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


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Mallus

Legend
Is "wear your asbestos armor" supposed to be serious advice to anyone who wants to play a fun game?
I guess it depends on how much of the hostile hotly-contested battle for dominance occurs outside of the game world around your table.
 
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FickleGM

Explorer
For life advice, I'm okay with it, but it doesn't come across as the best advertisement to grow the hobby.

EDIT: "Oh, you will have a great time, just ignore the misogyny and marginalization that comes with playing."
 


There is some commonality in the group, or there wouldn't be a group.
I don't think the really is though. At least the most tenuous of connections I can make between all of the geeky activities I've seen in Boston is eccentricity but even that is kind of pushing it. At best its probably a bunch of distinct and completely isolated subcultures that can get lumped in together as geekdom.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
For life advice, I'm okay with it, but it doesn't come across as the best advertisement to grow the hobby.

Ahhh, good. It was intended as life advice. It wasn't intended to be an advertisement to grow the hobby.

In my opinion, the best advertisement you can possibly have for the hobby is to run a large open inviting table where people have a good time.

Are we going to get "I'm geekier than thou" over how many people we've introduced to the hobby, or can I take it as accepted that everyone understands life advice to a person who has experienced problems in some dysfunctional situation is not nearly the same as what you say to person who wants to know why you play or what it's like to play or is curious about joining your group?
 

Mallus

Legend
No, it's serious advice for anyone who wants to interact with humans.
Cel, it's not unreasonable to expect/work towards/even demand a modicum of respect in social situations, both public and private.

Respectful interaction can and does happen all the time, despite our primate brains.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Cel, it's not unreasonable to expect a modicum of respect in social situations, both public and private. "Polite company" happens every day, despite all the rudeness in our chest-thumping primate brains.

I think you are bordering on willful misunderstanding at this point, Mal.

No, of course it is not unreasonable to expect social dysfunction is not the norm. In 30 years of gaming, I can rarely think of any cases of the sort of dysfunction we are talking about here - and most of those occurred with my grade school and high school groups. But it is also unreasonable to expect that social tension and conflict will never happen, and in particular it is explicit to this thread that it has already happened.

The norm at EnWorld is polite conversation. That doesn't mean that emotions don't occasionally run high, and ill considered words are not occasionally said. Would it be bad advice to suggest to posters of EnWorld that they be slow to become offended and angry?
 

Oh lordy... Keep talking, governor, I mean, mythago.

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.)

On the off chance that you're here to exchange ideas, and not just to post them... Would there be a difference for you if the DM who brought the party to the whorehouse was female?

Writing Chicks Be Trippin': The RPG is free speech.

And rightfully so. But are we talking about "Chicks Be Trippin'" (which I shall copyright tonight), or are we talking about occasional sexism in games? Deliberate, or accidental sexism? Or, rape in games? Or, rules that discriminate against female characters in games? - Again, on the off chance that you're simply not getting what I mean, instead of being deliberately confrontational, those are many different things, not one.

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.

Again, and with the best intentions, I tell you, you're comparing apples and oranges. You seem to think of one specific kind of roleplaying; that is too narrow a point of view. For example, should I really go to my Dark Heresy group and tell them that, according to you, we are likely to support ethnic cleansings, as this is what our characters do? - Now, troll players, as you describe, again, are a completely different thing.

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".

Most of this is really just bickering about semantics. Does your group enjoy playing together? Because, as long as nobody complains, chances are people actually enjoy playing together. The more subtle examples of perceived sexism are all debatable, and they are not game-related.

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.

Oh, well, yes it is. Because your conduct with strangers is different than with people you know and share a certain level of trust with. Hopefully.

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.

YES YES, because "sexism", that's really something when the average person doesn't think of men patting women's buttocks, but of Demi Moore talking Michael Douglas into submissively boinking her on an office chair. Totally gender-neutered statement! I get ya!

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?

Hating, I don't know. Discriminating against, for sure! Or was it a woman who was accused of her casual sexist remarks giving a PTSD patient a mental breakdown? :devil:
 

Cel, it's not unreasonable to expect/work towards/even demand a modicum of respect in social situations, both public and private.

Respectful interaction can and does happen all the time, despite our primate brains.

On a side note, I think what would make this discussion easier would be if we could all agree that people don't have to be in Jaeger-driving sync to hang out together. Especially in activity-based social environments, chances are you will have a lot of very different individuals working together in a relatively close environment. - Friction will happen, one way, or another.
 

Libramarian

Adventurer
By Hextor... So, if a man had written Shades, targeting a male audience, what would it be, in your opinion? :)
Dude what. I guess it would be more regular pornography, you know like the enormous amount available for free from some of the most popular websites in the world 24/7 on demand. What could possibly be your point here? Are you implying that there is a dearth of male-oriented erotic material available due to suppression of male sexuality? Because I think that would be the most out of touch with reality thing that anyone has ever thought or said, ever.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
Telling people so ignore insults can be fine under certain circumstances, but when it comes to constant harassment and large-scale behavior it's not so good. In many cases it shifts the burden and blame towards the targeted person instead of the person making trouble in the first place. Like it or not, words can and do cut deep: racial slurs, insulting one's family, and mean-spirited homophobic "jokes" which aren't really jokes so much as the speaker's personal beliefs, can and do cause condemnation for anti-social behavior. Otherwise the affected people depart elsewhere because they don't want to go through the BS, or just silently put up with the abuse.

In regards to table-top gaming, it's very applicable. The hobby is inherently a social activity, and bullying behavior going uncriticized can lead to group disharmony.

I don't think the really is though. At least the most tenuous of connections I can make between all of the geeky activities I've seen in Boston is eccentricity but even that is kind of pushing it. At best its probably a bunch of distinct and completely isolated subcultures that can get lumped in together as geekdom.

Geekdom in general is currently a very nebulous subculture, in part because a lot of its common elements (Sci-Fi and Fantasy) are now part of the mainstream.
 
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mythago

Adventurer
Oh lordy... Keep talking, governor, I mean, mythago.


On the off chance that you're here to exchange ideas, and not just to post them... Would there be a difference for you if the DM who brought the party to the whorehouse was female?

A difference in what? Look: I'm still waiting for you to explain the connection between Shades of Grey and an alleged instance of a female gamer objecting to certain party members going to a whorehouse. You keep doing this "Look! A monkey!" routine where you throw out sarcastic comments and random questions that you then drop when they don't work out as you'd like. That's pretty much the definition of posting ideas rather than wanting to exchange them, by the way.

And rightfully so. But are we talking about "Chicks Be Trippin'" (which I shall copyright tonight)

Titles can't be copyrighted. I wouldn't recommend trademarking it, though, unless you really plan to use it; trademark's a pain in the butt.

or are we talking about occasional sexism in games? Deliberate, or accidental sexism? Or, rape in games? Or, rules that discriminate against female characters in games? - Again, on the off chance that you're simply not getting what I mean, instead of being deliberately confrontational, those are many different things, not one.

By 'many different things' do you mean they are different types of sexism which may require a different approach and response? Certainly. That's sort of the point of this whole thread, isn't it? To talk about the issue of sexism in tabletop games, and how that might be dealt with?


Again, and with the best intentions, I tell you, you're comparing apples and oranges. You seem to think of one specific kind of roleplaying; that is too narrow a point of view. For example, should I really go to my Dark Heresy group and tell them that, according to you, we are likely to support ethnic cleansings, as this is what our characters do?

Wouldn't that be a bit like me going to a gaming group and telling them that, according to you, there's nothing wrong with behaving like a perfect git at the gaming table as long as you first utter the magic words "I'm Just Roleplaying"? I mean, neither of us has said any such thing, but free speech and all that, it's not actually illegal to strawman.

Most of this is really just bickering about semantics. Does your group enjoy playing together? Because, as long as nobody complains, chances are people actually enjoy playing together. The more subtle examples of perceived sexism are all debatable, and they are not game-related.

I genuinely don't understand what you're trying to say here. If sexism isn't blatant enough or clear-cut enough by the Standards of You, then they can't possibly be game-related? That if my group enjoys playing together, sexism doesn't exist in the gaming community anywhere?



YES YES, because "sexism", that's really something when the average person doesn't think of men patting women's buttocks, but of Demi Moore talking Michael Douglas into submissively boinking her on an office chair. Totally gender-neutered statement! I get ya!



Hating, I don't know. Discriminating against, for sure! Or was it a woman who was accused of her casual sexist remarks giving a PTSD patient a mental breakdown? :devil:

I repeat: what?
 

mythago

Adventurer
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.

Celebrim, if you genuinely believe this, you don't appear to think it's a model of behavior that is particularly useful to you. You admit you have strong feelings and express them, and think it's perfectly OK to do so without "an attitude of calm assurance" or with "asbestos underwear". Why do you advocate others behave in this way?

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.

While I truly believe you mean well, here you in fact do claim to know how it feels to be excluded or marginalized because of being female, because you can apply empathy and your own experience to think of how it would feel and how to react in that situation. Of course you can be empathetic, but you know what truly helps with empathy and understanding? Listening. Lecturing on 'what ought to work', ranting about seeing too much sexism and telling women exactly how much sexism should bother then - that's not empathy.
 

Dude what. I guess it would be more regular pornography, you know like the enormous amount available for free from some of the most popular websites in the world 24/7 on demand. What could possibly be your point here? Are you implying that there is a dearth of male-oriented erotic material available due to suppression of male sexuality? Because I think that would be the most out of touch with reality thing that anyone has ever thought or said, ever.

Nah. See, mythago, at least in the role that he or she takes in this discussion, takes a classic radical feminist position, whether consciously, or not: That men are not able to express their sexuality without hurting women. - As in, if a woman writes Shades, it's erotic romance. If a man writes Shades, it's porn.

This is also, why mythago can elsewhere equate completely unrelated processes and phenomena: It makes no difference, because mythago's logical conclusion is always the same. My seemingly "random questions" all lead to a discussion of that conclusion. (Of course, that's not going to happen, but aaah.)

That's also why the thread doesn't progress well: "Sexism in tabletop gaming" is a pretty diverse topic; I am merely suggesting we take the same approach as the team that did the ENWorld videos on the topic - separate approaches to separate situations.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Celebrim, if you genuinely believe this, you don't appear to think it's a model of behavior that is particularly useful to you.

Mythago: One of the difficulties with internet communication is that it is very difficult to communicate emotions and context to your words. That's the reason for example that sarcasm doesn't work very well over the internet. All those physical indicators like body posture and tone of voice that people use to evaluate what people are saying are missing.

If you choose to see me as sitting at the keyboard "ranting", or being in a "towering, operating rage" there is very little I can do to effect that perception. But for someone who was just not accusing me of not listening and lacking empathy, I'd suggest that choosing to see me as being in a rage is not particularly conducive to listening or empathy either.

If you want to continue to negatively portray me, and if you want to assume the worst about me, let me give you the web cam's eye view of how to do that. Instead of imagining that I'm in a towering operating rage and that my deep flaw is an inability to remain calm and that I have all these huge emotions boiling out of me, a portrait that really doesn't have much relationship to the actual me, try going with "pompous" and "patronizing". You'll be able to sell it better, it works really well in the context of a discussion of feminism, and it will have more relationship to my actual flaws that people who know me would recognize. But, that's only if you are determined to see and hear me in the worst light.
 

mythago

Adventurer
Nah. See, mythago, at least in the role that he or she takes in this discussion, takes a classic radical feminist position, whether consciously, or not: That men are not able to express their sexuality without hurting women. - As in, if a woman writes Shades, it's erotic romance. If a man writes Shades, it's porn.

I realize you'd like this to be my position, and that having failed to establish that it's my position, you're just going to decide it is anyway; announcing "You just hate the penis!" is doubtless easier than defending some of the extremely silly arguments you've put forth in this thread - which you've made it rather clear you're unwilling and unable to do. It's also easier, I'm sure, than admitting that you're the one who is entwining male sexuality and harm to women, in your insistence that criticism of sexism is attacking "virile" male behavior, and that discussion of people who act in a sexist manner must be talking about, and picking on, "normal" men. The claim that criticizing Fake Geek Girl nonsense is criticizing "normal male sexuality" says nothing good about your perception of "normal male sexuality".

(Irony alert: 'false consciousness' is a tenet of radical feminism. Congratulations, LNF, your Andrea Dworkin Secret Decoder Ring will arrive shortly via Amazon.)


If you choose to see me as sitting at the keyboard "ranting", or being in a "towering, operating rage" there is very little I can do to effect that perception.

Well, no, you could write posts that aren't rants, that don't accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity because they disagree with you, and that don't engage in strawmanning and sarcastic exaggeration of the slightest disagreement. As I said before, Celebrim, I chose not to see you in "the worst light", that is, not to believe that when you were strawmanning others' arguments, making over-the-top interpretations of what they were saying, and repeatedly accusing them of bad faith, you were doing so out of malice and an attempt to win an Internet argument at any costs. I instead chose to conclude that you were arguing badly out of a surfeit of passion, rather than as an intentional technique. As you recall, I in fact told you this; you agreed that you had 'strong feelings' on the subject, and you also, somewhat to my surprise, said that if someone else were angrily dumping the full truckload of logical fallacies and accusations on you, that you would nonetheless try to give consideration to their arguments.

Now, can we take it as a given that nobody is trying to brainwash your daughters, that all of us (well, almost all of us) really would like a gaming community where women's role is neither suspect nor ornamental, and get on with discussing the problem and possible solutions?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Well, no, you could write posts that aren't rants, that don't accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity because they disagree with you, and that don't engage in strawmanning and sarcastic exaggeration of the slightest disagreement.

So I went back and read the thread to figure out where you saw this and how you and I got derailed in our conversation and where these (to me) weird perceptions come from, and I'm not seeing anything explicit in the text. Therefore, I can only assume that its something about the assumptions we are making, and for that I have to do you the discourtesy of trying to figure out what assumptions you might have that might led you to go where you've gone on a logical basis. I'm going to make that guess, and if I'm wrong you can tell me, but my best guess is that you and I are holding in our heads entirely different models of the scenario.

Your model I think looks like this:

a) There is an established functional group with opinions of women that are worth approving.
b) There is a woman who is a member of this group.
c) A person shows up in the group who makes a jerk of himself through some sexist comments.

What should happen here? The logical conclusion here is, and I agree, that the woman in question should not refrain from showing her discomfort, and that the other members of the group should rally to protect their in group member. If the group is a convention, you throw the bum out. If the group is my gaming group where I'm the DM, I toss the guy who is being disruptive out on his ear the same way I would (I here joke) a guy that was boring dice without permission or engaging in other heinous behavior.

This is not the model I had in my head based on the original posters complaints about sexism in gaming. The model I had made the situation significantly more ambiguous and arguably significantly worse.

a) There is an existing functional social group. We can say nothing about the opinions and beliefs of its members or leadership.
b) There is a woman who is new to the particular social group (either new to gaming, or coming to the group from a different group).
c) A member of the existing social group behaves badly, and says and does things that strike the woman as being sexist (and probably strike me as being sexist). As generic example he says or does something equivalent to, "You aren't a real gamer; you are a girl.", but really it could be a lot of different things.

This situation is not as simple or as easy as the model you hold in your head. It might be great if we could move to a place where everything is like the model in your head, but we aren't there yet. In my model, the offensive person could be the DM. The group might be sexist and never considered their opinions, or the group might simply be insensitive and poorly socialized and is giving offense without meaning to really. The group may have a diversity of opinion. Or it may even be the case that there is no moral fault in the comments, and the woman has taken offense without cause and past judgment too quickly. And, putting myself in the shoes of the woman, I certainly would not be sure what was going on and would doubt my first impression.

There is a lot of reasons why we each have our respective model. For example, in my case I've both moved a lot and sought membership (as a complete or near stranger) in gaming groups, and have created new gaming groups featuring players from wildly diverse backgrounds - from gay men to evangelical Christians, from stereotypical gamer geeks and neckbeards to my wives college roommates - many of which had never gamed before.

Before I get too much further down this speculation and what I think it means, let me just stop and say, "Does your model of what is being discussed match what I think it does?"

And also, just because I am firmly disagree with you, does not mean that I am ranting, or any of the other ways you have chosen to characterize my posts. I have not called you stupid. I have not called you dishonest. Whatever you may think, I have not gone into a towering rage. I think you are, as some others have done, reading things in I haven't said. If you want to persist in responding to me as you have been and characterizing me as you have, there isn't much use in going further with this.

Lastly:

Now, can we take it as a given that nobody is trying to brainwash your daughters

No, we can't. Just in the past few weeks I've had to deal with:

a) Someone impressed upon them that what defined women/girls was that they liked pink, dolls, frilly things, and other traditional models of femininity. To my great pleasure, they rebelled against this characterization. But nonetheless, this lead to a misunderstanding between us that required ironing out, because they assumed this was my mental model of 'girl', and it required my assurance and reinforcement that they had every choice to like pink, dolls, frilly things, and so forth at their pleasure or to choose something else - rock climbing, legos, checkers, etc. - if they preferred it.

b) Someone impressed upon them that since they were girls, they couldn't read and enjoy stories about boys or from a male perspective. This one I'm still dealing with.

Now, it's possible the unknown shaper of their world views was some immature boy on a playground, but its also entirely possible that both perceptions came from an adult women expressing her views to them, and the second one in particular is one that could have come from a feminist and represents one of the things I really dislike in the modern '-ist' mindset - unconsidered side effects of advocating that everyone needs a hero that looks like them, tends to delegitimize having as heroes that don't look like you. I agree with others who think that modern feminism does no favors to either men or women, and often has a terrible and insulting opinion of both. Shallow advocacy of diversity ends up creating a world where you are expected to identify most with whoever looks most like you. It might not be the intention to do that, but its where it ends up at (for example the 'Dead White Men' problem). I can link you to essays by me ruing the lack of strong female leads, but I don't want my daughters to have the impression that there is 'boy's literature about and for boys' and 'girls literature about and for girls' and I certainly don't want them to think that they can't own and enjoy 'boy's literature'.
 

Mark Chance

Boingy! Boingy!
As I've mentioned before, I don't have problems related to female gamers being treated badly in my gaming group because female gamers are not generally permitted in my gaming group. It's not called Man-Day Adventures for nothing. I don't have problems related to female gamers being treated badly in other games I run because I (a) don't treat female gamers badly and (b) I don't tolerate such boorish behavior. No gentleman would.
 

Hammerforge

Explorer
Regarding the OP: Personally, I haven't seen this issue arise in any games I've been in, and I certainly wouldn't condone any disrespectful behavior toward anyone in a game session. But I wonder: What's next--legislation to govern what can and cannot be done at the game table in a private residence?
 

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