that women let define them and become a source of continual anxiety and fear. I don't say it with the slightest sense that I'm asking anything easy of someone, and even if I was telling someone to do something harder than anything I've had to do, so what? It's not like I'm saying that out of a low faith in anyone's capacity or out of any belittlement of the degree of the problem. I'm saying that because I truly believe it can be done and that you'll be happier for it. If I tell a person from a broken home whose suffered terribly in ways I can hardly imagine, "Yes, I've had it easier than you. You are right to wallow in your misfortune. Don't bother trying to overcome." or "Of course you can't succeed given all you've got to face.", I'm not really being very sympathetic at all. Regardless of what someone was facing I would tell them, "Don't focus on your misfortune or the size of the obstacles you must face."
 
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